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Rollin’ on the River


A paddle race on the Savannah River and a free concert will highlight the fourth edition of Betty's Bash Paddle Race & Music Festival.

The all-day event at Riverside Park in Evans will kick off with the paddle race at 9 a.m. Saturday, June 22.

Musical entertainment will begin with a DJ at 4 p.m., and live bands will play into the evening. The Mason Jars, which recently released a new album that was recorded in Aiken, will headline the concert.

Food trucks with menus ranging from burgers to Creole cuisine, along with beer vendors, also will be on hand.

Event organizer Andy Colbert, co-owner of Outdoor Augusta in Riverside Park, believes the park is a hidden gem. He hopes the festival will give people an opportunity to see everything it has to offer.

“I want the event to be a celebration of the park,” he says. “It’s a cool place. A lot of people that come to the park don’t know that it has access to the river.”

The paddle race, which requires registration for entry and costs $30 per person, follows the 6.2-mile loop around German Island.

Trophies will be awarded to winners in different categories such as single kayaks, tandem kayaks, canoes and standup paddleboards.

Betty's Bash Paddle Race & Music FestivalIn addition, the race will include a division for rental vessels, which are available at Outdoor Augusta. The overall winner will receive a trophy as well.

“The race is all-encompassing for anything that is paddle-oriented,” Colbert says.

If You Go:

What: Betty’s Bash Paddle Race & Music Festival

When: 9 a.m. – 10 p.m. Saturday, June 22

Where: Riverside Park

How Much: $30 to race; event and concert are free

More Info: outdooraugusta.com

Entrepreneurial Spirit


cupcakesA new study revealed that Georgia is the fourth most entrepreneurial state in the country, with 8,071 general business applications being made per 100,000 people between 2021 and 2023.

The state’s busiest year for business applications was 2021, when 3,032 applications were made per 100,000 residents.

In 2022 a total of 2,521 general business applications were filed in the state, and 2,518 were filed in 2023.

The Wide Wide Sea by Hampton Sides

Literary Loop

In the course of three epic voyages — the last one unfinished — Captain James Cook mapped the east coast of Australia, circumnavigated New Zealand, made the first documented crossing of the Antarctic Circle, “discovered” the Hawaiian Islands and paid the first known visit to South Georgia Island.

His admirers believed he deserved the “gratitude of posterity.” Posterity, however, has a mind of its own.

On July 12, 1776, Cook, already lionized as the greatest explorer in British history, set off on his third voyage in his ship the HMS Resolution. Two-and-a-half years later, on a beach on the island of Hawaii, he was dead. How did Cook, who was unique among captains for his respect for indigenous peoples and cultures, come to that fatal moment?

In this new biography, Hampton Sides undertakes the hazardous enterprise of revisiting the life of Captain James Cook, who, at the time of his death in 1779 was Britain’s most celebrated explorer.

Sides’ hair-raising saga is a “thrilling and superbly crafted” account of the most momentous voyage of the Age of Exploration, says The Wall Street Journal.

It “will delight readers new to the topic as well as those versed in earlier looks at James Cook and his milieu,” Booklist says.

Ham Radio Demos


National Amateur Radio Field DayIf you are interested in learning more about ham radio, visit the Amateur Radio Club of Columbia County as it participates in National Amateur Radio Field Day activities June 22-23.

The on-the-air event, held annually throughout North America, will be held locally from 2 p.m. Saturday, June 22 until noon Sunday, June 23 at the Boy Scouts of America Georgia-Carolina Council Nature and Adventure Center.

Free and open to the public, it will include live demonstrations and information about how ham radio can boost your preparedness during emergencies.

For more information, visit arccc.org/field-day-committee/.

A La Sala by Khruangbin

Listen To This

As the sun feels closer and the heat feels hotter, summer makes a collect call from sweet destinations. Whether it’s a backyard sprinkler or a sandy shore, we are invited to soak up the vibe. And whether you are on the road or lounging around, A La Sala (translation: To the Room), the latest cosmic creation by the smooth-groove Houston funk-rock trio Khruangbin, is a must-have in the sonic solstice cooler.

Pouring an auditory cocktail into a universe where groove and gravity skip hand in hand, Khruangbin’s trademark blend of blues, funk, surf and lo-fi rock delivers a variety of flavors that are as cool as they are clever. From the moment the needle drops, you’re whisked away on a journey that defies both time and space.

Tracks like the colorful sunset-jam “Fifteen Forty-Three” or the cabana-clopping “Hold Me Up (Thank You)” bring rhythms braided in a Duane Eddy twang that are equal parts intricate and irresistible. The album’s simplistic yet exotically complex layers drop a refreshing loop of fruity-sweet gems that reflect like sun on the water and crash with soothing waves of expanding reverberations.

This is an all-inclusive acoustical resort, where you can lose yourself and float down the lazy river of auditory delight. So put on your shades, turn up the volume, toss your cares in a cooler of Khruangbin and let the vibes take you away.

– Chris Rucker

Going Coastal


Summer Beach Blast Columbia County If you can’t be at the beach, it’s still a blast to pretend like you’re there. The county’s annual Summer Beach Blast – complete with a sand area where you can dig in your toes just like you’re seaside – lets you do just that.

The event will feature live beach music and the sounds of Swing Shift, but the sand isn’t only for shagging.

If a little friendly competition is more your style, then you can channel your inner Karch Kiraly or Kerri Walsh Jennings and challenge your friends to a game of beach volleyball.

Summer Beach Blast Columbia CountyFood trucks, beverages, a lighted limbo set, kiddie pools, tiki torches and a fireworks finale will be part of the fun as well. Don’t forget your beach chairs!

If You Go:

What: Summer Beach Blast

When: 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Saturday, June 1

Where: Evans Towne Center Park

How Much: Free admission

More Info: visitcolumbiacountyga.com

School Recognition


Grovetown High School and Parkway Elementary School as 2024 Military Flagship SchoolsThe Georgia Department of Education recently recognized Grovetown High School and Parkway Elementary School as 2024 Military Flagship Schools for going above and beyond to provide a supportive environment for military students and families. Nearly 50% of the student population from Parkway and about 45% of the student population from Grovetown High are from military-connected families.

In addition, all five Columbia County School District high schools earned recognition as a Best High School for 2024 in U.S. News & World Report’s recent ranking of public high schools. Of the nearly 25,000 public high schools across the nation, approximately 17,655 high schools were ranked. About 432 of the nearly 472 public high schools in Georgia were ranked.

Greenbrier landed among the top 12% of high schools ranked in the state and the nation. Lakeside was among the top 19%, and Grovetown and Evans were in the top 40% of the best ranked high schools in the state and the nation. The school rankings are based on excellence in serving students in six key areas: college readiness, college curriculum breadth, state assessment proficiency and performance, and graduation rate.

Incorporation and Consolidation


consolidated government.A multi-phased process that could bring changes to Columbia County is underway but far from over.

Déjà vu, anyone? As it did in the early 2000s, Columbia County once again is exploring the possibility of forming a consolidated government.

This time, however, the county is following a different path. Under the current scenario, the unincorporated portions of the county first would incorporate into a city, and the initial phase of the process – a fiscal feasibility study – is complete.

The study found that it would be feasible fiscally for Columbia County to incorporate its entire land area, excluding the cities of Grovetown and Harlem, into a new city and then merge with the county to create a consolidated government.

“This is something we’ve talked about for a long time. When we look at the financial aspects of this, it just makes sense,” says Scott Johnson, county manager.

While the study found that incorporation and consolidation could be feasible fiscally, it did not address the social, political or governance aspects of the proposal.

Under incorporation and consolidation, the new municipality would become Georgia’s sixth largest city. However, voters will have the final say in the matter, which could take three years to decide.

Fiscal Feasibility

A feasibility study is required by the state House of Representatives before it can consider legislation that proposes incorporation. Now that the report is complete, legislation could be drafted this year and come up for a vote the following year. “It could go before the voters the year after that,” Johnson says.

However, he says the next step is to gather public input, which could begin in late spring or early summer.

“Some people are very excited about the possibility. Some people are very apprehensive about it,” Johnson says. “We’re gathering information, and we’re going to put it before the voters.”

Conducted by Valdosta State University, the study is available online at columbiacountyga.gov.

The report concludes, “Based on our analysis, we find existing revenues of $248 million exceed likely expenditures for the services identified to be provided, projected at $191 million, and therefore have concluded that the City of Columbia is likely fiscally feasible.”

According to the study, consolidation could provide the county with additional revenue streams such as franchise fees, which are paid by companies or utilities to operate within a county or municipality.

For the purpose of the study, Georgia Power fees were examined. As of March 2023, the county franchise fees were 1.1839% of usage cost, and Georgia Power’s municipal franchise fee rate was 3.0647% of usage cost.

“Franchise fees would go up if we were inside a city,” Johnson says. “We’re missing out on $8.4 million in revenue.”

While county residents’ power bills would increase annually by about $23, he continues, the new municipality could use the fees to reduce the current millage rate of 4.895 by 0.808 mills to 4.087.

Other potential revenue sources could include an increase in hotel/motel taxes, grants and expanded code enforcements.

What About Grovetown and Harlem?

“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” says Gary Jones, Grovetown’s mayor and a lifelong Columbia County resident. “From a personal standpoint, I like the aspect of having a rural area in the county.”

In addition, Grovetown and Harlem would be landlocked with no possibility of growth through annexation.

According to the county’s Geographic Information Systems Department, Grovetown has 556 acres of undeveloped land. However, Jones says, “Areas that are undeveloped are in the inner core. We need to spread out so we don’t have so much traffic congestion.”

He says he would like to negotiate with county officials in the near future about letting the city accumulate more land through annexation.

According to the county GIS department, Harlem has 1,843 acres of undeveloped land.

“We have at least two active developments with a third having started with their infrastructure and one more development that will be a combination of commercial and residential to start in the coming months,” says Debra Moore, Harlem city manager. “These are all within what I would call Harlem proper, with areas out toward the actual city limits to still be developed on both the north side and east side of the city.”

In the study, Harlem mayor Roxanne Whitaker and Elaine Matthews, Grovetown city administrator, raised other issues as well. They included sales tax distribution, intergovernmental agreements, public safety, the organizational structure of the new government and community identity.

“We have been told that there will be no changes, that all will continue to work as it is now,” Moore says.

Johnson also says that residents would be able to keep their current mailing addresses.

“The county has always given us a voice and a seat at the table, but it is still something to consider and think about. There has been some discussion with the mayor and council, but we have no concrete comments pertaining to being in support of or not in support of this move by the county,” Moore says. “We are waiting and watching to see what the next step is and will go from there. We understand that, as a city, our residents who live within our city limits will not have a vote in this matter as it impacts those who live in the unincorporated area more directly.”

Ag + Art Tour


Ag + Art Tour in South CarolinaThe annual, award-winning Ag + Art Tour in South Carolina, which runs May 4 through June 30, is back, offering free, self-guided tours of farms, markets and other venues.

Local artisans and vendors will display their wares at hundreds of sites in 20 counties across the state on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The event kicks off on Saturday, May 4 in McCormick County, which is participating in the tour for the first time, and continues in Aiken County on Saturday, May 11.

During the tour, visitors can see first-hand where their food comes from, watch artists in action, purchase artwork and fresh produce, enjoy the talents of local musicians and learn more about rural life.

For more information,  visit agandarttour.com.

The Women by Kristin Hannah

Literary Loop

The Women by Kristin HannahWomen can be heroes. When 20-year-old nursing student Frankie McGrath hears these words, it is a revelation. Raised in the sun-drenched, idyllic world of Southern California and sheltered by her parents, she has always prided herself on doing the right thing.

But in 1965 the world is changing, and she suddenly dares to imagine a different future for herself. When her brother ships out to serve in Vietnam, she joins the Army Nurse Corps and follows his path. Each day is a gamble of life and death, hope and betrayal.

But war is just the beginning for Frankie and her veteran friends. The real battle lies in coming home to a changed and divided America, to angry protesters, and to a country that wants to forget Vietnam.

The Women is the story of one woman gone to war, but it shines a light on all women who put themselves in harm’s way and whose sacrifice and commitment to their country has too often been forgotten. A novel about deep friendships and bold patriotism, it is a richly drawn story with a memorable heroine whose idealism and courage under fire will come to define an era.

Says Booklist, “It is a moving, gripping tale that pays tribute to the under-appreciated skill and courage of combat nurses.”

The Sky’s the Limit


Air Dot Show, AugustaWith the return of the Air Dot Show, Augusta will be in select company as one of six stops on the East Coast tour.

The show, which also entertained local audiences last year, will feature high-energy aerobatics on Memorial Day weekend.

The U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor Demo Team and the U.S. Navy E/A-18 Growler Demo Team are the featured headliners of the show.

Other performers include the Air Force Heritage Flight, Navy Legacy Flight, Remax Parachute Team and world-renowned aerobatic instructors Greg Koontz and Grant Nielsen.

A variety of aircraft also will be on display.

Air Dot Show, AugustaVisitors should bring sunscreen and ear protection. They also can bring a one-liter sealed bottle of water.

Seating options and prices vary, from VIP and flight line seating to lawn boxes and general admission. General admission ticketholders can bring their own chairs. No tents, awnings or canopies will be allowed.

All tickets must be purchased before arrival.

If You Go:

What: Air Dot Show Tour

Air Dot Show, AugustaWhen: Saturday, May 25 and Sunday, May 26; gates open 9 a.m.; air shows run from noon until 4 p.m. each day

Where: Augusta Regional Airport

How Much: Seating options and prices vary; children ages 5 and under are admitted for free

More Info: augustaairshow.com

Mimosas on Main


Harlem’s downtown district Mimosas on MainExplore Harlem’s downtown district as the Harlem Merchants Association holds its annual Mimosas on Main Saturday, May 11 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

During the festivities, participating shops and businesses will be offering brunch, bubbly and giveaways. There is a one-time wristband charge of $5.

Registration and event guides are available at Reeves Realty and the Harlem Library plaza.

For more information, visit visitharlemga.com

Old School The New Mastersounds

Listen To This

It’s nearly halftime 2024 with a steady bloom and boom into hotter days. The anticipation of sultry destinations and backyard traditions drops the boogie into the yearly smorgasbord of fun, and there is nothing finer than a boppin’ soundtrack to usher in the good times.

An essential sonic treat to throw into the road trip duffle bag is Old School, by Britain’s own The New Mastersounds. Old School is a peanut butter and soul-jam sandwich slathered in the golden age of soul and funk, proving that sometimes the best way forward is to rewind in order to unwind.

The group drops a Slip-n-Slide groove to the classic sounds of the ’60s and ’70s with a cannonball splash of funky homage to the past while providing an ice cream truck full of astro-poppin’ futuristic cool.

The album is a stacked 10-pack of refreshing jams that melt into a box fan ice bowl of breezy soul sounds that bounce like a raft through rocky riffs and rolling torrents of sound – the perfect album to press repeat, get down and let the loop create the whoop.

As the May mood finds the day groove, grab a popsicle and some sweatbands, fill up the kiddie pool and crank up the hi-fi with this assorted cooler-than-cool flavors that bring the heat.

– Chris Rucker

Calvin Peete: Golf’s Forgotten Star by Gordon Hobson

Literary Loop

For the first time, Gordon Hobson tells the story of Calvin Peete, an overlooked PGA star and one of the best black golfers in history.

Born to a family of migrant laborers, he dropped out of school in eighth grade, went to work picking crops, first swung a golf club at age 23 — and rose to the top of the PGA.

When Peete joined the lily-white PGA Tour in 1976, he stood out from the competition in more ways than one. He sported a huge Fu Manchu, cowboy boots and had diamonds embedded in his teeth.

Despite a permanently bent left elbow, he practiced endless hours in a public park to develop one of the most accurate swings in golf history.

After years of futility and despair, he emerged as the best player on the Tour from 1982-86. He won 12 championships, played on the U.S. Ryder Cup team twice and won the prestigious Vardon Award.

Peete’s story reveals the struggles many black golfers endured even after the PGA removed the Caucasian-only clause from its bylaws. The biography shows how, even without advantages from birth, success is possible through hard work, determination and fortitude.

Magnet Factory — Pylon Reenactment Society

Listen To This

Magnet FactoryA concoction of sonic fizz and Southern mystique always is brewing in the music laboratories of Athens, Georgia – a scene that has pioneered legends like R.E.M., Widespread Panic, the B-52s and Pylon Reenactment Society.

Pylon’s latest album, Magnet Factory, is a testament to the awesomeness that bridges past and present with a kaleidoscope of sound and emotion. Original member Vanessa Briscoe Hay is the vocal thunder and driving creative force behind its undeniable energy and appeal.

Her lyrics are at once poetic and deeply introspective, inviting listeners to reflect on their own experiences and drawing them into a world where boundaries between reality and imagination blur.

Tracks like “3X3” and “Flowers Everywhere” showcase the band’s ability to create atmosphere and tension, while “Spiral” and “I’ll Let You Know” offer moments of intimacy and mystery.

But perhaps the true genius of Magnet Factory lies in its ability to surprise and delight at every turn. Just when you think you have the band figured out, they throw a curveball like “No Worries” or the uber catchy “Fix It,” which features the equally legendary Kate Pierson of the B52’s leaving you breathless and hungry for more.

Pylon dares to be different and has created a masterpiece that defies easy categorization. Let yourself be swept away this spring by the magnetic pull of Southern charm and creative energy — and, of course, pimento cheese sandwiches.

– Chris Rucker