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Made in the Shade

Garden Scene

Photography by Hodges Usry

A Martinez couple built a “pandemic potting shed” themselves to fulfill a vision and to pass the time during quarantine.

In the 13 years that Martinez residents Phyllis and Rob Collier have lived in their Watervale home, they have made several additions to the property. They built a master bedroom downstairs and a detached garage that serves as a workshop for Rob and a gym for Phyllis. They also planted a garden on the side yard.

Despite all of these home improvements, there was still one project that Phyllis, who calls herself and her husband “yard nuts,” always wanted to pursue.

“I’ve always wanted a shed to have a place to keep my gardening supplies and to do my potting,” she says.

The Colliers love to antique, so anytime Phyllis found a treasure at a quaint little shop, she would buy it and save it for future use in the shed. For instance, when she found two long antique shutters, each with a diamond-shaped cutout, she knew they would be part of the shed.

“I had them stored away. Rob knows not to question if I have a vision for something,” she says. “I knew the shed was something I wanted to do eventually.”

Putting in the Work
The time to build the shed finally arrived last March when everyone was quarantined because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Phyllis and Rob, an internal medicine physician at the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center and a former builder, got to work, and their “Pandemic Potting Shed” started to bloom.

“He drew it and came up with the concept,” says Phyllis. “I told him what I wanted.”

Finishing the project in September, it took them about six months to complete the 8-foot square shed.

“When the weather was nice, we worked on it every day,” Phyllis says.

Rob framed the building, and after his back went out, Phyllis dug the footings.

They used old brick that Phyllis found on Facebook Marketplace for the floor, which they laid themselves. They had the 1-foot-by-6-foot treated pine siding custom-made, and sometimes patience was required to complete their labor of love. They had to wait for the floor to dry after they laid the brick, and it took four months for the specially ordered siding to arrive.

Phyllis found the porch light for the shed at an antique store in Warner Robbins. “It looked like there was no way to reuse it,” she says.

The shed also includes a metal roof and awning windows. Phyllis found the windows and door, which was missing a glass pane, at a local antique shop. She also painted the antique shutters moss green, and they flank either side of the door.

“I wanted everything for the shed to be old,” Phyllis says.

She got strands of grapevine from a friend in Millen who makes grapevine wreaths, and she wrapped the vine around the eaves of the front porch. “I can put lilac in it, or confederate jasmine can grow up into it,” says Phyllis.

The shed is enclosed under a treehouse that the Colliers built for their eight grandchildren several years ago, and the ladder to the treehouse is inside the shed.

“I learned a lot. I had never laid a brick before,” says Phyllis. “We’re avid cross fitters, but I got a good workout when we built the shed.”

‘Winging It’
In the shed, Phyllis keeps lots of clay pots, an old antique bench and indoor plants. Rustic heart pine shelving provides additional storage space, and the shed also has power and running water.

“Sometimes I just go in the shed and hang out,” Phyllis says.

The Colliers have three raised beds in the yard, and they plant annuals and perennials. Phyllis especially loves daffodils and tulips, and she does most of her gardening in the spring and the fall. They grow some vegetables including tomatoes, cucumber and squash as well.

“I’m not a master gardener,” says Phyllis. “I’m just winging it.”

One of these days, the Colliers hope to get to their next project – adding an outdoor living space off of the sunroom. In the meantime, they can enjoy their new potting shed and appreciate the therapeutic qualities the building process had for them.

“I had energy that I couldn’t channel because we couldn’t go anywhere or do anything,” Phyllis says. “It was fun to see the progress and think, ‘Wow! I did that myself.’”

By Sarah James


2021 Masters Predictions

Masters Guide

Photo credit-Augusta National Golf Club

Local golf pros share their picks for Masters glory – or heartache.
We’ll have to cut our panel a little slack on last year’s predictions. After all, they didn’t foresee the postponement of the Masters Tournament because of the coronavirus pandemic, so they ended up making their predictions nine months before the tournament was played in November.

This year, however, the Masters is back on schedule, and most of the faces in the field will look familiar. At press time, only four first-time players (one professional and three amateurs) had qualified for the tournament.

With a mere five months between tournaments, our favorite experts are ready. They tell us who will be wearing green, who will be headed home early and which holes will have the most influence on the outcome.

Chris Bates
Director of Golf, West Lake Country Club
(This is Chris’ first year taking our poll.)

2021 Masters Champion: DJ will win again. It’s only been a few months.

Dark Horse: Louis Oosthhuizen. He plays well in the Masters, and he hasn’t won one.

Low Newcomer: Let’s go with the U.S. Am winner, Tyler Strafaci.

Low Senior: I’m going to have go with Berhard Langer again.

Highest-Ranked Player to Miss the Cut: Patrick Reed

Toughest Hole: I think No. 11 is still going to be the one. I would like No. 4, also. It’s a tough par 3.

Pivotal Hole: I would have to say it’s going to be 11.

Highest 18-Hole Score: 83

Highest Score on One Hole: 11

Tommy Brannen
Head Golf Professional, Augusta Country Club
(Tommy’s correct 2020 prediction: Toughest Hole)

2021 Masters Champion: Let’s say Tony Finau just for fun. He always plays well there, and he’s been playing well, too.

Dark Horse: Collin Morikawa would a good one.

Low Newcomer: I’ll take the pro, Carlos Ortiz.

Low Senior: Let’s take Phil. He knows the course pretty well.

Highest-Ranked Player to Miss the Cut: Xander Schauffele

Toughest Hole: Let’s go with No. 5 again.

Pivotal Hole: Probably No. 13

Highest 18-Hole Score: 84

Highest Score on One Hole: 9

Spike Kelley
General Manager and Golf Professional, Goshen Plantation
(Spike needs a mulligan on his 2020 predictions.)

2021 Masters Champion: Rory McIlroy. He’s the best player. I pick him almost every year, and eventually I’m going to get it right.

Dark Horse: Tony Finau. He’s playing so darn well. You can’t keep finishing in the top 10 so many times without winning.

Low Newcomer: I’ll go with Charles Osborne.

Low Senior: Phil Mickelson

Highest-Ranked Player to Miss the Cut: Dustin Johnson

Toughest Hole: No. 11

Pivotal Hole: No. 14

Highest 18-Hole Score: 84

Highest Score on One Hole: 8

Dan Elliott
PGA General Manager/Director of Golf, Forest Hills Golf Club
(Dan’s correct 2020 prediction: Low Senior)

2021 Masters Champion: I like Patrick Cantlay. He’s steady from green to tee, and if his putter is on, he’ll do well.

Dark Horse: Paul Casey. He has a good record at Augusta.

Low Newcomer: It will be the professional, Carlos Ortiz.

Low Senior: Bernhard Langer

Highest-Ranked Player to Miss the Cut: Justin Thomas

Toughest Hole: No. 11

Pivotal Hole: It’s always a tossup between 13 and 15. I’ll go with No. 13.

Highest 18-Hole Score: 81

Highest Score on One Hole: 9

Burt Minick
Golf Shop Manager, Hickory Knob State Park Golf Course
(Burt’s correct 2020 prediction: Highest 18-Hole Score)

2021 Masters Champion: Let’s go with Brooks Koepka. He’s playing well right now, and I think he gears up for that.

Dark Horse: Max Homa. He’s playing well right now. He has broken through again, and I think his confidence is high.

Low Newcomer: Let’s say Joe Long. Why not?

Low Senior: Fred Couples

Highest-Ranked Player to Miss the Cut: Webb Simpson

Toughest Hole: No. 11

Pivotal Hole: No. 15

Highest 18-Hole Score: 78

Highest Score on One Hole: 8

Chris Verdery
Director of Golf, The River Golf Club
(Chris’ correct 2020 prediction: Highest 18-Hole Score)

2021 Masters Champion: Xander Schauffele. Short game and putting.

Dark Horse: I’m going to say Cameron Smith. He played well last time. He’s an excellent putter.

Low Newcomer: Just one pro? I’ll pick him. Carlos Ortiz.

Low Senior: I’m going to go with Bernhard Langer again. He’s like a machine.

Highest-Ranked Player to Miss the Cut: Bryson DeChambeau

Toughest Hole: I’ll say No. 5.

Pivotal Hole: Gotta go with No. 12, I guess.

Highest 18-Hole Score: 79

Highest Score on One Hole: 8

Tea, Plants & Art


Although the traditional Garden City Festival at Sacred Heart has been canceled this year, several related events will take place this month.

The festivities will begin with the Blanton Garden Tea on Sunday, April 18 in Appling. Themed “A Proper Tea from a Country Farm,” the event will raise funds for the Sacred Heart Cultural Center.

An Artists’ Reception for Elizabeth Moretz-Britt and Staci Swider is scheduled for Thursday, April 22, and the Speaker Series and Plant Sale and Swap will be held on Saturday, April 24.

Virtual activities will include garden tours and instructional videos.

For more information, visit sacredheartgardencityfestival.com or call (706) 826-4700.


Noon — Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon

Listen To This

It’s been 15 years since their last album, and much like a comet sighting or the in-unison crescendo of periodical cicadas, the return of the amazing and distinct genius of Leo Kottke and Mike Gordon with Noon is a welcomed sight and sound.

Since the release of their tropical sophomore release, Sixty-Six Steps, Gordon has kept the motor running with his full-time and notable bass gig with the band Phish, and Kottke has traveled the by-way circuit in a rental car packed full of guitars — both gathering inspiration for this dynamic album of funky acoustic and fuzzy creole jazz.

The warm gravel of Kottke’s vocals, combined with the smooth layered pitch of Gordon’s, provides a classic whip of cookies and cream with a touch of salt.

With the accompaniment of Brett Lanier on pedal steel, cellist Zoë Keating and Jon Fishman on drums, Noon makes a subtle departure from the previous duo-only albums.

Tracks like the whimsical bop of “Flat Line,” twisty lush of “Eight Miles High” and bluesy stomp cover of Prince’s “Alphabet Street,” make Noon the perfect brew of sun-tea that beckons a glass full of ice, rocking chair, box fan and front porch.

– Chris Rucker

Stroke of Luck


Photos courtesy of Paul Lester

Being in the right place at the right time (along with considerable talent) has given an Evans photographer the good fortune of building a successful career on the links and behind the lens.

There’s nothing that Evans resident Paul Lester enjoys more than making a good golf shot. Sure, it’s nice to do it with a club in hand. But with a camera? Even better.

For 50 years, Lester has photographed the world’s best golfers at tournaments, pro-ams, charity events and after-hours parties. He always has been happy to share his work with the subjects of his photographs. He also has compiled some of his favorite shots from years past in a book, Beyond the Fairway, so the rest of us can get a glimpse inside his world as well.

“I wanted it to be a book of older photos. I didn’t want any from nowadays,” Lester says. “The old photos are the ones I like. I could never get those pictures again. The access I had then, nobody has now.”

With a little help from some of his longtime friends, he put the book together in about four months. CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz, who has anchored the network’s Masters Tournament coverage since 1989, wrote the forward for the book.

“He has a gift to make every member of his universe feel important, to bring kindness and joy to everyone he touches. . .. He was born with an enormous talent,” Nantz writes. “Through his prism, he has captured many of the most candid and glorious snapshots you’ll ever see.”

Barbara Nicklaus wrote the introduction. “Paul’s approach is a mixture of art and documentary. Every time he picks up a camera, he discovers something new,” she writes.

In fact, a comment she made about one of his pictures was the motivating force behind the book.

In 1988, Lester snapped a photo of Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan together as Nicklaus was coming off the course at the Centennial of Golf Pro-Am in New York City. “I took that picture, and I kept it for quite a while,” Lester says.

About 30 years later, he sent two 8×10 prints to the Nicklauses, and Barbara Nicklaus commented that she never had seen the photo – a rare shot of the two golf icons together.

“I thought, ‘If they really like this photo, I have a lot of these kinds of photos,’” Lester says.

Inside the Ropes
His career started in 1970 when, three years out of high school, he went to a prep football game on a November Friday night in Woodland Hills, California. The football coach needed someone to take film footage and asked him to cover the game.

There was just one catch – and it wasn’t on the football field. It was above it. Lester had to climb up a 50-foot pole at midfield to get footage of the entire game. Perched in a metal basket at the top of the pole, he got to work for the sum of $75.

He must have done a good job because he became the go-to cameraman for the high school team, shooting 8-milimeter film. This was how he honed his craft, learning to shoot and frame a shot and compose a picture.

His father, Buddy Lester, a standup comedian and actor whose film credits included the original Ocean’s 11, helped him make connections. An avid golfer, the elder Lester played in many celebrity charity events and encouraged his son to photograph the outings.

At that time Lester was focused on the camera. As a 20-year-old with big dreams, his ambition was to work as a cameraman in the entertainment industry. Instead, though, his first job in “show business” was as a construction worker at Universal Studios. Not exactly what he had in mind.

Taking photos at charity golf events, Lester thought there might be a better way to make a living. At the fundraisers, he photographed foursomes, which included a celebrity and his playing partners, on the tee. He charged each golfer $5 for a 5×7 print and mailed it to them.

“I always liked golf. My dad liked golf a lot,” says Lester. “He told me to bring my camera to tournaments. I was lucky to know people who needed helpers and took over when people couldn’t do it anymore. I just learned as I went.”

He soon found himself photographing many events in Southern California. He also got a referral to work for Golf Illustrated magazine to take pictures of pro players at the events, earning $10 a roll.

Al Geiberger, the first professional to shoot a 59 in competition, befriended and encouraged Lester when the magazine sent him on assignment to do a story about the golfer.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Lester started photographing PGA Tour events for Stan Wood, the former University of Southern California golf coach who had started his own public relations firm for the pro tour. He also started shooting for the LPGA, and he has fond memories of photographing the likes of Nancy Lopez, Patty Sheehan and Pat Bradley.

“The LPGA is where most of us got our start,” says Lester, who still shoots LPGA events. “It was the best tour in the 1970s. The LPGA players will give you a lot more emotion. They were fantastic. They looked fantastic. They dressed fantastic.”

However, when he started shooting the made-for-television Skins Game events in the mid-1980s, he met many key people and sponsors in the industry. An unofficial money event on the PGA Tour from 1983 to 2008, the Skins Game took place in November or December each year after the official PGA Tour season ended.

“The top players in the world were there, and they were at the best places with the best competition,” says Lester.

He started spending a lot of time inside the ropes, and often he was the only golf photographer at banquets for the top pros and celebrities. At the nighttime events, he met the golfers’ wives and children, and he often sent them photos.

“I tried to be friends with them first,” says Lester. “I approached it as a friendly thing rather than as a journalistic photographer. I was part of the show. We were part of the circus that came to town for that week.”

Secret to Success
That friendly approach has been fruitful, and Lester says people have told him he has the right personality to be a photographer.

“You need to know when to talk and when not to talk. You need to know when to listen,” Lester says. “I always laid back a little. I have to shoot what I see. I became more than just a photographer to these guys. I would talk about personal things to develop a personal relationship.”

He enjoys being in the thick of the tournament action in the daytime, and he loves working at pro-ams and charity events because he can set up shots and yell out to players to “give me something.”

“I like it when they’re laughing,” says Lester. “It shows that they’re good human beings.”

Hall of Fame golfer Amy Alcott and Johnny Bench, Hall of Fame baseball catcher, struck a pose for him – hats on backward, of course – during a break at a Dinah Shore Winners Circle Tournament. Bench got down in his catcher’s crouch, and Alcott stood behind him like a home plate umpire.

At a Skins Game, Fred Funk needed no prompting. Lester got a shot of him paying up on a bet that Annika Sorenstam couldn’t outdrive him. After she drove her ball past his on the fifth hole, Funk unzipped his golf bag and slipped into a pink-flowered skirt.

A photo of John Daly, with cigarette and beer in hand at the opening party of his first Skins Game in 1991, is one of his favorites. “It’s a classic,” Lester says. “It’s vintage John Daly.”

In another shot, Nicklaus is resting his head on Lee Trevino’s shoulder. “I knew that they knew that I was there,” says Lester.

Riviera Country Club is one of his favorite places to shoot because he knows the venue so well, and he also enjoys photographing the Ryder Cup.

“The emotion is just nonstop,” Lester says. “It’s a whole different deal because it’s not an individual thing. The thing is huge – the press, the parties. It is very special.”

He tries to take photos quickly, and oftentimes he knows the shot he wants beforehand.

“I could get the pictures that no one else can do,” he says. “Anyone in that book would do anything I asked them to do. I knew I could shoot it and light it very well, but I had the relationships.”

From the daytime golf to the nighttime events, it’s not unusual for him to work 10-hour days.

“I do a lot of corporate, charity and celebrity events. I enjoy them all. I’d better be pumped up and excited for every job,” says Lester, who divides his time between Evans and Los Angeles. “The people that you’re doing it for, that might be the only event they do a year.”

He shot his first Masters in 1995. He missed the following tournament, but he has been a regular since 1997. During the Masters, Lester typically shoots private parties, where tour players and celebrities often make appearances, in the evenings. “I probably do four houses a night,” he says.

Being in position helps him get the image he wants.

“The secret is being ready. In golf, it’s all luck,” says Lester. “Are you at the right spot? Can you get the right angle? When you’re a still photographer, all you can hope for is that you’re there. The challenge is getting in the correct spot without getting in trouble.”

It’s also tricky to get a shot that’s different from everyone else’s.

“When looking through the lens and the shot is over, a lot of people pull the camera down,” says the 71-year-old Lester. “I try and leave it up as much as I can because you never know what the reaction will be. Don’t take your eyes off of the lens thinking that it’s over because you’re going to miss the shot.”

50 Years and Counting
Even though Lester got his start filming high school football games and occasionally shoots other sports, he has specialized in golf.

“The people that I know are in golf,” he says. “If I shot everything, I wouldn’t have the relationships that I have with the golf community.”

In his half-century career, he has traveled the world recording key moments and images in golf. His work has been featured in Golf Digest, Sports Illustrated and ESPN, the Magazine.

“I’ve been so lucky to cover golf for 50 years,” Lester says.

We’re lucky he has covered golf so well for so long, too. The book is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and beyondthefairway.square.site. To purchase any of Lester’s photos, visit paullester.zenfolio.com and click on Portfolio.

By Betsy Gilliland


St. Andrews: The Road War Papers by Roger McStravick

Literary Loop

The Old Course at St. Andrews is one of the most famous golf links in the world, and Roger McStravick takes readers through a piece of its storied history in St. Andrews: The Road War Papers.

He recounts the “road war” that ensued in 1879 after the St. Andrews town council encouraged residents whose homes faced the Old Course to build a road over a portion of the ancient links.

Local resident John Paterson emerged as a vocal critic of the plan, fighting in court to preserve the historic grounds. The case eventually made its way to the House of Lords.

McStravick gathers, transcribes and analyzes original archival documents from St. Andrews institutions to construct a vivid account of the legal conflict while telling the story of the town’s evolution and development around the Old Course.

This research, compiled in the 2020 Herbert Warren Wind Award-winning book for the first time, includes court testimony of local residents, including Old Tom Morris and three-time Open champion Jamie Anderson.

Finding His Voice


From performing comedy sketches to opining on the latest news, an Evans podcaster ranks No. 17 in Sweden, No. 24 in Italy and No. 81 in the U.K.

Six months ago, Evans resident Finnish Warren knew nothing about podcasting. Minor detail. In October he launched his aptly named podcast, “You’re Not From Around Here With Finnish Warren.”

Finnish moved to Evans from the mountains of his native Southern California in February 2020 with his wife, Jodie, and their 13-year-old son because of her job. (Irony lives. Her employer wanted his wife to spend more time in the office. You can guess how that has turned out so far.)

“My wife said I needed to do a podcast,” says Finnish, who formerly worked in television post-production. “I had never listened to a podcast.”

She must have been on to something. Available on Apple, Spotify, Buzzsprout and Google, the comedy variety podcast with more than 30,000 downloads has been compared to “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” “Kids in the Hall” and “Little Britain.”

A Taste of Home
The comedy sketches feature goofy, recurring characters that appeal to a worldwide audience, and Finnish believes the podcast is popular in Europe because of its dry British humor. This season he is focusing on Scandinavian-centric and Canadian themes.

“There’s a whole lot of countries in the world that are picking up the show now. I get messages from homesick people,” says Finnish, a stage name he adopted to honor his Finnish relatives. “A lot of ex-pats listen to the show. During the pandemic, they can get a little taste of home.”

He also interviews recording artists such as Nick Camryn, the Moore Brothers, Scott Collins, Scott Milligan, Grammy nominee Angela McCluskey and classical violinist Jennifer Frautchi.

The podcast has a cast of seven people that includes his sister, Tina Hammarström, aka Swedish Nora, and his childhood friend, Darren Reagan, a Realtor in Chicago.

At the beginning of the year, his former co-worker, Bridget G., a political Instagram influencer, started writing and co-producing the show with him. “We went from zero sketches to six sketches a show,” Finnish says.

He does a podcast, which lasts 40 minutes to an hour, every Friday at noon. Typically, it includes sketches, a monologue, a guest interview and music. “Nothing that we do is complex,” says Finnish.

Calling All Nerds
Despite the podcast’s popularity in Europe, 87% of the audience lives in the United States. “We went from 100 listeners to more than 5,000 an episode overnight,” Finnish says. “The thing about podcasts is you don’t have to listen to them live.”

He enjoys the freedom and creativity of producing podcasts and the connection he makes with his listeners. “I’m a nerd, and every person who listens to the show is a nerd,” he says.

And of course, Finnish, who did some standup comedy as well, loves to make people laugh. First, though, he seeks the approval of his toughest critic.

“I get my son to listen, and if he calls it funny, it’s good to go,” he says.

Wise man, that Finnish, who listens to his wife and son. And he would love for people, nerds or not, to lend him an ear, too. “When people who don’t know about the show give it chance, they like it,” he says.

Amazon Squared


Construction is underway on a second Amazon facility in Columbia County. 

Development of Phase 2 of White Oak Business Park has begun with the construction of a second Amazon facility – a 278,000-square-foot sortation center – in Appling.

The new center, where Amazon packages will be sorted before being transferred to a delivery station or last-mile delivery partner for final delivery to customers, will employ hundreds of full-time and part-time employees.

In addition, the center will provide a starting wage of $15 per hour and offer a variety of benefits to its employees.

The facility, which is located in White Oak Business Park at Interstate-20, is expected to open later this year. Amazon is the first project announced in Phase 2 of the industrial development property.

“Columbia County greatly appreciates Amazon’s continued investment in our community,” says Doug Duncan, chairman of the county Board of Commissioners. “Job creation is our number one economic development priority. Amazon’s new facility will provide hundreds of new jobs, providing opportunities to our residents and the region.”

Amazon also is building a 600,000-square-foot fulfillment distribution center in the business park, and it is expected to open later this year as well.

Developed by the Development Authority of Columbia County, the 612-acre White Oak at I-20 is a publicly owned business park that offers long-term growth. Amazon and Club Car anchor the first phase of the park.

Happy Tercentenary


Celebrate the 300th anniversary of Georgia’s founding this year with an actual or virtual visit to Fort King George.

This year marks a turning point in North American Colonial history. Three centuries ago, British soldiers established their first fort on land that was to become the colony of Georgia.

Called Fort King George, it protected a low bluff on the Altamaha River from French and Spanish explorers and from Guale Indians.

From 1721 until 1727, Fort King George – now a state historic site – served as the southern boundary of the British Empire in North America.

After a fire damaged buildings, General James Oglethorpe brought Scottish Highlanders to the site in 1736. Their settlement was called Darien, eventually becoming a bustling seaport that rivaled Savannah for shipping lumber.

Today, this 18th-century frontier settlement is open for tours where visitors can explore numerous reconstructed buildings including officers’ quarters, barracks, a guard house, moat and palisades.

Guests can climb ladders inside the blockhouse, lay on soldiers’ bunks, peek out musket holes and ring the dinner bell.

A museum highlights the Guale Indians, 1580s Santo Domingo de Talaje mission, British colonists, the Scots of Darien and the 19th century timber industry.

The remains of three sawmills, soldier graves and tabby ruins are visible as well.

To celebrate the tricentennial, rangers will host a series of presentations and celebrations throughout 2021.

The next virtual speaker presentations will be February 28, spotlighting Gullah Geechee heritage, and March 28, covering the Scots of Darien.

If You Go:
What: Fort King George Historic Site

Where: Darien, Georgia

When: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. Tuesday – Sunday

How Much: $7.50 adults; $7 adults 62 and older; $4.50 ages 6 – 17; free for children under 6

More Info: GaStateParks.org/fortkinggeorge or call (912) 437-4770

Work from Homeplate


Need a change of scenery? The Augusta GreenJackets recently announced its “Work From Homeplate” program to give individuals the opportunity to change up their work-from-home routine and rent a private luxury suite at SRP Park.

The suites, which rent for $100 a day or $400 a week (Monday-Friday), can accommodate up to four people. Rental includes Wi-Fi, flat screen TV with HDMI access, printer and scanner availability and free parking for one vehicle. General office supplies such as pens, note pads, stapler, tape, paper clips, etc. will be provided as well.


Temperatures will be checked at the entrance, and all guests must wear masks while entering, exiting and moving around the ballpark. Guests can remove masks in their private suite. For more information, visit greenjacketsbaseball.com.


Augusta Canal


Congressman Rick Allen recently introduced legislation to extend Augusta Canal’s authorization as a National Heritage Area.

“The Augusta Canal played a critical role during the Industrial Revolution and is currently the nation’s only industrial power canal still in use for its original purpose,” he says. “I’m proud to introduce legislation to extend its authorization as a National Heritage Area to commemorate not only its historical significance, but its continued impact to economic development in the CSRA today.”

“The Augusta National Heritage Area saw the covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to revise programming to create ‘Escape to the Great Outdoors,’ which resulted in an increase in usage of our trails and waterways from families staying in place,” says Dayton Sherrouse, Augusta Canal National Heritage Area executive director. “Extending our authorization from 2021 will enable us to continue these successes.”

Link to Music


Augusta Symphony will present “Mendelssohn’s Italian” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 27 at Miller Theater.

The concert will feature Fanny Mendelssohn’s Overture in C, Sibelius’ Cassazione, Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise and Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 4, Italian.

Tickets are limited for the in-person concert or dress rehearsal at Mille Theater, but music fans can livestream the concert at home for $10 per household.

A link will be emailed three days before the performance. For more information, visit augustasymphony.com.

Holiday Scam Alert


The Columbia County Performing Arts Center is nearing completion.

The project has been years in the making, but the Columbia County Performing Arts Center is slated to open this spring.

The finishing touches on the venue are almost finished, and Matt Jameson, the PAC general manager, has two words for residents who are ready for the PAC to open: “Stay tuned.”

While the rest of us have to sit tight a little longer, he has been busy fielding calls about booking performances.

“We definitely have a lot of interest around the theater,” says Jameson. “We’re putting together, hopefully, an exciting season for the fall. A lot of entertainment tours are routing right now, and they’re optimistic that, by this fall, there will be a return to normalcy.”

He hopes that five or six Broadway shows will come to the new venue in Columbia County, which is in a prime location for performances that are touring the Southeast, this year.

The facility also can accommodate other entertainment genres including concerts, comedians, rock ’n’ roll, ballets, symphonies and children’s programming. “We’re open to any and all,” Jameson says.

While nothing official has been planned, he says some type of opening event or gala for the PAC is under discussion.

In the meantime, two local dance companies – Augusta Youth School of Dance and Art in Motion Dance Studio – have booked the venue to hold their year-end recitals in May and June, respectively. Talks are underway with a third local dance company to hold its recital at the PAC as well.

“I’m happy that some of the first performances are of local studios,” says Jameson. “With social distancing, we can accommodate the number of people they’ll have in attendance.”

Whether audience members are watching their own children or famous entertainers perform, they should have an optimum view of the stage.

“The theater provides a really intimate space,” says Jameson. “There’s not a bad seat in the house. The farthest seat is 150 feet from the stage. Even if you’re sitting in the very last seat, you still have a good seat. I think it will be a great experience for a patron to see a show there.”

In addition, Jameson says, the facility’s curved walls with their peaks and valleys are not just architectural features. They also enhance the acoustics of the building.

“They were not put in the room just to be aesthetically pleasing. They have a purpose,” adds Jameson. “A lot of effort has gone into the acoustics in the room to make sure it has perfect sound. I can’t wait to hear how it sounds. I think it will set us apart.”

He has taken a number of people on a hard-hat tour of the building, and everyone has had the same reaction. “Every person has to pick up their jaw. They can’t believe a building of this quality and design is in their backyard,” he says.

The 85,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility includes the three-level theater, a backstage area with dressing rooms and a green room, about 2,100 seats, two balcony areas with box seats, a concessions area and an orchestra pit that can be lowered below the floor to accommodate extra seating. The first and second concourses offer a view of Evans Towne Center Park.

However, Jameson says, “The building has a lot of different uses. It’s not just a theater.”

Event space is available in the PAC’s two-level lobby, multi-purpose room and museum gallery with an adjacent terrace.

The multi-purpose room can accommodate 100 to 125 people for a seated dinner, and the museum gallery, which also will house Columbia County artifacts, can hold 75 people for a seated dinner.

In addition, Jameson says, “Our goal is to have a place where we can bring in local, regional and national artists where they can bring their work and display it in a gallery-like setting.”

In December the county Board of Commissions added one more detail to the venue by passing a proclamation and resolution to name the theater inside the building the Ron C. Cross Theater.

Cross, who served as the board’s first countywide-elected chairman for 16 years, spearheaded the effort to form a public-private partnership to develop a downtown area in Columbia County in unincorporated Evans. He presided over a ground-breaking ceremony for the PAC in February 2018.

“It was his vision and his desire,” says Jameson. “The commissioners named the theater for him in recognition of all of his hard work and dedication.”

The PAC’s final price tag, which includes fixtures, furniture and equipment costs, is estimated to be under $40 million.

The project was approved by voters as part of the 2017 general obligation bond in the November 2016 general election. Construction was financed by the GO bond and SPLOST monies remaining from completed projects.

Anyone who is interested touring the facility or booking the PAC for an event can call (706) 447-6767.

Busted Juicebox Vol.3. — Shovels & Rope

Listen To This

The Charleston folkabilly duo of Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent, aka Shovels & Rope, are passing around a box of instruments in the spirit of pre-school music hour for their latest installment of the cover series Busted Jukebox, appropriately titled Busted Juicebox Vol.3.

Four years have passed since their last installment, and while it seems the world has aged 40 years, this release harkens back to youthful days full of whimsical creativity and wild abandon.

The 10-song Busted Jukebox Vol. 3 is a Romper Room-style collective of sing-a-long favorites and naptime jams spanning multiple genres and decades that connect and resonate with listeners of all ages.

The play-date party begins with a simple pick and strum rendition of “Hush Little Baby,” which flows effortlessly into the echo canyon lo-fi beat of the Beach Boys classic, “In My Room.”

Other snack picks include the wide-vibe “What a Wonderful World,” Annie’s optimistic “Tomorrow,” and a soft music box medley of “Everybody Hurts,” appropriately performed by Augusta’s own and current Athens resident, T. Hardy Morris.

As the weather changes and the year rolls on, take some time to spend with all those you love, big and small, short and tall.

– Chris Rucker

Vision 2035


The update to Vision 2035, the county’ comprehensive plan for growth and development, is another step closer to completion.

Columbia County officials will present the comments they received from the public in February, as well as the proposed changes resulting from these comments, at a public hearing during the Planning Commission meeting on Thursday, March 4.

Public comment will be accepted at that meeting, which begins at 6 p.m., as well.

The Steering Committee will review the proposed changes at its March 15 meeting, and the draft plan will be presented to the Board of Commissioners on March 30.

Once the plan has been approved, it will be sent to the state Department of Community Affairs in April for review and final adoption by June 1.