Tag Archives: none

Up, Up and Away

Helen Hot Air Balloon Race

Photos courtesy of the Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race & Festival

There’s a reason – in fact, more than one – that the picturesque community of Helen, Georgia is the state’s third most-visited city. Hint: one of those reasons will take off at the end of the month.

From May 30 to June 1, the town will be the site of the Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race & Festival – the South’s oldest balloon event and the country’s only long-distance hot air balloon race.

A Helen businessman, the late Pete Hodkinson, started the event in 1974, and he founded the race on two guiding principles. First and foremost, the people of Helen, who transformed their lumber town into a Bavarian-style village in the 1960s, believe that their community is the center of their world. And, harkening back to the days of Christopher Columbus, the Atlantic Ocean was considered the “edge of the Earth.”

Launch & Land

About 25 brightly colored hot air balloons, piloted by race competitors and local flyers, will fill the sky in a mass ascension at 7 a.m. Thursday, May 30, weather permitting, as the race gets underway. If conditions are too windy or if storms are forecast, then the takeoff will be postponed until the weather is favorable.

The majority of the balloons will take off from the launch field that is located across the Chattahoochee River from Cool River Tubing and the city’s River Park. However, a few balloons may launch from various places around town.

the Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race & FestivalWhile the race begins in the Alpine village in the North Georgia mountains, the finish line is Interstate-95. The actual end point is fluid, however, as balloons can reach their destination anywhere between Maine and Miami. The winner is the first person to cross I-95, or whoever is ahead at sunset on Friday, May 31.

The shortest distance to the interstate is 225 miles, and the race usually takes two days. Although the race has been done in one day, some have taken as many as four days.

As the competition to the Atlantic continues, other balloonists will compete in local events beginning Thursday evening around 6:30 p.m.

Local flying events also will take place on Friday and Saturday around 7 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. each day, weather permitting, for one to two hours. About 20 balloons will fly locally.

No ballooning activities take place during the middle of the day. Dawn or two or three hours before sunset – the cooler hours of the day – are the best times for balloons to take off.

Launches and landings also are easier during these hours because winds typically are light.

Helen Hot Air Balloon RaceFlying at these times also avoids thermals, which are vertical air currents caused by ground heating that makes it more difficult to control the balloon. In extreme circumstances, the downdrafts associated with strong thermals can exceed the ability of a balloon to climb and force it into the ground.

Involvement & Entertainment

The balloon race challenges the skills of the pilot and crew as they have to navigate the mountains, Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest and Unicoi, Smithgall Woods, Moccasin Creek, Vogel, Tallulah Gorge and Amicalola Falls state parks that surround the village.

However, the bird’s eye views of treetops, vast woodlands, streams, waterfalls and wildlife make the flights worthwhile.

Helen Georgia Balloon RaceIn addition to the overhead views, attractions of ballooning include the exceptional quiet (except when the propane burners are firing) and the lack of a feeling of movement. Since balloons move with the direction of the wind, passengers don’t feel the wind other than brief periods when the balloon climbs or descends into air currents of different direction or speed.

A balloon can only go the same speed and direction as the wind, so the pilot must find the altitude that gives the best speed and direction toward the finish line.

The race also is a crew event as the balloons are limited to 40 gallons of propane fuel – enough to last four hours – so they must land for refueling. If the crew is not at the landing site immediately with fresh tanks, the balloon loses valuable time while the pilot and crew try to find each other.

The public can get involved in the race by assisting with the inflation of the balloons or by joining a chase crew that follows a balloon.

Helen also offers many sights and attractions for visitors when the balloons are not flying. These activities include river tubing, hiking to waterfalls, going on a picnic or a buggy ride, visiting an amusement park, playing golf, panning for gold, exploring museums or shopping.

If You Go:

What: Helen to the Atlantic Balloon Race & Festival

When: Thursday, May 30 – Saturday, June 1

Where: Helen, Georgia

More Info: helenballoon.com

By Morgan Davis

Amanda Bowling – The Blush and Glow Studio

Women In Business

We are an all-girl team who support female empowerment and self care. We offer 3 tans: Original Glow, Express Glow, and Super Express Glow. All-Natural + Sunless tanning. No booths, airbrush tanning only. We also offer tanning group parties for weddings, etc. and monthly memberships. Every Tuesday, everyone tans for $35 regardless of the type of spray tan.

The Blush and Glow Studio is an all-natural airbrush tanning boutique. Our solutions were developed with a super hydrating base for your tan – a simple, yet unique blend of pure water and organic, anti-aging moisturizers. We celebrate all bodies! No matter your shape, sex, age or skin tone, everyone is always welcome! Our solutions are doctor formulated + approved by dermatologists nationwide and are vegan, hypoallergenic, paraben-free, alcohol-free + cruelty free. 

 Psalm 128:2

341 Furys Ferry Road | Ste 8 | Martinez, GA

Best Spray Tan in Augusta Georgia

Lily Jung Henson, M.D. – Piedmont Augusta Chief Executive Officer

Women In Business

Throughout her career, Piedmont Augusta Chief Executive Officer Lily Jung Henson, M.D., has built a reputation as an outstanding neurologist and an impressive record of leadership in hospital management. She recently was recognized by Modern Healthcare as one of its Women Leaders for 2024 – just a year after becoming the first female CEO of Piedmont Augusta.

“As a physician, I could care for my patients one at a time,” says Dr. Henson, who also oversees the 200-bed Piedmont Summerville Hospital and the 25-bed Piedmont McDuffie Hospital. “As a CEO, I can impact care for the whole community.” 


CEO of Piedmont Augusta

Donna Gibbs – Casual Furniture of Augusta

Women In Business

For 39 years, Donna Gibbs has been enhancing the way customers relax, rejuvenate and entertain. Owner of Casual Furniture of Augusta, she specializes in high-end patio furniture and accessories that transform a space into a personal outdoor oasis.

“People want to be outdoors. Our focus is making sure those outdoor moments are enjoyed with furniture that is beautiful, comfortable and durable,” she says. “All of our lines – from sectionals, seating groups, poolside furniture, bistro sets, even umbrellas – are the highest quality, elegant and easy to clean.”

Brands Include: • Breezesta • Casual Comfort USA • Classic Cushions • Ebel • Gensun •
Hanamint • Lloyd Flanders • Lane Venture • Patio Living Concepts • Phisco Outdoor • Pride Family Brands • Ratana • South Sea • Sunbrella Fabrics • Three Birds Casual • Treasure Garden • Winston • Woodard • Umbrellas & Accessories

3725 Washington Rd
Augusta, GA 30907

Best Outdoor Furniture in Augusta

Ashley Ford – Southern Swag

Women In Business

Cabinet Repainting • Fireplace Refinishing • Kitchen Counters • Interior Painting
With 10+ years of experience helping transform dream homes in the Augusta area, Southern Swag’s portfolio of stunning work prioritizes quality and connection to ensure your project comes out just as you dreamed it would.

Ashley’s passion for design has translated into a successful business for nearly a decade. Her favorite parts are doing what she loves every day, and helping you with not only color choices but design as well. You can be assured that your vision will come to life, just as you dreamed!

Appling, GA · Evans, GA · McCormick, SC · North Augusta, SC · Augusta, GA · Aiken, SC

(706) 294-0244

Cabinet Repainting • Fireplace Refinishing • Kitchen Counters • Interior Painting


Mignon Perry – Perrys Landing Venue

Women In Business

From a wedding or family reunion to an anniversary or birthday party, special occasions deserve to be remembered, and no one knows how to make that happen like Mignon Perry.

As a native of Jamaica who has lived in England and Paris, where she completed studies in Classical French Cuisine, Patisserie and Catering at the Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute, Mignon plans unforgettable events with international flair. With the encouragement and support of her husband, Loren, she opened a stunning wedding venue, Perrys Landing, in 2011 and later added a second location, The Orchard at Perrys Landing. In March 2024 she launched her newest venture, Perry Posh, which specializes in creating surprise marriage proposals.

Services include helping with the selection and design of the perfect diamond ring and scouting out locations for a proposal anywhere in the United States or around the world.

Two Locations – Perrys Landing Barn Venue & Perrys Landing Orchard Venue
5380 Henderson Road | Hephzibah, GA | (404) 933-3396 www.perryslandingweddingandevents.com
Instagram: @perrys_landing

Wedding Venues Georgia

Perfect Pairing

In The Home

Photography by Sally Kolar

Golf is a way of life for this Champions Retreat family.

Whether you’re an avid golfer or you’ve never picked up a club, Masters Week can be a cause for celebration. Last year Evans residents Brandon Zapata and his fiancée, LeAnne Morlan, threw a “Creek Three Party” at their Champions Retreat home on the Friday before Masters Week.

“We love the Masters. Brandon and I met during Masters Week. He plays golf. I follow golf,” says LeAnne. “We wanted to do something to kick off the week, especially since the Augusta National Women’s Amateur is at Champions Retreat.”

And why not? From the open floor plan to the outdoor living space, this contemporary home, situated on the third hole of the Creek Nine at Champions Retreat Golf Club, is the perfect place to host friends and family.

“I love having events and parties,” LeAnne says. “That’s the great thing about this house. It was designed for entertaining.”

custom chopper‘Everyone’s Home’

The home, which features a gray hardy board and white brick exterior, is full of statement-making pieces from the wide wood pivot front door to the first thing you see when you walk inside.

Beneath the floating European oak staircase in the foyer, a Harley Davidson chopper is parked on a zebra-skin rug. The chopper, which Brandon won in a drawing to benefit a pediatric cancer charity, features an African ostrich seat and the original bronze artwork and patina by artist Jerry McKellar.

The foyer’s European oak flooring, which can be found throughout the house, leads into the formal living room. European oak wood beams accent the two-story cathedral ceiling, and the fireplace includes a 3D granite surround.

While a cowhide cabinet sits on one side of the fireplace, a built-in bench occupies the other side. Four black and white portraits of their four sons hang on a wall above the bench.

“That’s my favorite wall in the house,” says LeAnne. “I’m big on personalizing things. We are a blended family, so I want everyone to feel like this is their home.”

Golf is a way of life for this Champions Retreat family.Furnishings include a curved sofa, two leather chairs and a geometrically shaped coffee table.

A partition of black-framed glass offers separation between the living room and the wet bar, which includes a gold sink, icemaker and wine refrigerator. On one of the three open shelves in the bar, a Woodford Reserve bottle features a custom painting of the Augusta National clubhouse.

In the kitchen, LED lights behind the marble backsplash complement the brass hardware. The room also features an Italian oven, lots of drawer space, cabinetry with a bamboo look and a countertop that separates the black refrigerator and the black upright freezer.

Golf is a way of life for this Champions Retreat family.A pair of chandeliers hangs above the large marble island where cookies are artfully stacked in two glass cookie jars.

LeAnne also made the Masters-themed arrangements on the breakfast area table. She put floral foam in two golf ball-shaped vases and attached various Masters tournament, practice round and Berckman’s Place tickets to the foam. Commemorative Masters lapel pins are attached to ribbons, and each arrangement is topped with a golf ball.

The butler’s pantry includes open shelves; a microwave; a speed oven, which operates as a microwave and a convection oven; an expresso machine and a desk. Barn doors with brass inlays lead to the pantry.

An abstract painting of a view of the golf course hangs in the dining room, where the walls are painted Iron Ore by Sherwin-Williams. Wainscoting, along with sconces on either side of the painting, accents the walls.

Offering an actual view of the golf course, the master bedroom features a cathedral ceiling with European oak wood beams, a brass canopy bed, sitting area and remote control drapes.

The adjoining master bath includes heated marble flooring, marble countertops, more cabinets with a bamboo look, brushed brass fixtures, wall sconces and a chandelier. The walk-in shower has dual entrances, marble walls and hexagon-shaped tiles on the floor. The lights beneath the vanities also change colors.

A hallway with built-in drawers connects the master bath and LeAnne’s walk-in closet, which features a chandelier and cathedral ceiling. A chute in the closet leads to the laundry room, which includes gold-spotted wallpaper on an accent wall and marble countertops.

Cheerio, their golf cart ride-loving Netherland Dwarf rabbit, also calls the laundry room.

Golf is a way of life for this Champions Retreat family.Part of the Community

Sliding glass doors from the master bedroom lead to a covered porch, which features a square bed, raised hearth white brick fireplace, cathedral ceiling, recessed lighting, ceiling fan, TV and a hanging swing egg chair.

Additional outdoor living space includes another covered porch with heaters in the tongue and groove ceiling, ceiling fans, screens that can be lowered to offer protection from the elements, and an outdoor kitchen with a pass-through window to the interior.

While the outdoor living space is ideal for relaxing or entertaining, the award-winning, salt-water gunite infinity pool is just as inviting to family and friends. Four round stools on the concrete deck, plus lounge chairs in the pool under an umbrella, offer ample seating.

Golf is a way of life for this Champions Retreat family.The backyard also features a water fountain, poolside fireplace and a section of Astroturf grass and concrete in a herringbone pattern. The LED lights under the steps change colors.

Although the family loves all of the outdoor amenities, LeAnne calls the casual living room her favorite room in the house.

“The casual living room is warm and cozy to me,” she says. “It’s where the family hangs out together. This is where we sit down to watch movies or football games.”

A painting of Brandon’s private plane hangs above the entryway. The room also features a cathedral ceiling with European oak beams and a ceiling fan, built-in bookcases and a stone backdrop to the gas fireplace with a 3D granite surround.

For more fun and games, the golf simulator room includes a Full Swing golf simulator, TV, indoor basketball goal – the boys love it – tabletop shuffleboard game and two slot machines. The sports décor features autographed basketballs by Stephen Curry and LeBron James and a shadowbox picture of a golfer made of black golf tees.

“When we host parties, this is where everybody ends up,” LeAnne says.

As much as the couple enjoys opening their home to company, they also take advantage of everything the neighborhood has to offer.

They frequently dine at Champions Retreat, and when the golf course is closed, they catch and release fish in the pond.

“We’re very much a part of the community here,” says LeAnne. “We have a lot of friends that live here.”

By Sarah James

Strawberry and Brie Grilled Cheese

  • delicious sandwich

    Recipe courtesy of Wisconsin Cheese Board
    Beverage pairing by Hailey Etzel, sommelier

    6 strawberries, sliced

  • 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 slices sourdough bread
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons goat cheese, softened
  • 4 basil leaves
  • 2 ounces brie cheese

Place strawberries in small bowl and drizzle with balsamic vinegar; set aside. Spread mayo on 1 side of each bread slice. Heat skillet over medium-low heat. Place one bread slice, mayo-side down, in skillet and top with goat cheese, strawberries, basil and brie. Add remaining bread slice, mayo-side up. Grill sandwich until golden brown on one side, about three minutes. Carefully turn over and repeat until browned and crispy. (Reduce heat if needed for bread to get crispy without burning.) Makes 1 sandwich.

Plays well with: French Champagne or a Fruited Sour Beer

Tournament Tips & Landmarks

Masters Guide

Course LandmarksMagnolia Lane – tree-lined main entrance to Augusta National

Founders Circle – two plaques honoring founding members Clifford Roberts and Bobby Jones at the base of the flagpole in front of the clubhouse

Crow’s Nest – a cupola atop the clubhouse that provides tournament housing for amateur players 

Oak-TreeBig Oak Tree – a gathering spot for media interviews behind the clubhouse

Rae’s Creek between the 11th and 12th greens 

Hogan Bridge at No. 12 green 

Nelson Bridge at No. 13 tee

Sarazen Bridge at No. 15 green

3.-Landmark--Arnold-Palmer-Plaque-behind-No.-16-teeArnold Palmer Plaque behind No. 16 tee 

Jack Nicklaus Plaque between Nos. 16 and 17

Record Fountain to the left of No. 17 green

Augusta National Golf Club cabins

Ike’s Pond – a spring-fed, 3-acre pond on the Par-3 Course behind Eisenhower Cabin

Par 3 Fountain – adjacent to No. 1 tee on Par 3 course; includes list of Par 3 Contest winners 


Prohibited Items
• Cell phones, beepers, tablets and other electronic devices
• Any device capable of transmitting photo/video*
• Backpacks, bags and purses larger than 10” x 10” x 12” (in its natural state)
• Cameras on tournament days**
• Weapons of any kind (regardless of permit)
• Radios/TVs/noise- or music-producing devices
• Folding armchairs/rigid type chairs
• Flags/banners/signs
• Strollers
• Food/beverages/coolers
• Golf shoes with metal spikes
• Ladders/periscopes/selfie sticks

Augusta National MastersViolation of these policies will subject the ticket holder to removal from the grounds and the ticket purchaser to the permanent loss of credentials.

*Fitness tracking bands and electronic watches are permitted. However, they cannot be used for phone calls, emails, text messages and other photo, video or data recording and transmission.

**Cameras (still photography/personal use only) are allowed at practice rounds on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tournament Amenities:

  • Concession stands
  • First aid stations
  • Golf shops
  • Information centers
  • Lost and found
  • Merchandise shipping/check stands
  • Message center
  • Pairing sheets with course map and tee times
  • Parking
  • Picnic areas
  • Patron photos at Founders Circle, free of charge, on all days, Monday-Sunday
  • Restrooms
  • Scoring information
  • Spectator guides
  • Telephones
  • Water fountains

Autograph Policy
For player safety and protection, there is a no autograph policy enforced on the golf course. Autograph seeking is only allowed in areas adjacent to the Tournament Practice Area and on the Par 3 course during the Par 3 Contest.

Re-Entry Policy
Patrons will be allowed one re-entry per day.

Method of Payment Accepted 
All facilities at Augusta National Golf Club are cashless. Credit card and debit card are the only accepted methods of payment at concession stands, merchandise shops and shipping locations.

Free Masters parking is available at Augusta National Golf Club on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Course Quiz

Masters Guide

Masters Tournament patrons have a real appreciation for Augusta National Golf Club, and we enjoy quizzing a few each year to hear their thoughts about some of their favorite things on and off the golf course. See if they match your own:

The best thing in the concession stand is ___.

Golfer I’d like to caddie for:

Shop, watch golf or see the course?

I’d like to be a fly on the wall at the Champions Dinner so I could ___.


Augusta Christian Schools

Education Options

The mission of Augusta Christian Schools is to prepare students to serve Jesus Christ as Lord, partnering with family and church, instilling high standards spiritually, academically, socially and physically.

“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

313 Baston Road, Martinez, GA 30907
Phone: (706) 863-2905, Admissions Ext 206






See our website at  augustachristian.org

Christian School Augusta Georgia

Martinez Animal Hospital

Dental Care

Martinez Animal Hospital was founded in 1970 by Dr. Grayson Brown and Dr. James Wilkes. We practice small animal medicine, as well as equine, and exotics. Our team of doctors and medical staff are like one big family, and we take pride in providing the best quality care to you and your pet!

February is National Pet Dental Health Month!

Email: martinezanimal@yahoo.com

3942 Washington Rd. Martinez, GA 30907

Hospital Hours
Monday – Friday:
08:00AM – 05:30PM


Animal Dentistry Augusta

Wall-to-Wall Wow Factor

In The Home
Ashley Ford’s Lincolnton home

Photography by Joe Bailey

From the foyer to the covered porch, this Lincolnton home is full of surprises.

If the walls of Ashley Ford’s Lincolnton home, where she lives with husband Patrick and sons Will Ford and Brent Harsey, could talk, they likely would say she has an eye for design.

“I like design,” says Ashley, who owns cabinet painting company Southern Swag and served as general contractor for the construction of their home. “Not everybody can visualize things, but it’s my business. I like helping people visualize things and making it happen.”

She hired subcontractors to start building in January 2022, and the family moved into the house in October 2022.

“It probably was the most fun I’ve ever had,” Ashley says. “I loved watching it from the slab being poured to the roof being shingled.”

From hanging wallpaper to painting outdoor flooring, her mother, Dee Tinley, who lives in a mother-in-law suite at the house, helped as well. “She was my support system,” says Ashley.

Photography by Joe Bailey‘Wow’ Moment

To design the home, Ashley found a house plan that she liked and started tweaking it to meet their needs. She says the most difficult part of building was getting the plan the way she wanted it, but there were certain features she definitely had in mind.

“I did not want an open floor plan,” she says. “I like walls. I like art, pictures and mirrors that I can hang on the walls.”

The wall between the foyer and the dining room is a work of art itself.

To accent this wall, Ashley found vintage doors at Charles Phillips Antiques in Theodore, Alabama, outside of Mobile. She is a longtime follower of the shop on Facebook, so she decided to visit the store in person.

When she first spotted the doors, they were filled with colored antique glass and some of the panes were broken. More importantly, however, she saw their potential.

She had new glass installed, painted the doors and framed one in each wall on either side of the entryway from the foyer to the dining room. The stunning results speak for themselves.

“It was just something I visualized when I saw those doors in Alabama,” says Ashley. “I wanted people to have a “Wow!” moment when they came in the house.”

The wide foyer also features a distressed white chest against the opposite wall, which is accented with wallpaper. With a frame that is made of antique wooden fishing lures, a round mirror above the chest is an eye-catching conversation piece as well.

Hickory wood flooring, which is found throughout the house, extends from the foyer into the dining room, where a white chandelier hangs from the tongue-and-groove cathedral ceiling. Furnishings include a black china cabinet and a farmhouse table with an upholstered, skirted chair at each end and a pair of cane-back chairs on either side.

A rug with a black and white diamond pattern ties the décor together.

Gathering Spots

The dining room also shares the cathedral ceiling with the kitchen, which is Ashley’s favorite room in the house.

“It has a great flow,” she says. “So many people can get in the kitchen, and the island is big enough for everyone to gather around it.”

With quartz countertops, large workspace and lots of drawers, the island is the focal point of the room. A wooden candlestick and greenery atop a two-tiered dessert stand accent the island, and two round, four-candle light pendants hang above it.

Other kitchen features include a farmhouse sink, stainless steel appliances, brushed gold hardware, custom-built cabinetry and a custom wood range hood. The hardware includes knobs on the cabinets and long handles on the drawers.

The ceramic tile backsplash, with its vertical tiles and herringbone pattern above the cooktop, is another prominent attribute in the kitchen. “I had one backsplash put up, but I decided I wanted something different,” Ashley says.

A white lamp and greenery bring a homey feel to the space.

Ashley also added a wall between the living room and kitchen to the floor plan.

In the living room, rich blue pillows and window treatments accent the white, beige and gray color scheme. The space also features a raised-hearth, wood-burning, brick fireplace with a custom-made white oak mantel.

Furnishings include a leather ottoman between two couches and two chairs against the wall that separates the living room and kitchen. Bringing the colors in the room together, two large side-by-side paintings featuring a heron found the perfect home on the wall.

Ashley Ford’s Lincolnton homeNatural Flow

The master bedroom, another one of Ashley’s favorite spots in the house, has a natural flow to the master bath, walk-in closet and laundry room.

“I like the bedroom because it’s cozy,” she says.

Ashley and her mother hung the wallpaper on an accent wall in the master bedroom and the master bath, and Ashley also painted a console table and a dresser in the bedroom. While the console has a retro look, the sage green dresser features a large gold diamond on each column of drawers.

Two square wood ottomans rest at the base of the canopy bed, which features an upholstered, studded headboard and footboard. A pair of serpentine nightstands flank either side of the bed, and a door leads to the covered porch outside.

Photography by Joe BaileyThe master bath features tile flooring, quartz countertops, a double vanity and a walk-in shower with two half-walls, a hexagon tile floor and tile walls.

A starburst light fixture and built-ins accent the walk-in closet, while the connecting laundry room/mudroom features tile flooring, ample cabinet space, a built-in bench and a striking light fixture.

“The light fixture is made out of a plastic material,” says Ashley. “It’s very interesting, fun and catches your attention as you walk in the door.”

The décor in the boys’ bedrooms illustrates their interests as well. Will’s bedroom highlights his love of sports, and Brent’s room showcases his outdoorsmanship. Two upholstered cube ottomans sit at the foot of the bed in both of their rooms.

In the Jack-and-Jill bath that separates their bedrooms, a pair of clerestory windows above the double vanity lets in natural light. The bath also has tile flooring, quartz countertops and a pocket door that leads to the tile, walk-in shower.

In Dee’s mother-in-law suite, which has a separate entrance, abstract art and blue kitchen cabinets liven up the space.

“It’s so bright in here in the morning, so we went with color on the cabinets,” says Dee.

The suite also includes LVP flooring, a sitting area, an eating area with a wood pedestal table and two chairs, a bedroom and a bath.

Breaking Down Barriers

The outdoor living space of the home, which is situated on 4-plus acres of land, is just as inviting as the interior.

Ashley and her mother painted the black and white squares on the concrete floor of the covered porch, which overlooks the saltwater pool. The porch also features a tongue-and-groove ceiling and an eating area with a wood table and wicker chairs.

In addition, the sitting area has two ceiling fans with lights, a TV on the wall, a rug and metal furnishings including two loveseats and two chairs.

The front porch features a brick floor, tongue-and-groove ceiling, recessed lighting and a porch swing on either end. Bronze metal roofing covers the front porch as well as the two dormer windows on the side of the house.

Ashley and Dee also installed the shutters on either side of the three sets of double doors that lead into the house. They hung the Bahama shutters on windows to the laundry room and Brent’s bedroom as well.

As much as Ashley likes separating the rooms in the house with walls, however, she might enjoy breaking down barriers even more. She takes great pride in her skills in a male-dominated field, but she would love to have company.

“I think more women need to do this type of work,” she says.

By Betsy Gilliland

Speed of Lights


Photos courtesy of Explore Cabarrus

All is bright at Charlotte Motor Speedway during the holiday season.

Normally, racecars zip around the track at Charlotte Motor Speedway. However, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season actually slows down vehicles at the NASCAR site in Concord, North Carolina.

With the 14th edition of Speedway Christmas, cars can travel leisurely through the Charlotte Motor Speedway property (about 13 miles from Charlotte) to see a show featuring more than 5 million lights that are synchronized to popular Christmas tunes on 101.3 FM.

OK, OK, there is a fast lane for drivers that simply can’t help themselves, but most visitors enjoy the route at a slower pace.

“Speedway Christmas has become a can’t-miss holiday tradition for many families across the Southeast,” said Greg Walter, Charlotte Motor Speedway executive vice president and general manager. “That’s not something we take lightly. Every year we look for ways to make the show bigger, better and brighter, delivering on our promise to create remarkable events and help visitors make lasting memories.”

Around the Track

Winding their way through the holiday light displays, visitors ride along a 4-mile course that includes the legendary oval, pit road and infield road course.

The theme of this year’s display is Santa’s Beach Party, where St. Nick and his elves enjoy a coastal getaway.

Cars, vans and trucks travel through light displays featuring a forest of Christmas trees and other scenes, as thousands of lights have been added, reconfigured and redesigned this year. A brand new concourse has been added as well.

Tickets are available online or at the gate. While advance purchases are available, they are not required. However, all advance tickets must be purchased for the specific night you plan to go.

Drive-up passes, which are available at the gate, are recommended for those who are unsure when they will attend.

The show is open rain or shine, and Friday and Saturday are the busiest nights.

Pit Stop

Of course, a visit to Speedway Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a pit stop at the infield Christmas Village. Access is free with vehicle admission, and the Christmas Village is open Thursday through Sunday nights.

The Christmas Village features concessions, fire pits for roasting marshmallows, photos with Santa, merchandise vendors and a 360-degree selfie camera in Victory Lane. New attractions include a lighted candy winter wonderland walking trail, two mazes and a rotating assortment of vendors and artisans that changes each week.

The outdoor food court features pizza, hot dogs, corndogs, chicken tenders, turkey legs, BBQ, gyros, pitas, doughnuts, ice cream, funnel cakes, candy and kettle corn. Beverages include soft drinks, coffee, hot chocolate, apple cider, water, beer and wine.

If the holidays simply aren’t complete without your favorite Yuletide films, then you’re in the driver’s seat. The speedway’s 16,000-square-foot HDTV transforms into a drive-in movie screen during the light show, playing holiday hits like Elf, The Grinch, Christmas Vacation and Polar Express Thursday through Sunday nights until Christmas.

However, the Christmas Village and movies will be open nightly December 14 to December 23.

In addition, visitors of all ages can enjoy a new four-lane sledding/tubing hill in front of Charlotte Motor Speedway from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, excluding Christmas Eve, until January 7. Offering unlimited one-day rides, these tickets are $20 per person for light show visitors and $25 per person for others.

Tickets for this activity are sold at the booth beside the tubing hill in the CMS Fan Zone. They are not available online or at Speedway Christmas ticket booths.

Snowland and Sea Life

While they’re in the area, visitors can add other attractions to their Christmas list. Great Wolf Lodge is home to Snowland, an annual holiday celebration with an 80,000-square-foot indoor water park that is kept at 84 degrees. Other activities include Snowflake Story Time, Snowland Yoga Tails, arts and crafts, games, visits with Santa and snow flurries in the lobby.

Holiday shoppers can visit Concord Mills, which is home to more than 200 stores, restaurants and entertainment options. They include Lionel Retail Store, the only store directly owned by the 119-year-old train maker; mini golf; go karts and other outdoor fun at The Speedpark; and Sea Life Aquarium.

From Friday, December 1 through Monday, January 1, the interactive aquarium will feature the Sea of Lights, an underwater holiday experience with thousands of holiday lights and more than 30 decorated Christmas trees. The aquarium also includes a 180-degree ocean tunnel where tropical sharks and graceful rays glide overhead.

If You Go:

What: Speedway Christmas

Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, North Carolina

More Info: charlottemotorspeedway.com, visitcabarrus.com

By Morgan Davis