June 2021 | Volume 9 | Issue 2
VESTAVIA HILLS’ COMMUNITY NEWS SOURCE
TOGETHER Vestavia resident organizes Euphonious concert series By NEAL EMBRY
fter a long year of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and the tension of a presidential election, people are ready to come together and enjoy something in person, Bradley Metrock said. While the pandemic has been a shared experience that has affected everybody, it has certainly not been communal. Lockdowns, quarantines and social distancing have kept people apart. But live music is communal and brings people together in shared joy, said Metrock, a Vestavia Hills resident. That’s why he has organized Euphonious, a concert series set for
See EUPHONIOUS | page A26 Vestavia Hills resident Bradley Metrock at Vestavia Hills City Center. Metrock has organized Euphonious, a music celebration and socially distanced concert series, set for June 18-20 at The Birmingham Zoo. Photo by Erin Nelson.
Code to success: VHHS junior teaches computer science to girls By NEAL EMBRY
Pizitz Middle School Principal Chris Pennington transitions to new role at school system’s central office.
Vestavia’s track and field programs end season with boys capturing a state title, girls coming in third place.
See page A22
See page B9
INSIDE Sponsors........... A4 News....................A6 Chamber............A9 Business........... A10 Community...... A18
Schoolhouse.... A19 Sports.................B6 Events.................B11 Metro Roundup........ B14
When she learned that women were underrepresented in the computer science industry, Maleah Brady determined she would do something about it. Brady, a 17-year-old junior at Vestavia Hills High School, was recently awarded the Gold Award by the Girl Scouts for her October workshop to teach a group of middle school girls about various aspects of computer science. The Gold Award is the highest honor given to Girl Scouts and is only given after 80 hours of work into their project, which comes Maleah Brady, who received the Girl Scout Gold Award for her coding class project, sits at her computer. Photo by Erin Nelson. after the project is approved by a council. on their own, leading her to offer the workshop for “It was kind of difficult at first,” Brady said. Along with her aim to provide computer science students in Woodlawn. Some students also attended classes to girls, she also wanted to offer it to stu- virtually, she said. Physical classes were offered at dents whose own school districts and communities might not have the ability to do something like that See BRADY | page A27
A2 • June 2021
June 2021 • A3
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A4 • June 2021
About Us Editor’s Note By Neal Embry One of the best suggestions my wife has given to me has been to use Apple Music. For $10 a month, I can download all the music I can fit into my phone. At the price of one album, and as someone who was buying more than one album a month, it was a no-brainer. I’ve used it to discover new artists and expand my musical tastes, and there is now an ungodly amount of music on my phone, and whenever I check my phone’s storage, it’s always dominated by music, books, podcasts and pictures (mainly of my beautiful newborn daughter). However you listen to music, and whatever your tastes, for most people, music plays an important role in our lives. It’s a way to express
our emotions, a way to communicate with one another and a way to capture various moments and themes of life itself. Music is made even better when we have a chance to enjoy our favorite
artists in person. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our ability to do that, but Vestavia Hills native Bradley Metrock is changing that with Euphonious, a concert series being held at The Birmingham Zoo’s Henley Park this month during Father’s Day weekend. Moon Taxi, a band made up of Birmingham-area natives, is performing, along with several other Birmingham-based bands and acclaimed Nashville duo Drew and Ellie Holcomb. Check out this month’s cover story on the festival and visit euphonious.ai for more information about it.
PHOTO OF THE MONTH
Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin stands beside Walker Simmons, 11, of Vestavia Hills, for a photo during the NCR Celebrity Pro-Am at the Regions Tradition tournament May 5 at Greystone Golf and Country Club’s Founders Course in Hoover. Photo by Erin Nelson.
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Published by: Starnes Publishing LLC Legals: Vestavia Voice is published monthly. Reproduction or use of editorial or graphic content without prior permission is prohibited. Vestavia Voice is designed to inform the Vestavia community of area school, family and community events. Information in Vestavia Voice is gathered from sources considered reliable but the accuracy cannot be guaranteed. All articles/photos submitted become the property of Vestavia Voice. We reserve the right to edit articles/photos as deemed necessary and are under no obligation to publish or return photos submitted. Inaccuracies or errors should be brought to the attention of the publisher at (205) 313-1780 or by email. Please recycle this paper.
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A6 • June 2021
City City manager discusses response to recent rains By NEAL EMBRY After a significant rain event caused major flooding throughout Vestavia Hills in early May, City Manager Jeff Downes said the city is addressing resident complaints and examining the city’s infrastructure. Thirty-six properties had issues related to heavy rains, Downes said at the May 10 council meeting. There were issues on both private property and with public infrastructure, he said. The latter was noticeable at sites such as the intersection of Montreat Drive and U.S. 31, where the drainage structure within the state right of way was clogged, he said. Downes and Public Works Director Brian Davis spoke with the director of the Alabama Department of Transportation, whom Downes said assured them the problem would be solved. Another public issue was found near Sol Azteca, where a slide occurred at the hillside due to problems with ALDOT property. The department has also promised to resolve that issue, Downes said. Downes said the city continues to work with private property owners on issues related to city infrastructure and said the city continues to inspect its property to make sure it is prepared for rain events in the future. The council also on May 10: ► Approved the renewal of an electric franchise agreement with Alabama Power. ► Approved an alcohol license for Snapper Grabbers Land and Sea in Liberty Park. ► Approved the replacement of a gas furnace at Fire Station No. 4. ► Approved the replacement of a heating ventilation and air conditioning system at the concession stand at the Sicard Hollow
Athletic Complex. At a work session prior to the council meeting, Downes informed council members of the possibility for the city to join a solid waste authority in conjunction with several other cities in the region, possibly including Homewood, Pelham, Mountain Brook and Trussville. The city of Hoover has already voted to join the authority. For the authority to be legally incorporated, at least three cities must vote to join, Downes said. The city joining the authority would have no impact on the city’s existing contract with Amwaste or the services currently provided to residents, Downes said. The benefits to joining the authority would be the ability to choose the best provider for their services, as opposed to being bound by the competitive bid law, which requires the city to accept the lowest responsible bid offered for services. It also gives them different options regarding the length of contract, pricing and providers, but they would not be required to use the provider chosen by the authority, Downes said. The council would have to choose a representative for the authority, Downes said. The representative can be anyone who lives in Vestavia Hills. The council was expected to vote on joining the authority at its May 24 meeting and if the measure passed, select a representative for the city. The Vestavia Voice’s June edition had already gone to the printer by that time. The council also on May 24 was expected to consider rezoning property at 1121 Winward Lane from a medium-density residential zone to a planned residential district for the construction of four single-family homes.
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After a significant rain event caused major flooding throughout Vestavia Hills in early May, City Manager Jeff Downes said the city is addressing resident complaints and examining the city’s infrastructure. Staff photo.
June 2021 • A7
Council sets rules for dog parks, appoints board member Construction continues on various portions of Wald Park on May 3. Photo by Erin Nelson.
By NEAL EMBRY As new dog parks open in the city, the Vestavia Hills City Council has set rules for them. The dog park adjacent to the New Merkel House, along with the New Merkel House, opened April 29, and the dog park at Wald Park will be constructed along with other items as part of the third phase of construction at Wald Park. Dog park hours will be 7 a.m. to one hour past sunset. The rules are: ► All children under the age of 13 must be accompanied by an adult. ► Owners are legally responsible for the actions and behaviors of their dogs at all times. ► Owners must be within the dog park and supervise their dogs at all times, with a leash readily available. ► Dogs must enter and exit on a leash. ► Dogs in heat and puppies under 4 months of age are not allowed. ► All dogs must have current vaccinations. ► Aggressive, disruptive and sick dogs are prohibited and must be removed immediately. ► Dog must be well behaved and under control at all times, whether by voice or by leash. ► Owners must clean up after their dogs immediately, including properly removing waste and filling in holes. ► Pet treats, food and glass containers are prohibited. The council also on April 26 appointed Jay Stewart to replace Lisa Baker on the Vestavia Hills Board of Education. Stewart’s five-year term begins June 1. Councilman George Pierce was the lone “no” vote, voicing his choice for local Realtor Blair Moss. Councilwoman Kimberly Cook, who serves as the council’s education liaison, said appointing board members is always the hardest job the council has. That was made even more difficult this time around with 11 candidates, the most Pierce said he could remember in his 13 years on
the council. Stewart is a partner at the Gordon, Dana and Gilmore law firm, helped establish the Vestavia Hills Sports Hall of Fame and has been active in Vestavia Hills Youth Baseball for 20 years. He has two children who are alumni of the school system and has one child at Pizitz Middle School. “I’m very blessed to have grown up in the community of Vestavia,” Stewart said. “Our community and our school system are very special. I’m looking forward to learning from and working with a fantastic school board.”
The City Council also approved a zoning change for property at 3782 Fairhaven Drive. The property previously was rezoned to a planned residential district for the construction of four townhomes, but the property owner, Overton Investments, requested an amendment to that rezoning to build three detached single-family homes instead. In other business, the council: ► Declared a SWAT vehicle and Chevy Tahoe as surplus and authorizing City Manager Jeff Downes to sell or dispose of the vehicles. ► Authorized Downes to purchase a
new police vehicle to replace a recently totaled vehicle. ► Authorized Downes to spend an additional $20,000 for engineering services, due to City Engineer Christopher Brady’s forthcoming absence due to a family issue. ► Heard a report from Downes about the city being honored by the ETC Institute, a wellknown survey company, which awarded the city with the “Leading the Way” award after the city scored among the top three or four cities in the nation in surveys centered on residents’ satisfaction with city services and leadership.
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A8 • June 2021
Mayor’s Minute By Ashley Curry As we are seeing the number of COVID-19 cases decrease and the Alabama Health Department relaxation of public health orders, I would like to share some thoughts about the past year and how we, as a city, dealt with the virus. Our City Manager, Jeff Downes, and his staff have done an incredible job of maintaining city services while having to follow the public health directives. Through the use of virtual mediums, such as Zoom, we were able to hold council meetings, various boards and commission meetings, and other city-sponsored events. I also offer my congratulations to the 2021 graduates of Vestavia Hills High School. This class was unique in that they were the first class (and hopefully the last class) to complete a full school year under the restrictions we faced with the COVID-19 virus. I commend our superintendent, the faculty and the students for adapting to this unprecedented event. We will be returning to some degree of “normal” for city events. Our new aquatic complex officially opened the weekend before Memorial Day. Pool passes are available online through the city’s website, https://vhal.org/departments/ parks-recreation/. Our “I Love America Day” will be at Wald Park on Thursday, June 24. As you may recall, this was canceled last year due to public health concerns. This event will also include the ribbon-cutting and official opening of the “great lawn” at Wald Park. You have already seen the opening of events at our city parks. Our youth sports have been able to enjoy the new ball fields at Wald Park and Cahaba Heights Park.
We are returning to some degree of normal, but now more than ever, we need to support our local businesses. There are many business owners and employees who are depending on our support. As you are well aware, our local businesses were severely affected by the public health-directed closures and capacity restrictions that were imposed on them during the pandemic. Remember that they are the lifeblood of our city’s economy, and it is incumbent on us to support them as they, also, try to return to normal. One last thought as we return to normal. During the pandemic, we learned the value of personal interactions with our friends. We missed that interaction while we were quarantined, isolated and only able to meet with our friends, our church groups or other events via Zoom or some other virtual medium. When your ability to interact socially with friends was taken away from you, you realized how much you missed it. Take what we learned from this and apply it to your future. Take time to re-establish personal contacts. You will need to “un-mute” (a new term we learned during the virtual meetings) and remain in contact with your friends. Summer is officially here. Hopefully, you can get outside and enjoy it.
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June 2021 • A9
Chamber Retired CEO shares experience of flying vets Dave Wood, center, spoke about his time flying veterans during the May 11 Vestavia Hills Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Photo by Neal Embry.
By NEAL EMBRY Dave Wood has seen a lot of heroes in his day. Wood, the retired CEO of Wood Fruitticher, a Birmingham-based business that is one of the largest food service providers in the Southeast, spoke to the Vestavia Hills Chamber of Commerce on May 11. He shared about his work with the Veterans Airlift Command, which transports post-9/11 veterans to various appointments, family reunions and more across the country to show respect and appreciation for their service. As someone who has a family background in the air, flying the veterans was an easy decision for Wood, he said. His father was a World War II bomber pilot, and Wood himself learned how to fly when he was a child. The organization will make sure the veterans qualify for a transport and then will link them up with a pilot such as Wood, he told the chamber. For about half an hour, Wood told the guests story after story about wounded veterans, bringing many in the room to tears. His first transport was going home, somewhere he hadn’t been in quite some time. The man had spent a career jumping out of planes and was headed to Wilmington, North Carolina, Wood said. Sitting in the same airplane as a hero and seeing how much it was able to help him was all he needed to be convinced that this was something he wanted to keep doing, Wood said. He has flown Medal of Honor recipients, triple amputees and many more who have risked it all to preserve our freedoms. However, they remain extremely humble, he said. One Medal of Honor recipient corrected Wood when he introduced the man as a “Medal
of Honor winner,” telling him it isn’t a prize they win, but something they receive. While it was an innocent mistake, Wood made sure to learn his lesson that day, he said. He also said he’s learned something about the significant others of military members. “Spouses are also heroes,” Wood said. One spouse in particular stuck out. While they were still dating at the time, the girlfriend of Taylor Morris dropped everything she had to take care of him after he was injured in combat. For a time, she carried him “like a backpack,” Wood said, as he had lost his legs.
Wood had the honor of transporting them and was moved by her effort. Transporting a female veteran once led Wood to receive what he called divine confirmation of his efforts. The veteran was also a star college basketball player, and Wood flew her in the rain. While he was waiting to take off again, he was able to look over at his plane, and there, shining in his pilot’s seat, was the end of the rainbow. “That convinced me I was doing the right thing,” he said. While transporting veterans who have
suffered traumatic, brutal injuries, and many of whom have had amputations, Wood said he has learned to not avoid talking about their injuries, which can sometimes feel like the elephant in the room. “Don’t act like it’s not there,” Wood said. Wood has kept in touch with the veterans, finding out when they grow their family or move, and has flown them all over the country, from Disney World to Monroeville, Alabama. Still, as he told the crowd, he isn’t the hero. He’s just the man who flies them.
A10 • June 2021
Vestavia businesses nominated for Retailer of the Year award By NEAL EMBRY
Vickie Craft browses at The Blue Willow in Cahaba Heights on May 14. The Blue Willow is one of the nominations for Retailer of the Year. Photos by Erin Nelson.
Each year, the Alabama Retail Association awards Retailer of the Year awards to businesses that define success and go above and beyond in taking care of their customers. But this past year, being a successful business for many business owners just meant keeping the doors open amid the COVID-19 pandemic. So, to be nominated as one of the top businesses in the state during a year unlike any other was especially meaningful, said Sheri Darnell. “It’s huge,” said Darnell, owner of Fun Stuff in Rocky Ridge. “Hopefully we’re doing a good job. We appreciate this community.” Darnell is one of seven Vestavia Hills businesses nominated for Alabama Retailer of the Year. “Our business has done well,” Darnell said, noting that Vestavia residents have been loyal to small shops such as Fun Stuff, which offers an assortment of gifts, all of which can be personalized, Darnell said. The business can turn around gifts the next day and is popular as a place to find gifts for weddings, babies and more. Despite the pandemic, Fun Stuff is now back to the same level it was before the pandemic, Darnell said. This allows them to continue doing their fundraisers and more to support Vestavia Hills City Schools. Blue Willow is one of the other businesses nominated for the award. “We’re very excited about it,” said owner Lynda Stout. “We’re thrilled, certainly, to be nominated.” The Blue Willow has been in business in Cahaba Heights for almost 20 years, said Stout, who is the third owner of the store. “We’re one-stop shopping,” Stout said. A 3,300 square-foot gift shop, the store offers a baby section, children’s section, home décor and more with a wide range of prices and complimentary gift wrapping, Stout said.
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Fun Stuff in Rocky Ridge Square is one of the nominations for Retailer of the Year.
Stout said the store had a good holiday season in 2019 and a good January 2020, but then, along with many other businesses, was forced to shut down for about three months last spring. She said they tried to be “very creative,” putting items by the curb and mailing out orders. “Customers supported us so well,” Stout said. Stout called the shoppers at The Blue Willow a “sweet, sweet group of customers,” and said being in Vestavia Hills, and specifically in Cahaba Heights, has been a blessing. As people began coming out of quarantines and lockdowns and began shopping again, Stout said she heard repeatedly that her store was the first place they came because they felt safe and comfortable, knowing The Blue Willow would take care of its customers. Karen’s Hallmark has also been nominated for Alabama Retailer of the Year. “It’s an honor,” owner Karen Burgess said. With Hallmark serving the Vestavia community for 25 years, it’s nice to be recognized, Burgess said. “We love the community,” said Burgess, who has owned the business since 1996. Interacting with the store’s community is great, and the people in the city that shop at the store know each other, she said. “They want to shop here,” Burgess said. “They’re friends.” Like so many others, Burgess thought the initial shutdown last spring would last a week. A few months later, that was obviously not the case. Still, once businesses were allowed to reopen, Hallmark had a busy summer, Burgess said.
It’s huge. Hopefully we’re doing a good job. We appreciate this community.
“We’ve weathered the storm,” she said. The store offers cards, gifts, seasonal items and more. It also offers curbside service and shipping through Hallmark online, Burgess said. Four other businesses in Vestavia Hills were also nominated for Alabama Retailer of the Year: Domino’s Pizza in Cahaba Heights is a locally owned franchise and offers pizza, sandwiches and more. FoodBar is a “farm-to-table restaurant for fresh, creative food and cocktails, all with seasonally inspired ingredients, crafting unique, yet approachable flavors,” according to the restaurant’s website. Satterfield’s in Cahaba Heights offers a variety of dining options, including a new lunch menu and a renowned dinner menu in the heart of Cahaba Heights. New York Butcher Shoppe offers premium cuts of fresh meats, along with assorted wines and specialty items. For more on the Alabama Retail Association, visit alabamaretail.org.
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FoodBar in Heights Village is one of the nominations for Retailer of the Year.
A12 • June 2021
Snapper Grabbers Land and Sea restaurant opening in Liberty Park By NEAL EMBRY Seafood is a family business for the Scotts. Dusty Scott’s grandfather, Ed Scott, owned a fish market in Birmingham in the early 1950s called River Fish Market on Vanderbilt Road in north Birmingham. Dusty’s father, Kent, worked there and eventually took over at the store when Ed retired in the 1980s. At 8 years old, Dusty also began working there on Saturdays and in the summer. Working there taught him a work ethic, something he carried with him as he got into the wholesale auto parts business, a job he held for 30 years. Kent and Pam Scott eventually opened Snapper Grabbers Land and Sea on U.S. 31 in Vestavia Hills and have enjoyed success over the years. Now, Dusty and his wife, Karen, will soon open their own Snapper Grabbers restaurant in Liberty Park. “Land and Sea will be a full-service seafood and meat market with a unique wine selection,” Dusty Scott said. “We want it to be one-stop shopping to prepare a gourmet meal.” The restaurant specializes in Gulf seafood and locally sourced meats. It also will have the ability to steam shrimp and smoke meat in the restaurant, and there will also be a grab-and-go selection with salads, dips and condiments, all made in house. “Of course, we will have my father’s ‘almost famous’ gumbo,” Scott said. Unlike the restaurant on U.S 31, the Liberty Park location will not have a café, Scott said. While he had a successful career in auto parts, Scott said following in his family’s footsteps was something he knew he had to do. “Seafood has been the family business my whole life,” Scott said. “When the opportunity arose to have my own store, I couldn’t pass that up.” What makes the restaurant so special is that it
“ ” Liberty Park is the only place we would have considered doing this.
is a multigenerational, family-owned and operated market, Scott said. Dusty’s wife, Karen, has been supportive throughout the process of opening the restaurant, he said. High school sweethearts, the couple have been married for 30 years, have two daughters and are excited for the future together, he said. The couple reside in Trussville, where they’ve been for the past 20 years. Opening a store in the middle of the pandemic hasn’t been easy, causing delays and a change to the original plan, Scott said. “COVID-19 was really starting to take hold of the country when we started down this adventure,” Scott said. “It’s the main reason we couldn’t pull off the café part. COVID-19 affected everything we were trying to do and caused development and construction to take much longer than we expected. I really thought we would be open before Christmas.” More recently, they hoped to be open by the end of May. The couple is excited to be a part of what Scott called a special community. “Liberty Park is such a special community with a huge upside,” Scott said. “Liberty Park is the only place we would have considered doing this.” The store will be at 8021 Liberty Parkway and can be found on Facebook at Snapper Grabbers Land and Sea Liberty Park.
Karen and Dusty Scott, owners of the new Snapper Grabbers Land and Sea fish market location in Liberty Park. Photo by Erin Nelson.
June 2021 • A13
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Guests dine on the patio at Diplomat Deli on April 29. Photo by Erin Nelson.
Small businesses trending upward after challenging year By NEAL EMBRY Following the COVID-19 pandemic that stifled and challenged businesses across the country for the past 12 months, several small businesses in Vestavia Hills have seen their fortunes change. “We have totally rebounded,” said Katherine McRee, owner of The Lili Pad and Gigi’s in Cahaba Heights. McRee said her businesses saw their best month ever during March 2021 and are doing better than ever. McRee praised the city of Vestavia Hills’ leaders for the way they handled the pandemic and said she believes the emphases on shopping local also played a big role in bringing people back to the store. “We couldn’t be happier with the support of the community,” McRee said. Joseph Hoskins, owner of Diplomat Deli, said residents were very supportive, helping them continue to do well, throwing in extra tips whenever they could. “We have a lot of loyal customers,” Hoskins said. “We see the same faces three times a week, once a month. … That’s our lifeblood.” Hoskins said the restaurant, located off U.S. 31 in Park South Plaza, worked quickly to move tables outside, offering curbside to customers and tried to make the best decision for their company. Not having more clarity on masks made it hard, given how passionate people are on both sides of that debate, Hoskins said. “People are just so divided,” Hoskins said. “It was not easy.” Now, with the state’s mask mandate lifted, and the decision in May by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue guidance stating those who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks in many situations, Hoskins said people are “ready to get out. “We’ve seen an uptick in business since the weather turned,” Hoskins said. It feels as if things are getting back to normal, he said. McRee said people are also growing wary of
We have a lot of loyal customers. We see the same faces three times a week, once a month. … That’s our lifeblood.
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ordering online, given delays people are experiencing with the U.S. Postal Service. Shipping has been delayed, and some shipments have been lost, McRee said. Some of her store’s packages were stuck in the Suez Canal when major delays were experienced due to a ship becoming stuck in the canal, she said. Because of that, people are more willing to shop in person, especially as vaccinations increase and regulations decrease, McRee said. Todd Beegle, general manager of On Tap Sports Café in Liberty Park, said after going to curbside for three months last spring, they had a “ridiculous” spring 2021. “The last month has been really good,” Beegle said in early May. “I think this last month was really close to normal.” Now the issue is finding help, both Beegle and McRee said. “If you’re doing well, you’re looking for staff right now,” Beegle said. McRee said she lost some staff that did not come back, and while they’ve made a few hires, they are still looking for help. “It’s a good problem to have,” McRee said. As summer gets underway in Vestavia Hills and families get back to visiting local restaurants and businesses, having that sense of normalcy settling in is a welcome sight, Hoskins said. “It’s just good to have kids running around again,” he said.
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“Manda is insightful, knowledgeable, quick, communicative and incredibly “effective. She knows within hours” what it will take both to sell your “ current home and buy your next.” She gets to the bottomline almost immediately. It is an honor to work “ with her and watch her go. ” She’s brilliant.
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205-283-0380 • MandaSold.com Manda@MandaSold.com GiGi’s and The Lili Pad, two children’s clothing boutiques in Cahaba Heights.
A14 • June 2021
Homewood cake business opening new storefront in Mountain Brook By INGRID SCHNADER A specialty cake baking company is soon getting its first brick-andmortar location. Mallory Webb, owner of Daughters Baking, had been baking cakes in the kitchen at Yellow Bicycle Catering Co. in Homewood. This summer, she plans to open a storefront in Mountain Brook Village. She started baking right before graduating from Samford University in 2013. Then when she got a job at Urban Standard after college, she had more freedom to experiment in the kitchen. She spent time studying the art of baking foods like croissants, puff pastries, pies and more. When she landed on cakes, she found something she really enjoyed. “I made a few cakes in the back and served them in slices at Urban,” she said. “They didn’t sell super well, because they’re a different kind of product than what Urban usually sells. But the people who did buy the cakes were so encouraging and were like, ‘This is amazing!’” Webb’s goal is to make the cakes moist, so they’re soaked in a sweet liquid mixture. Her cakes are tall and “naked,” which means the cake is nearly bare on the outside instead of covered in icing. Each cake has four components: cake, buttercream icing, a filling and something crunchy on top. She likes this style of cake because it’s “playful,” she said, and she didn’t enjoy baking more traditional cakes in previous years. “Obviously it takes skill and focus, but this style is a bit more fun than other styles,” she said. Cakes come in three sizes: a 3-inch
Employees with Daughters Baking, a specialty cake company, create layered, “naked”-style cakes in the Yellow Bicycle Catering Co. in Homewood. The company will open its first storefront this summer in Mountain Brook Village. Photos courtesy of Emma Joganic.
mini cake, which serves two to four people; a 6-inch cake, which serves 16-20 people; and a 9-inch cake, which serves 30-35 people. Flavors listed on the website include blueberry lemon, classic chocolate, bananas foster, carrot, lavender honey, Reese’s peanut butter and more. Her first wedding cake was for her brother’s wedding four years ago. A lot has changed since then, she said — now she has six employees, and she said she has enjoyed learning how to build a team and a culture. “I’ve really enjoyed cultivating a positive work environment and
growing into that,” she said. “I’ve made lots of mistakes. When you lead people, things become stressful sometimes. I’m learning how to navigate stressful situations in a way that you can still communicate clearly and in a way that benefits people.” When brainstorming ideas for a business name, the word “daughters” kept coming to mind, she said. “I think that word meant a lot to me in terms of the way I relate to God,” she said. “It’s something that’s really important to me.” Her new storefront will be at 2812 Cahaba Road, which is to the left
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of Bromberg’s and right of Ousler Sandwiches in Mountain Brook. Webb said she anticipates a July opening. “It has been a dream of ours for a while to have a beautiful space that is easily accessible to our customers, where we can accommodate walk-in and last-minute orders, as well as expand our products and offerings,” the company said in an Instagram post. “We are so happy that this dream is becoming a reality, and we can’t wait for you to experience the fruit of it.” For more information, visit daughtersbaking.com.
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Divas in Defense has reopened following a closure during the COVID-19 pandemic and will travel to your location to offer group classes in self-defense. 205-518-1115, http://bit.ly/dideroberts Alabama Goodwill Industries, 3177 Green Valley Road, celebrated the grand opening of its newest donation center in Cahaba Heights on May 13. The center will make donating easier, with each donor being greeted within 10 seconds by a worker. The new center created four full-time jobs and supported a capital investment of more than $110,000. alabamagoodwill.org
COMING SOON Snapper Grabbers Land and Sea was expected to open a location at 8021 Liberty Parkway in Liberty Park by the end of May. Owned by Dusty and Karen Scott, the restaurant will resemble the eatery's first location on U.S. 31 with a full-service seafood and meat market, a selection of wines and grab-and-go options, but it will not include a cafe. Facebook at Snapper Grabbers Land and Sea Liberty Park Crumbl Cookies, which offers a rotating assortment of cookies and treats, will soon open at 708 Montgomery Highway in the old Rite Aid building at the Vestavia City Center. 615-295-9114, crumblcookies.com
NEWS AND ACCOMPLISHMENTS Encompass Health, 9001 Liberty Parkway, recently announced it has entered into an agreement to purchase the home health
June 2021 • A15
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A16 • June 2021
Vestavia Voice The students of Unless U sing and sign to worship songs during the grand opening of the new Unless U campus on May 14. Photos by Erin Nelson.
GRAND OPENING OF
UNLESS U Above: Students of Unless U walk inside as they see the new campus. Below: Jordan Decker and Peter Guarisco pose for a photo.
Right: Students of Unless U sing and sign to worship songs during the facility’s grand opening. Above: Kaitlyn Paine looks at the shelves of books as she attends the grand opening.
Unless U Executive Director Lindy Cleveland stands with Nick Lanzi for a photograph.
June 2021 • A17
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A18 • June 2021
Community Have a community announcement? Email Neal Embry at firstname.lastname@example.org to be considered for inclusion in an upcoming issue.
53rd annual Poinsettia Ball held at country club The Ballet Women’s Committee and Poinsettia Men’s Club hosted the 53rd annual Poinsettia Ball on May 7 at Vestavia Country Club. The Ballet Women’s Committee was founded in 1960 to foster and promote fine arts in the greater Birmingham area. In 1968, the Poinsettia Debutante Ball was created at the proposal of Mrs. John W. Gustafson. The revenue generated from the ball supports the Alabama Ballet. The Poinsettia Men’s Club was formed in 1969 to support and promote the goals and activities of the Ballet Women’s Committee. The Men’s Club president is Mike Gregory. The Ballet Women’s Committee president is Ashley Stockard. Twenty-six debutantes were dressed in white gowns and carried bouquets of red roses. They were presented at 8 p.m. in the ballroom to a crowd of family and friends. These young ladies were nominated in the spring of their sophomore years in college and presented in their junior years. The debutantes included Harper Elizabeth Anderson, Emily Anne Beauchaine, Caroline Parrish Branche, Caroline Dawson Christiansen, Ellen Louise Farris, Sarah Hamilton Gladney, Katherine Alison Glenn, Caroline Elizabeth Green, Frederica Elizabeth Hecker, Lily Grace Henley, Rachel Aileen Lebo, Taylor Morgan McGill, Barrett Elisabeth Weaver Moran, Georgia Patricia Morros, Catherine Shelby Patterson, Nicole Marie Plaia, Caroline Marie Rice, Anna Jane Roberson, Mary Catherine Saville, Emily Lynn Taylor, Caitlyn Calloway Tyus, Anna Wynne Watts, Mary Evelyn Welch, Courtney Anne Westhoven and Sarah Michael Whisenhunt. Eighteen junior debutantes were presented in red gowns and carried bouquets
The debutantes presented at the 53rd annual Poinsettia Ball on May 7 at Vestavia Country Club. Photo courtesy of Allison Herr.
of white roses. The junior debutantes are seniors in high school. The junior debutantes include Hallie Elizabeth Azar, Anna Catherine Bochnak, Greer Elizabeth Boland, Caitlyn Ann Burris, Adeline Elizabeth Carroll, Caroline Grace Cox, Kendall Nicole Dillon, Maria Kathleen Elliott, Anne Lauren Ermert, Catherine Anne Gray, Margaret Ann Green, Abigail Kathryn Mason, Madison Miller McGill, Addie Simms Roberson, Abigail Neville Stockard, Diane Claire Westhoven, Wesley Kellam Williamson and Gracie
Katherine Yates. The evening began with a private presentation of the Poinsettia Debutantes at the Benefactor’s Dinner sponsored by the Men’s Club. The dinner was coordinated by Liz Losole, the Benefactor’s Benefit Chairman. Don Mosley of Sounds of Birmingham served as the master of ceremonies for the evening. Each debutante was presented on the arm of her father or escort to all the ball guests. After a father-daughter waltz following the presentation, dance music was provided by Az Izz
7 achieve rank of Eagle Scout
From left: Nate Siple, Archer Williamson, Josh Dobelbower, Jonathan Sanders, Nick Jebeles, Jeb Savage and Charles Sands are honored for achieving the rank of Eagle Scout on April 11 at Barber Motor Sports Complex in Birmingham. Photo courtesy of Jodi Burrus.
On April 11, seven young men were honored for achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. Boy Scout Troop 76 held its most recent Eagle Court of Honor on April 11 at Barber Motor Sports Complex, honoring Nate Siple, Archer Williamson, Josh Dobelbower, Jonathan Sanders, Nick Jebeles, Jeb Savage and Charles Sands. “This was a journey of years and leaves a lasting legacy of service to their community,” the Troop announced. “Multiple churches, parks, schools and even the Vestavia Hills High School Marching Band have benefited from the hard work of these young men. We offer them our most heartfelt congratulations.” – Submitted by Jodi Burrus.
Record amount raised in nonprofit golf tournament The ceremonial first swing by Jody, Chance, Bobby and Kevin last month celebrated 29 years of community support for adults with autism. The Annual Ireland Legacy Golf Tournament raised a record $180,000 for Glenwood’s services for adults at Old Overton Golf Club. The tournament has raised more than $2.4 million for Glenwood over its history. “It’s an amazing event to be running this long and to make this amount of money,” said Bill Ireland Jr., who kicked off the event. “It’s a great day of community support for a great cause.” Marvin Thornton, whose son Jimbo was served by Glenwood for 44 years, talked about how as his son grew older, funding was lacking for children as they became adults. Thornton has served on the Annual Ireland Legacy Golf committee for 29 years. The late Glenn Ireland, and other members of the Ireland family, were instrumental in the beginning of a tournament
for everyone’s enjoyment. The evening festivities were coordinated by Poinsettia Ball Board President Liz Guest with the support of Jayna Southerland, the Poinsettia Ball Chairman and Cindy Tyus, the Debutante Social Chairman. Other board members helping the event were Sharon Maddox, Lianne Hand, Stephanie Whisenhunt, Tammy Towns, Kelly Triano, Ashley Moran, Cindy Tyus, Jayna Southerland, Melissa Mcmurray, Allison Herr and Sarah Bryan. – Submitted by Allison Herr.
as well. Glenwood now serves 85 adults in fulltime care with homes on a campus off Sicard Hollow Road as well as in homes throughout the community. Other services for adults include day programs and vocational training and placement. The tournament, presented for several years by King Acura, was also sponsored by Regions, Vulcan Materials, LeHigh Cement, Sherman Industries, Alabama Coal Cooperative, Robins & Morton and CS Beatty. Committee members include David Courtenay, Matt Dennis, Bill Ireland Jr., Christine Lewter, Steven Mote, Noah Oliphant, Robin Savage, Brian Sewell, Wes Taylor, Cullom Walker and Philip Young. Glenwood CEO Ken Oliver’s team took first place net. Members of the team are Brett Clark, Buddy Gardner, Owen Conzelman and Drew Brown. First place gross was taken by Kiva Dunes Golf & Beach Resort made up of Patrick
The Annual Ireland Legacy Golf Tournament raised a record $180,000 for Glenwood’s services for adults at Old Overton Golf Club. Photo courtesy of Jackie McLean.
Drummond, Tom Bazemore, Gordon Sprewell and Bob Reed. Second place net was taken by Transportation Services. Its players were Karl Van Norman, Everette Herring, Bill Huffman and John Ohslon. Second place gross was won by the AmWins team. Its players were Jay Prater, Daniel Drennen, Crawford McInnis and Allen Baker. Third place net was won by Marathon
Electrical Contractors including William Woo, Nate Green, Will Hereford and Elliott Miller. Third place gross was taken by King Acura’s team made up of Henry King, Donald Henry, Doug Meadows and John Reynolds. Closest to the hole was won by Doug Meadows at 3’2”. The longest putt contest was won by Mills Gorrie at 34’2” and the longest drive was won by Barney Lanier. – Submitted by Jackie McLean.
June 2021 • A19
Schoolhouse Have a schoolhouse announcement? Email Neal Embry at email@example.com to be considered for inclusion in an upcoming issue.
Bendall named new school board president After four years serving as a Vestavia Hills Board of Education member, Steve Bendall is taking over as the new president of the board in June, filling the shoes of outgoing President Lisa Baker. Staff photo.
By NEAL EMBRY After four years serving as a Vestavia Hills Board of Education member, Steve Bendall will take over as the new president of the board in June, following a unanimous vote by his fellow board members at the May 17 meeting. Bendall, who was appointed to the Board of Education in 2017, will fill the shoes of outgoing President Lisa Baker, whose five-year term has expired. Baker’s spot on the board will be filled by Jay Stewart, who was appointed to the board by the Vestavia Hills City Council at the April 26 meeting. Mayor Ashley Curry praised Baker for her work during the past five years, which saw a new superintendent installed, the rezoning and reconfiguration of the city school system and, for the past year, issues related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Superintendent Todd Freeman said Baker had a “heart for children” and for the staff at Vestavia Hills City Schools. “This year, I cannot think of a more perfect person to have sat in the chair of the presidency during this type of year we’ve experienced,” Freeman said. “As a team, we’ve worked so well together. It hasn’t been easy, but Dr. Baker is such a source of stability and calm for all of us.” Baker said the job is a lot of work and a lot of challenges, but being able to meet and interact with different people invested in the schools has been a “privilege.” “To see the passion in the whole city for the kids and the students and the families and the school system in general … has just been an honor to be a part of,” Baker said. Board member Jennifer Weaver was elected vice president of the board. Freeman also gave board members and
guests an update on the safety protocols and plans for the 2021-22 school year. Masks will be optional for all staff and students next year. And while the school system will continue its close contact/quarantine protocols because COVID-19 is a “notifiable” disease that must be reported, fully vaccinated students who do not show symptoms after coming in contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus will not have to quarantine, Freeman said. The school system will also go back to using normal leave procedures for employees, Freeman said. Vaccines will not be mandatory for
enrollment, he said. The board also voted to pay David Acton Building roughly $168,000 to perform work at the fieldhouse at Vestavia Hills High School. The company will install wooden lockers and create a communal space for coaches, student-athletes and others to use as needed, said Patrick Martin, the assistant superintendent of operations and services. The board canceled a previously approved contract for parking and drive improvements at Pizitz Middle School after a lawyer with the state’s public examiner office expressed concern that the board did not have the authority to
use the existing contract that the city of Vestavia Hills has with Dunn Construction. Due to having to go out and bid the project again, Freeman said it is likely that the project will come at a higher cost. The school system will receive roughly $37,000 back in credits. The board also voted to forego board members’ salaries, approved the school board meeting schedule for the upcoming year and approved an indemnity resolution, which protects board members from being sued in their individual capacity in legal cases. To see the meeting schedule, go to vestavia.k12.al.us/ domain/77.
A20 • June 2021
Hunsberger named new principal at Pizitz Alicia Hunsberger will be the principal at Pizitz Middle School beginning July 1. Hunsberger replaces Chris Pennington, who is moving into his new role as director of assessment and accountability She's been the principal at Vestavia Hills Elementary Cahaba Heights since 2016. Photo courtesy of Vestavia Hills City Schools.
By NEAL EMBRY Alicia Hunsberger, who has served as principal at Vestavia Hills Elementary Cahaba Heights since 2016, will transition into the role of principal at Pizitz Middle School on July 1 after the Vestavia Hills Board of Education approved the move April 26. Hunsberger replaces Chris Pennington, who is moving into his new role as director of assessment and accountability, a new position, on July 1. Pennington came to Pizitz ahead of the 2019-20 school year, replacing Meredith Hanson, who is now the district’s director of personnel. “Hunsberger led Cahaba Heights during a period of significant expansion of the school’s footprint,” the school system said in a news release. “The school opened a new gymnasium, media center and classroom wing in the past five years and also expanded its cafeteria.” “I’ve had so many wonderful experiences at Cahaba Heights that I will always treasure, and it’s been a joy to work alongside the most incredible educators. I’m also honored to have the privilege of leading another worldclass group of teachers and staff at Pizitz,” Hunsberger said in the release. “The team at Pizitz does extraordinary work to help children transition through their middle school years into young adults, and I look forward to joining them in that work,” she added. Vestavia Hills City Schools Superintendent Todd Freeman spoke highly of Hunsberger’s service in the release. “Dr. Hunsberger is an exceptional leader who pours her heart and soul into her students and staff,” Freeman said. “I am excited to see her lead the great staff at Louis Pizitz Middle School forward.” Hunsberger’s salary will increase from $110,906 to $119,600 as a result of the move. Also at the meeting, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Aimee Rainey unveiled the district’s plan for remote learning for the 2021-22 school year. Only students in sixth through 12th grades will have a remote
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VestaviaVoice.com option, and they must have a passing grade from the 2020-21 school year. All teachers will be back in the classroom, solely focused on students in the traditional model. For online classes, the district will use facilitators instead of teachers. Students taking online classes will have to take some assessments on campus, and those who choose virtual instruction choose that option for the entire year. Students not making academic progress may have to go to the traditional model, Rainey said. Schneider Electric updated the school board about its work to help the district save money through projects that will improve energy efficiency. The company recently performed an audit of the district’s facilities to identify ways to improve in those areas. The five top priorities, a spokesman said, are to replace major heating, ventilation and air conditioning units, replace aging and/or leaking roofs, improve operational efficiency through modern technologies, create a healthy and productive learning environment and improve student enrichment and community engagement. The proposed initial phase of projects includes installing LED lighting at the high school and athletic fields and improving water efficiency at the high school and Vestavia Hills Elementary West. Phase one also includes upgrades of building envelopes at Vestavia Hills Elementary Dolly Ridge and Vestavia Hills Elementary Liberty Park, which includes foam insulation, air sealing to reduce infiltration at roof-wall joints, installing solar window film in select areas and insulating the attic at VHELP. Those projects, along with final design and engineering work and marketing, communications and branding initiatives, would potentially be done this summer, if the Board of Education approves the work. Later work would be done in separate phases. Schneider anticipates savings of more than $27 million over a 20-year partnership with the school system. If approved, the initial phase of projects is expected to cost about $4.5 million, and the district is planning to use its allocated portions of Public School and College Authority funds, given by the state as a result of bond sales last
June 2021 • A21
Above: A mural with photographs from the 1980s and ’90s on the wall in the front wing of Louis Pizitz Middle School, which will be led by incoming Principal Alicia Hunsberger starting July 1. Below: The exterior of Vestavia Hills High School. Photos by Erin Nelson.
year, to cover that initial cost. The hope is that savings from the initial phase of projects will be enough to pay for the other projects, said Patrick Martin, the assistant superintendent of operations and services. In other business on April 26, the school board: ► Extended Freeman’s contract another year, putting him under contract for the maximum three years allowed, and raised his salary from $202,540 to $208,616, a raise of 3%. If the state Legislature approves another 2% raise, his salary would increase to $214,875. ► Approved improvements to parking and driveways at Vestavia Hills Elementary East and Pizitz, a $144,000 project. ► Approved new math textbooks.
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A22 • June 2021
Pennington heads to central office By NEAL EMBRY After two years as the principal of Pizitz Middle School, Chris Pennington is transitioning this summer to a new role in Vestavia Hills City Schools. Pennington will become the director of assessment and accountability at the central office, where he will analyze program data from across the school district, provide feedback to principals and help make changes as needed. Pennington said there is a need to interpret data gathered from programs for which the school system pays, including iReady, Read180 and more. Those programs are used for intervention and enrichment purposes. The district needs to know if it is receiving a return on investment and if students are benefiting from the programs. Having Pennington in this role is designed to free up already busy principals from having to gather it. He can gather it, analyze it for them, present it to then and let them determine how best to go forward with it. “My job is to help the Board of Education to ensure our students achieve at the highest level possible,” Pennington said. While he was working to earn his doctoral degree after taking the head job at Pizitz, Pennington found he really enjoyed “messing” with data and using it to analyze school resources and help students and staff.
“I just love analyzing situations and determining why is this the way it is,” Pennington said. If certain programs utilized by the school aren’t performing at their highest level, the next question becomes, “Why not?” and the school system must determine what to do with the program, Pennington said. His new role will give him a “truer” look at the data, accounting not just for the high achievers in the school system but understanding how many students need extra help, he said. “I get to dig in there and start learning the different programs,” Pennington said. School officials can compare data to previous years, or even a group of years, to measure academic growth, and Pennington can even narrow that data down to demographic information, allowing him to see if a particular group of students is performing better than another. Bringing relevant data to administrators at each school is beneficial and helps him answer questions about how to best utilize the relevant programs to achieve students’ highest possible growth, he aid. It also allows principals and other school leaders to work together to improve academics for all students, he said. “Everyone else can join in on the change,” Pennington said. However, as he gets set to begin his new job in July, it won’t be an easy transition. Leaving Pizitz will be “very tough,” he said. For the first time in 31 years, he
Left: Chris Pennington, the outgoing principal at Louis Pizitz Middle School, stands in his office April 19. Pennington has been selected to head assessment development for the Vestavia Hills City Schools. Below: Charts indicating different functions of statistical tests is seen on a monitor in Pennington’s office. Photos by Erin Nelson.
won’t have what he called a “direct connection” with students, and that won’t be easy. Still, he’s excited about moving to the central office and taking on a new challenge. “It wasn’t an easy decision, but I am excited for the opportunity it has for me,” Pennington said. Pennington came to Pizitz in the summer of 2019, replacing Meredith Hanson, who took on a new role as director of personnel for the school system. Pennington served as principal for two school years.
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A24 • June 2021
Stewart ready to begin helping Board of Education By NEAL EMBRY As a parent of two Vestavia Hills High School alumni and a current Pizitz Middle School student, Jay Stewart has seen the benefits of a Vestavia Hills education. “We hit a home run when our first two kids went through the system,” Stewart said. “I saw how amazing it can be.” Everything the school offers, as well as the community support, is “top notch,” Stewart said. That experience led Stewart to apply for an open position on the Board of Education, along with 10 other candidates. At the April 26 City Council meeting, Stewart was appointed to the board, where he will replace outgoing board President Lisa Baker, whose term ends May 30. Stewart said he wanted to continue the tradition of excellence he saw poured into his children during their time in the school system. The fact that he had to compete with 10 other candidates speaks highly of the community, he said. The community is one of the three things Stewart said makes Vestavia Hills City Schools so special. The teachers and administrators in the school system are the other two components that make the school system one of the toprated systems in the state, he said. “They all have Vestavia as the No. 1 priority,” Stewart said. Stewart has been an attorney since 2002 and is currently a partner at Gordon, Dana and Gilmore. In the past, he worked for the Alabama Sports Foundation and Bruno Event Team and was able to work with the Alabama High School Athletic Association in those roles. That work, he said, “planted a bug” in him to one day work with a school system. Stewart also helped establish the Vestavia Hills Sports Hall of Fame and has been active in Vestavia Hills Youth Baseball for 20 years. As someone with multiple academic degrees, Stewart said he believes everyone is on a “path of continued learning.” Stewart’s goals for serving on the board include first taking a step back.
Jay Stewart is the newest member of the Vestavia Hills Board of Education. Photo by Erin Nelson.
“I want to be able to listen,” he said. “With the issues dealt with this year, I can’t imagine the discussion and all the meetings they went through.” Stewart said he is hopeful he can give some insight and vision after he learns about the school system’s strategic plan and gets acclimated with the “big picture” of Vestavia Hills
City Schools. As he officially joins the board later this month, Stewart said he hopes he can help every student experience what his children were able to experience in the school system, and to help the school system prosper. “That’s all I want to do,” he said. As he prepares to join the board, Stewart
said he’s really looking forward to being a part of the team, in part because of the other board members, whom he said have excellent character and backgrounds. He also praised Baker, whom he said has left “big footsteps” after doing a fantastic job. “I’m very humbled,” Stewart said. “I’m looking forward to learning and serving.”
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VHEW named National School of Character Vestavia Hills Elementary West is being recognized nationally for its commitment to character education and values. Character.org, a national organization advocating for character education in schools, announced in May that Vestavia Hills Elementary West has been named a 2021 National School of Character. VHEW is one of just 47 schools in North and South America to receive the National School of Character designation this year. Each of the National Schools of Character were chosen based on demonstrated excellence in eleven different principles of character education and development. At VHEW, those principles were found in “The West Way,” which emphasizes the core values of kindness,
respect, and responsibility. “The vast majority of schools in our nation do not even have core values, much less live by them,” a press release from Character.org noted. “Having values that deeply reflect who the stakeholders of VHEW are and what they want their students to embody is a priority at VHEW. Teachers use these core values to discuss expectations for behavior and social interactions all day every day at Vestavia Hills Elementary West,” the release said. VHEW first came to the attention of Character.org in 2020 when the school received the Promising Practices Award for its “Connect 5” initiative. Connect 5 identifies students in need of social-emotional support and provides
them with connections to five staff members in the school who regularly check in and provide encouragement to the students as well as feedback to school counselors. VHEW was named a State School of Character in January 2021. “I am beyond excited that West can be awarded this distinction because it reflects the way we live and breathe character education every day,” West principal Kim Hauser said. “This award was made possible because of everyone who is associated with our school — faculty, staff, parents, and community members — and their ongoing commitment to the values of The West Way. It’s also a challenge to us to continue to get better and work to instill these values into our students,” Hauser added. – Submitted by Whit McGhee.
VHEW is one of just 47 schools in North and South America to receive the National School of Character designation this year. Photo courtesy of Whit McGhee.
Vestavia Rotary honors Altamont senior awarded National Merit Scholarship Teachers of the Year Each year, the Vestavia Hills Rotary Club honors Teachers of the Year, each nominated and selected by their peers for their professional excellence. The 2021 awardees include: ► Kristin Jones, Vestavia Hills Elementary West ► Amy Cook, Liberty Park Middle School ► Donna Hoagland, Vestavia Hills Elementary Cahaba Heights ► Dedra Wade, Vestavia Hills Elementary East ► Maddie Escue, Pizitz Middle School ► Ben Osborne, Vestavia Hills High School Freshman Campus ► Stacey Anderson, Vestavia Hills Elementary Dolly Ridge ► Nancy Reynolds, Vestavia Hills Elementary Liberty Park ► Jerell Horton, Vestavia Hills High School – Submitted by Mona Fisher.
Altamont senior Hannah Ashraf was recently awarded a $2,500 National Merit scholarship. Earlier this spring, Ashraf, Lilla Carroll, Robert Pritchard, Tyler Walley and Maaz Zuberi were distinguished as National Merit finalists. Merit Scholar designees were chosen from a talent pool of more than 15,000 outstanding finalists in the 2021 National Merit Scholarship Program. National Merit $2,500 Scholarship winners are the finalists in each state judged to have the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills, and potential for success in rigorous college studies. The number of winners named in each state is proportional to the state’s percentage of graduating high school seniors. These scholars were selected by a committee of college admissions officers and high school counselors, who appraised a substantial amount of information submitted by both the Finalists and their high schools: the academic record, including difficulty level of
Altamont senior Hannah Ashraf was recently awarded a $2,500 National Merit scholarship. Photo courtesy of Laine Williams.
subjects studied and grades earned; scores from two standardized tests; contributions and leadership in school and community activities; an essay written by the finalist; and
a recommendation written by a high school official. This year’s National Merit Scholarship Program began in October 2019 when more than 1.6 million juniors in approximately 22,000 high schools took the Preliminary SAT/ National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT®), which served as an initial screen of program entrants. Last fall, the highest-scoring participants in each state, representing less than 1 percent of the nation’s high school seniors, were named semifinalists on a state-representational basis. Only these 16,000 semifinalists had an opportunity to continue in the competition. From the semifinalist group, some 15,000 students met the very high academic standards and other requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition. By the conclusion of the 2021 program, about 7,500 finalists will have earned the “Merit Scholar” title and received a total of over $31 million in college scholarships. – Submitted by Laine Williams.
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A26 • June 2021
CONTINUED from page A1 Father’s Day weekend, June 18-20, at The Birmingham Zoo’s Henley Park. “It’s an opportunity for people to relax and celebrate after a difficult period of time,” Metrock said. Metrock grew up in Vestavia and was a regular attendee of Birmingham’s City Stages music festival, even going to the first iteration in 1989. His love and appreciation for music continues to be a part of his life as the CEO of Project Voice, which offers both tech consulting on using voice artificial intelligence, as well as offering content through their media and events arm. In addition to live music, Euphonious will bring together influential voice and AI companies to come and meet with regional CEOs and executives, and several big tech companies will have demonstrations of games, cooking experiences and more that involve voice and AI available at Euphonious. The name “Euphonious” is a real word, Metrock said. Unlike other music festivals that uses made-up names, Euphonious means “pleasing to the ear,” Metrock said. “It’s such a cool word,” Metrock said. “It evokes this mental image of what we aspire to create.” In addition to providing live music for many residents for the first time in a long time, Euphonious also has chosen United Ability as its charity partner, with a portion of proceeds going to the organization that helps those with disabilities. The Birmingham Zoo will also benefit from the concert series, getting rent money for Henley Lawn and being the exclusive provider of food and drink. Metrock said the zoo has been a great partner and said he wanted to choose a location that wasn’t associated with past music events, which ruled out some locations in the city of Birmingham. Metrock said this year’s event is a “seed,” with plans to grow in the future, and something he is particularly excited about. Locating it at the zoo also gives concertgoers space to spread out and distance, Metrock said. The Birmingham area is fortunate to be able to have a large event like this because some other
Left: Drew and Ellie Holcomb, an award-winning husband and wife duo from Tennessee, will headline Friday night. Center: Moon Taxi, founded by Vestavia Hills High School alumni Trevor Terndrup and Tommy Putnam, will headline Saturday night. Right: Tonic, a successful ’90s rock band, will headline Sunday night. Photos courtesy of Bradley Metrock.
large cities in the Southeast are not allowing them, he said. “It was critical to locate it in an environment that would be welcoming,” Metrock said. “It’s a strange environment to do events, but so far, we’ve managed to navigate it, mainly because we’ve just had good partners.” There are two types of tickets to the event, both of which can be purchased at euphonious.ai. There are standing-room-only tickets, available for $99, allowing guests to find space around the lawn. There are also $500 tickets for a 10-by-10 square, which can be used by up to eight people. The squares are first come, first served, and the event will begin around 6 p.m. each night. Square tickets reserve a square, but not a specific square, Metrock said. Masks will be required when not in the square but can be taken off in the square, he said. The musical lineup will consist of three acts each night, and they hail from both near and far, Metrock said. On Friday night, the opener is LaBoix, created by Vestavia Hills High School alumnus Hugh Mitchell, along with Berlin-based DJ Jeremy Black, who has worked with The National, Bon Iver and more. Metrock compared their music to that of The Chainsmokers. Also performing on Friday night will be Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, a bluegrass band that has toured with the Gaithers, recorded with Paul Simon and been nominated for a Grammy Award. Headlining on Friday night is Drew and
Ellie Holcomb, an award-winning husband and wife duo from Tennessee. On Saturday night, Soul Inscribed will start things off. The Brooklyn collective is led by MC Baba Israel and features Vestavia Hills High School alumnus Sean Nowell on saxophone. The band received a Fulbright grant in 2017 to perform and lead musical workshops overseas. Next up on Saturday night is Angie Aparo, a solo performer who got his start in Birmingham and has found success both in recording music and in writing songs for artists such as Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and the Zac Brown Band. Headlining Saturday night is Moon Taxi, founded by Vestavia Hills High School alumni Trevor Terndrup and Tommy Putnam, with fellow graduate Tyler Ritter joining later. The band has headlined at Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo and has found worldwide success. Another Birmingham-based band, Hawthorn Street, will open on Sunday night. The band released the album “Wrong Way Home” in late 2020 and followed it with several Birmingham-area performances. Following Hawthorn Street is Southern pop-rock band Sister Hazel, which rose to prominence after the hit song “All for You” and has made Birmingham a frequent stop on its tours. The headliner for Sunday night is Tonic, a successful ’90s rock band whose album “Lemon Parade” spent 57 weeks on the Billboard 200 charts. After each band member embarked on successful solo endeavors, the band has reunited, releasing
brand new single “To Be Loved,” the band’s first song in years. Having musical guests from the Birmingham area provides a great opportunity for both the artists and the fans, Metrock said. “They’re really excited about the opportunity,” Metrock said. “It’s all so meaningful after the events of the past year, to have a homecoming.” Tommy Putnam with Moon Taxi said the band is excited to come back home and play for their fans. “Man, I love doing that [coming home], because I get to see my old friends and touch base with family,” Putnam said. Coming back to Birmingham also allows him to see how the city has changed over the years, and also presents an opportunity to show off the area to his friends from Nashville. Being one of the first live bands many people will see since the pandemic is meaningful, Putnam said. “We’re just so excited to play again,” Putnam said. “We’re taking all the opportunities we can get.” As the event draws nearer, Metrock is excited to see his plans come to fruition. “Live music brings people together,” Metrock said. “I think … as we enter into the next chapter [of the pandemic], there’s an opportunity for Birmingham to showcase what it’s about. It’s about people coming together. It’s about showcasing talent and ultimately finding a way to move forward together in unity.”
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CONTINUED from page A1 the Red Mountain Makerspace. Brady received a $3,000 grant from the National Center for Women and Information Technology for the project. While five students attended the workshop, Brady said the COVID-19 pandemic affected that number. All the feedback she received from surveys she took up at the end of the workshop was positive, she said. Brady said she has a passion for computer science. “I like all aspects of it,” she said. “My interested peaked my freshman year.” Brady took an information technology fundamentals class at Vestavia Hills High School, and while there weren’t many girls in the class, she fell in love with it. She’s learning how to work with hardware and software and how to build computers, has taken courses in cybersecurity and is in an advanced computer science course. At the workshop, students learned to make a nametag out of micro bits, which allowed their name to roll across a screen that others could see. They also sewed conductive thread to make bookmarks that light up, Brady said. On Halloween, students were taught how to design 3D models of haunted houses. The lessons they learned focused on digital technology and are more useful for daily life experiences, Brady said. She hopes she can inspire others, especially young girls, to get into computer science. “I definitely want people to get involved in computer sciences,” Brady said. “It’s so broad. You can find an interest anywhere in it.” Brady said she hopes to offer the workshop again at some point and said she’d love to work with TechBirmingham, volunteering or teaching others there. She also hopes to inspire other computer science teachers to apply for a grant to teach others, she said. Receiving the Gold Award from the Girl Scouts was a tremendous honor, she said. “Girl Scouts is a big part of my life,” Brady said. “It’s taught me so many good experiences and life skills.”
A handsewn Totoro plushie with an umbrella with LED lights rests on the desk at Maleah Brady’s home. Brady worked with her students to create microbic name tags, LED bookmarks made with a battery coin cell, conductive thread and LED lights, and introduced them to 3D modeling. Photo by Erin Nelson.
Being in Girl Scouts has allowed Brady to realize she can improve the community, which helped as she chose her Gold Award project. “I wanted to find something I loved and show how much Girl Scouts meant to me,” Brady said. Her mother, Anu Brady, said Maleah is very bright and it was great to see her share her knowledge with those younger than her. “It was such a wonderful experience for her,” Anu Brady said. “I loved watching her really grow through the experience.” While Maleah Brady’s passion for computer science was never in doubt, her mother said
she saw her daughter grow as a leader as she interacted with each student, getting down on their level to help them understand what they were learning. The Gold Award was a really big process, Anu Brady said. Maleah’s other two sisters are also working on their projects, but Maleah was the first girl in her troop to earn the award. After making it past the piles of paperwork, once Maleah got into the “hands-on” portion of the project, it was fun for her, her mother said. Maleah said she wants to continue pursuing her passion as she enters her last year of high school.
I definitely want people to get involved in computer sciences. It’s so broad. You can find an interest anywhere in it.
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Ready for a challenge Hoover-Vestavia Soccer chosen to be part of Major League Soccer’s ‘Next’ program By NEAL EMBRY About a year ago, the Hoover and Vestavia youth soccer clubs merged to bring together the top players and coaches in the area in an effort to improve development. Now, after seeing the success of the HooverVestavia Soccer and recognizing the rich soccer history in the greater Birmingham area, Major League Soccer has chosen the club as the only club in Alabama to join its “MLS Next” league, a developmental league run by the country’s premier professional soccer league that features academy teams connected to MLS teams. “It’s going to be challenging,” said Mike Getman, director of coaching for HVS. The club’s various teams, split up by age, previously played in the National Premier League, and Getman said while it was helpful, it wasn’t a challenge for the teams, as each age group rarely lost. “When you’re way better than everyone, you don’t know you need to get better,” Getman said. The club has a U-12 team, which includes 11- and 12-year-old players, and goes all the way up through U-19, which has juniors and seniors in high school, Getman said. About 99% of their players go on to play college soccer, he said. Ella Kappler, 13, heads the ball as the HVS-08 girls team plays soccer during the last practice of the spring season with Hoover-Vestavia Soccer at the Liberty Park Athletic Complex on May 7. Photo by Erin Nelson.
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June 2021 • B3
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Vestavia Voice Tomiwa Kukoyi, 13, passes the ball as the HVS-08 girls team plays soccer during the last practice of the spring season with HooverVestavia Soccer at the Liberty Park Athletic Complex on May 7. Photo by Erin Nelson.
CONTINUED from page B1 The coaches hired by the club when they merged made a major impact on that success. “We went out and hired the best coaches to come and join us,” Getman said. “Our coaches have played on professional or national teams.” Getman said the move to MLS Next, which will take effect ahead of the fall season, will push and challenge the players, and will have them playing against “elite” teams like the academy team of nearby MLS team Atlanta United. The players won’t sign a contract but will sign an agreement to play with the club, like other youth soccer leagues, Getman said. The development opportunities for the players will help them learn to be professionals and help them train to be the best players they can be, Getman said. There are four keys to helping players develop, Getman said. Those four keys have been met now with this announcement: best coaching, good players, good facilities and games that challenge players every week, he said. Rocky Harmon, the co-executive director of HVS and the executive director of Vestavia Soccer, called the news a “landmark decision” in the history of Alabama youth soccer. Playing MLS academies, he said, will challenge players with the “best of the best,” as academy teams are fully funded, and players connected to MLS teams have high-level opportunities that other youth players do not have. That challenge, however, will help players grow. When the season starts in August, players will play one game a week, making the games more meaningful, similar to how professional league schedules are set, Harmon said. For high school players, MLS Next will also provide academic support and nutrition planning, help them improve their athletic performance and their ability to recover after a game, and will help them connect with college teams, Getman said. The club will also focus on community service projects and more, aiming to help develop players off the pitch as well, he said.
along with JJ Williams. Brandon Servania is currently with the U-20 men’s national team and also plays for MLS side FC Dallas, though he is currently on loan to an Austrian club. Both Williams and Jaden Servania play for the Birmingham Legion, the city’s United Soccer League Championship team. While all those players, and many more, speak to the strength of the area’s youth teams, all of them went to receive better training and development elsewhere, Getman said. “The best players in our state for the last 10 years have left the state,” Getman said. “No 15-year-old kid should have to leave his family and his home. … Birmingham hasn’t had a club that had what these kids needed.” Now, with MLS Next in town and offering the competition, the on- and off-field help they need, and the continued training offered to an already well-respected stable of coaches, players don’t have to leave, Getman said. “You just don’t have to leave your family,” Getman said. “The next Chris Richards doesn’t have to pack up his bags.”
“We want to develop young people, not just young soccer players,” Getman said.
A HISTORY OF EXCELLENCE
The greater Birmingham area has a renowned history of developing great soccer talent, Getman said. He credits the 1996 Olympics for that. When Getman came to Birmingham to serve as the head coach of the men’s soccer team at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1992, he said on average, there were one or two players in the entire state good enough to play for UAB. Now, there are about 10 to 15 players that qualify, he said. In 1996, the city hosted an Olympic soccer
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match between the United States and Argentina, drawing 86,000 people to the city to watch the world’s most popular game. “People realized it was exciting,” Getman said. Interest in soccer began to grow, and the city began hosting the men’s national team each year in some form or fashion, Getman said. Many young players have gone on to play college and professional soccer, including several alumni of HVS or the individual Hoover Soccer and Vestavia Soccer before the merger. Chris Richards is currently playing on the first-team men’s national team and is an alumnus of Hoover Soccer Club. Jaden and Brandon Servania both played for Vestavia Soccer,
Tryouts were held for the new MLS Next club in mid-May, and everyone had to try out to earn a spot on the new club, regardless of whether they were previously on an HVS team, Getman said. “The tryouts are tough,” Getman said. For the players who don’t make it, Getman said there will be “second teams” for each age group that will play in the NPL, allowing them to continue to train and grow. The MLS Next club will play in the Southeastern Conference of the league and will play 20 games in the fall and 20 games in the spring, with three different showcases a year where all teams in the league come together to play, including teams from Los Angeles, Texas and more. At the end of the season, there is a national playoff which Getman said they are obviously hoping to qualify for. The team will play most of their home games at the Sicard Hollow Athletic Complex in Liberty Park, with a few games being played at the Hoover Met’s turf field, Getman said. There will be similar opportunities for female players, though it won’t be connected to MLS.
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Sports Left: Vestavia Hills’ Parker Moellinger tees off at Hole 13 during the Class 7A boys golf sectionals April 26 at the Country Club of Birmingham. Photo by Erin Nelson. Far left: The Vestavia Hills High School boys golf team is shown with the state championship trophy May 11 in Mobile. Photo by Kyle Parmley.
Rebels win state title in rain-shortened tournament By KYLE PARMLEY The Vestavia Hills High School boys golf team picked a great time to win its only two tournaments of the year. The Rebels established themselves as one of the top teams in the state throughout the regular season, placing second several times. But once postseason play rolled around, they put the pieces together and came out on top, winning the Class 7A state championship. The state tournament was held at RTJ Magnolia Grove in Mobile and was originally slated to be a 36-hole event over May 10 and 11. Despite persistent rain on the first day, all golfers were able to complete a full round. After that day, Vestavia Hills was atop the leaderboard, albeit by a slim two-stroke margin. The weather was worse the following day.
Heavy rain and thunderstorms entered the area in the late morning, halting the tournament. The course was deemed unplayable for the remainder of the day. That meant the tournament reverted to the first day’s scores, giving Vestavia Hills the championship. Vestavia Hills finished with a team score of 296, two strokes ahead of Enterprise, three ahead of Auburn and four ahead of Hewitt-Trussville. “It was awesome,” Vestavia Hills coach Stephanie Meadows said. “Those kids, all of my kids, the five guys that played and the other 13 in the program, I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids to work with.” Meadows said the team knew going into the tournament weather could play a factor. A day ahead of the tournament, the teams were instructed the state tournament would be played
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as four nine-hole rounds. “Every nine holes is huge,” Meadows said she told the team. “We have to play every nine holes like it’s our last nine holes, and they did.” Vestavia Hills triumphed for the first time this season at the section tournament, two weeks prior to the state tournament. The Rebels placed second to Hewitt-Trussville by four strokes the following week at the sub-state tournament. “To do what they had to do [was impressive],” Meadows said. “We’ve said all year long if we can take five scores in the 70s, we can win the state championship.” The Rebels got those five scores in the 70s at state. Parker Moellinger and Ward Harris led the way for the team, each finishing in a tie for fourth by firing a 2-over par 73. Jay Clemmer improved his sub-state score by 12 strokes to shoot 75 (+4). Andrew Szymela shot a 77 and
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Pierce Becker fired a 78. Making the feat even more impressive is the fact that the team at state consisted of four sophomores and a freshman. Becker is in ninth grade, while the other four scorers for the Rebels are only in 10th grade. “To have four sophomores and one freshman and some other incredible kids that didn’t play, we’ve got a lot to look forward to,” Meadows said. Luke Maluff is the program’s lone senior. Going into the state tournament, the Rebels knew any of the four 7A teams had the potential to win. With the weather forecast uncertain, it added a layer of pressure to the first day of competition. “They responded in a phenomenal way,” Meadows said. “They didn’t let the pressure get to them.”
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B8 • June 2021
Hardee excited to take over Rebels volleyball program By KYLE PARMLEY Ashley Hardee’s resume has a little bit of everything when it comes to volleyball experience. He was the head coach at the University of North Dakota, served a few years on staff with the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s beach volleyball program and spent eight years as an assistant at New Mexico State. He’s coached at the high school and club levels and even been involved with USA Volleyball. But his newest opportunity is a special one. Hardee was named the Vestavia Hills High School volleyball coach in March, as he takes over one of the top high school programs in the area. “I couldn’t be more excited, really,” he said. “The opportunity at Vestavia is really groundbreaking for me and my family. We’re super excited about it. The program is extraordinary in all aspects, and we’re really looking forward to it.” Hardee spent a couple years out of volleyball before recently getting back into it at Chelsea. He was an assistant under Jessica Pickett at Chelsea High School the last two years and expressed gratitude to her for the opportunity to get involved at the high school level in the Birmingham area. When he came to UAB in 2014, Hardee instantly recognized the quality of high school volleyball throughout the state and particularly in the metro area. “First of all, the whole Vestavia Hills City Schools system really speaks for itself and its tradition and everything they do, not just on the athletic side,” Hardee said. “It’s always been one of the teams that I would be interested in [if the opportunity arose].” Vestavia Hills advanced to the state tournament last fall under first-year coach Payton Mansell, who departed following her only season leading the program. Mandy Burgess led the Rebels to three regional tournament
Ashley Hardee, the new volleyball head coach at Vestavia Hills High School, stands in the gymnasium as players warm up for the first day of tryouts April 28. Photo by Erin Nelson.
appearances over her final four years as coach, so it’s not as if Hardee faces a massive rebuilding project. He will be the third coach in four years for the program, though, and hopes to provide stability for many years. “I’m excited about Vestavia Hills High School in general and the volleyball program,” Hardee said. “It’s somewhere I could see myself for a long time, and we want to build over the years. We want to communicate that to people and get to work.”
Hardee said the trademark of his team will be that it plays harder than anyone else. “We’re going to start with the fundamentals, we’re going to work hard and pay attention to the details as we go through this,” he said. “We want our players to grow mentally and be engaged with their teammates and in volleyball for an extended period of time.” Hardee has had the opportunity to meet the team and said there is a great excitement brewing within the program. He hopes the volleyball team is an extension of the great things already
going on at the high school in terms of academics, athletics and character development. “If we do all that the right way, the Vestavia way, then we will have success,” he said. As for on-court success, he has every intention of having some of that as well. Vestavia Hills was the state runner-up in 2012, but the program has yet to claim a state title. Hardee would love nothing more than to change that. “There’s plenty of room in the rafters of the gym for volleyball banners. I certainly have intentions of being able to hang some,” he said.
June 2021 • B9
Above: Crawford West competes in the girls Class 7A Section 3 1,600-meter run during the Hewitt-Trussville Sectionals in Trussville on April 23. Left: Vestavia’s Ethan Strand and Oak Mountain’s Walker Cole battle for first place in the boys Class 7A Section 3 1,600-meter run. Photos by Erin Nelson.
Led by Strand, Rebels track and field triumph at state By KYLE PARMLEY The disappointment that the Rebels felt three months prior provided the push they needed. In February, the Vestavia Hills High School boys track and field team felt the sting of losing the Class 7A indoor track and field meet by 3.5 points to Hewitt-Trussville. The Rebels flipped the script May 1, edging Hewitt 104.5-91 to win the state outdoor meet in Gulf Shores. It was the second outdoor title in program history, with the Rebels winning previously in 2008. “The adversity you had earlier is what motivates the kids for the next competition,” Vestavia Hills coach Brett Huber said. “These kids really care for each other and have a lot of team camaraderie.” The girls put together a strong state meet as
well, posting a third-place finish. On the surface, it appeared like any other dominant meet from Ethan Strand, who has rarely been beaten by anyone the last few years. He won all four events he entered, but there was far more to the story than that. After posting a time of 4:11.77 and winning the 1,600-meter run on the first day of the state meet, Strand was stricken with a bout of food poisoning. “We didn’t think he’d be able to compete the next day,” Huber said. But Strand refused to succumb to the illness. He was able to eat breakfast the following morning, then went out and set a state record in the 3,200 with a time of 9:12. Later in the day, he anchored the Rebels’ 4x800 relay team and led it to victory. He set a state record in all
three of his individual events. “What Ethan did and how important it was to him characterizes what it meant to this team,” Huber said. The Vestavia boys won the Mountain Brook Invitational earlier in the season, a result that gave them confidence they could win the state meet if they performed to their potential. Tyler Moore put together an incredible performance to snag second in the 100-meter dash at state. Alex Leath was second in the 400 and third in the 800. Bo Webb had a strong meet, posting a third-place finish in the 300-meter hurdles and fourth in the 110 hurdles. Jonathon Wilson was fifth in the 110 hurdles. Sam Culbertson was fourth in the high jump as well. The girls vaulted to third after finishing fifth at the section meet the week prior. Crawford
West won in the 1,600 and 3,200 and finished second in the 800. Angelica Vines had a standout meet as well, finishing second in the 300 hurdles and third in the 100 hurdles. Gabby Walls placed third in high jump and Abbie Richenderfer was third in pole vault. Azaria Wright placed fifth in the 100 hurdles. “Only two or three boys had ever been to state, so that’s special,” Huber said. “The girls got third in indoor and third in outdoor and I can’t say enough about them.” Gigi Sharp, Kennedy Moreland, Catey Rose Callahan, Maggie Phillips, Ava Berry, Sally Isbell, John Stephens, Henry Strand, Jack Lockhart, William Elliot, Stephen Dease, James Bevill, Matthew Jemison, Max Armstrong, Will Jordan, Matthew Rainer and Donald Mosley also competed for the Rebels.
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Girls tennis program ends season with runner-up finish By KYLE PARMLEY The Vestavia Hills High School girls tennis team nearly captured the program’s first state championship since 2016. After all six singles brackets and three doubles brackets were played to conclusion, Vestavia Hills and Auburn were deadlocked with 30 points at the Class 7A state tournament April 20 at Lagoon Park in Montgomery. Auburn won two of the three playoff matches used to decide the tiebreaker, but Vestavia Hills took home a state runner-up trophy to cap off a tremendous season. Florence and Hoover finished in a tie for third. Lynley Threadcraft took home the title at No. 4 singles for the Rebels, defeating Missy Hartwig of Huntsville in the final. Threadcraft was one of four Rebels individuals to reach the final, with a doubles pair also making it to the title match. At No. 1 singles, Cindy Jiang reached the final, falling 6-4, 6-1 to Oak Mountain’s Grace Qian. Della Tarn fell to Auburn’s Camilla Bosman 6-4, 6-2 in the No. 3 final. Ella Clae Fulton was defeated by Kathryn Kirklan of Auburn 6-2, 6-4 at No. 5. At No. 2 doubles, Kate Morros and Emma Smith made the final, falling just short against the Hoover duo of Sara Lopez and Chinonye Mbanugo. Morros was a semifinalist in No. 2 singles and Nancy Then reached the semifinals in No. 6 singles. Jiang and Then played No. 1 doubles, while Fulton and Tarn were the No. 3 doubles team for the Rebels.
Vestavia’s Cindy Jiang returns the ball in a singles match against Enterprise during the Class 7A state tennis tournament April 19 at the Lagoon Park Tennis Center in Montgomery. Photos by Erin Nelson.
Vestavia Hills lost just two matches all season, falling to 6A state champion Mountain Brook and to Hoover. But the Rebels won the Section 3 tournament, giving them the confidence they needed to make a run at the state title. Stacey Thomas, who coached the team for the first time this season, said the team was quite youthful but never let that slow the girls down. Jiang and Morros were the only two players on the team that had previously played at the state tournament. “The rest of the entire team, this was their first experience,” Thomas said. “It was a good group.” There were no seniors on this year’s team, so everybody will return next year, making the Rebels one of the early favorites to win it all next spring. Thomas said this squad has “tremendous potential” moving forward. “They are going to feel the sting of [finishing second], but this is going to make them better
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next year.” Thomas said a lineup change forced by extenuating circumstances worked out for the best for the Rebels. Smith, a star basketball player for the Rebels, ended up with Morros in the No. 2 doubles bracket, and that duo nearly won it all. Smith just recently started playing competitive tennis. “She’ll be even better [next year],” Thomas said. Thomas has taught math at Vestavia Hills for the past 14 years and is set to retire after this year. She wishes she would have found her way to the tennis program sooner and said this experience has been one of the most fulfilling things throughout her career. “I’m going to retire but I wish I could have done this more years,” she said. “Thomas also gave great credit to Andrew Bryant, a tennis pro who helps coach the technical aspects of the game for the Rebels.”
Lynley Threadcraft returns the ball as she competes in a singles match against Daphne during the Class 7A tournament.
June 2021 • B11
Events Guests visit with a librarian at the Vestavia Hills Library in the Forest. Photo courtesy of Eden Pfaff.
Volunteers greet visitors at the 2019 I Love America Night at Vestavia Hills High School. The event returns June 24 to Wald Park this year. Photo by Neal Embry.
Library to host father-daughter tea
I Love America Night back at Wald Park for 1st time since ’18
By NEAL EMBRY
By NEAL EMBRY
This Father’s Day weekend, fathers and daughters can take part in the seventh annual father-daughter tea at the Vestavia Hills Library in the Forest’s amphitheater. This year’s event is at 11 a.m. on June 19, and the theme is “Unicorns and Stardust.” Guests are asked to register by June 17 so their tea kit can be picked up by June 18. The event is in-person and is limited to 25 spaces. Call 205-978-0158 or email april.moon@vestavia hillslibrary.org to register. Page Turner’s Animal Adventure series also begins this month in the children’s department, offering a variety of events throughout the month for kids, from crafts to virtual field trips and visits from guests. Visit vestavialibrary.org for more information on these events. In the teen department, the library will celebrate the Olympics. On June 1 from 5:307:30 p.m. in the amphitheater, students can attend the “opening ceremony” for the teen department’s summer reading and compete
Father-daughter tea • WHERE: Vestavia Hills Library in the Forest’s amphitheater • WHEN: 11 a.m. June 19 • DETAILS: Register by June 17 by calling 205-978-0158 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
in the library’s version of the Olympics. The event includes a “host of secret trials that you won’t see internationally … even though you should,” according to the library. Summer reading is also offered for adults. Adults can register online for the summer reading program, log what they read each week and qualify for the prize drawing each Friday as well as the grand prize in August. Visit vestavialibrary.org for more information and for a complete list of events this month.
For the first time in three years, Vestavia Hills residents can look forward to enjoying one of the city’s largest events at Wald Park. I Love America Night is set for June 24 at Wald Park, with festivities beginning at 6 p.m., said Karen Odle, executive director of the Vestavia Hills Chamber of Commerce. The event was held at Vestavia Hills High School in 2019 due to ongoing construction at Wald Park as part of the city’s Community Spaces Plan and was canceled completely last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Odle said with the event back on this year, she expects a great turnout. “I think this is going to be the biggest one we’ve had because people are so ready to get out,” Odle said. With much of Wald Park being completed, it will be a welcome opportunity for many residents to see the park for the first time, Odle said. The event was first held in 1982 and offers a variety of activities for families and residents
I Love America Night • WHERE: Wald Park • WHEN: 6-9 p.m. June 24 • DETAILS: Patriotic event with orchestra concert, business expo and open pool
to enjoy. At 6 p.m., there will be a ribbon cutting for the grand lawn at Wald Park, which will be complete by that time, Odle said. From 6:15 to 8 p.m., there will be a business expo and free swim for everyone at the new aquatic complex, allowing people who are not pool members to swim for free. From 7:30-8:15 p.m., the Shades Mountain Baptist Church orchestra will perform a Pops in the Park concert, and a fireworks show will finish the night’s festivities.
B12 • June 2021
READY FOR DUTY Vestavia Hills firefighters conduct annual training for real-world scenarios
Above: Firefighter Steve Hopson uses a standard rope to raise a fire hose from the bottom level of the Vestavia Hills and Rocky Ridge joint fire training facility during the annual job task training on April 21. Below: Firefighter Cris Ware dresses in personal protective equipment during a timed rapid dress drill. Photos by Erin Nelson.
Hopson pulls a large truck tire, simulating a victim pull from a fire.
Above: Firefighter John Hinshaw crawls through a tube and over a rafter. Right: Hopson carries equipment through a 50-foot serpentine course.
June 2021 • B13
A PUBLIC NOTICE FROM ALABAMA POWER E
GE R ID
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TREE CREWS WORKING IN VESTAVIA HILLS THROUGH SUMMER 2021 Alabama Power crews are working in several Vestavia Hills neighborhoods, removing trees and other vegetation that threaten the safety and reliability of our electrical system. As part of this process, Alabama Power goes to great lengths to talk with individual property owners. Company representatives are going door to door, leaving notices at locations where work is needed. If you have any questions before crews come by your home, please call Alabama Power at 205-257-2155 and ask for someone in the Vegetation Management Group to contact you. Or you can email us at email@example.com. Work in Vestavia and nearby areas is expected to continue through summer 2021. As we work in communities to meet the needs of our customers, please maintain a safe social distance of six feet from our crews and field representatives to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Also, you can visit alpwr.co/vm for more information about these safety and reliability measures and for recommendations about planting the right tree in the right place.
Thank you for your understanding. Vegetation Management Group 205-257-2155 | firstname.lastname@example.org
© 2021 Alabama Power Company.
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B14 • June 2021
Metro Roundup HOMEWOOD Left: Pebblehurst Golf and Putter Lab owner Ron Smith hits a golf ball with a 7 iron with the in-store golf simulator. Far left: Smith inside his shop, which also sells clothing, accessories and gear. Photos by Ingrid Schnader.
Pebblehurst golf shop opens on Linden Avenue By INGRID SCHNADER Downtown Homewood saw the opening of a new golf retailer in April. Pebblehurst Golf and Putter Lab is a one-stop shop for everything golf, owner Ron Smith said. Smith is an Edgewood resident and said openBrought to ing his own golf store has you by our been a lifelong dream. sister paper: “Growing up playing golf and playing competitively, all of my friends wanted to be prothehomewood fessional golfers, and I star.com wanted to open my own golf shop,” he said. He didn’t want it to be like any other golf shop, though. He said he wanted it to be different in terms of what was offered and how
it was presented. The store’s location at 2915 Linden Ave. is a former bridal store, meaning Smith was able to take advantage of clean, white decor and windows that bring in a lot of natural light. He describes his store as one that has an upscale look and feel. His store also offers about a dozen products that no other stores in the area offer, he said. One Japanese brand, Fujimoto, chose Pebblehurst as its first account in the United States. “A lot of this stuff you can either only buy directly from the manufacturer or from me,” he said. Smith only sells products he believes in, he said. “Sometimes it bites me in the butt, but sometimes I’m too honest, and it’s hard for me to sell something that I don’t believe is the best product out there,” he said. The shop will “focus heavily” on custom fittings, he said. It will also offer private lessons
Pebblehurst Golf and Putter Lab • WHERE: 2915 Linden Ave. • HOURS: 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday • WEB: facebook.com/pebblehurst
from a PGA-certified trainer. An in-store golf simulator gives customers a chance to try the products before they buy, and Smith also installed a nine-hole putting green outside of the store. The shop sells clothing, accessories and gear. Most of the in-store merchandise is for men,
but Smith said he can order women’s products. He also plans to expand the store’s children’s merchandise and lessons, he said. “It would make me proud to be able to get some kids into the game because of this being here,” he said. Smith has been playing golf since he could walk when his grandfather got him into the sport, he said. His favorite part about golf now is being out on the course, especially when his family is with him, including his wife, Shelly, and two children, Amelia, 3, and Jackson, 6. The shop is named after two memorable trips Smith took with his grandfather: one to Pebble Beach and the other to Pinehurst. As a way to dedicate the shop to the man who got him into the sport, he combined the names of the two locations into Pebblehurst. For more information, visit facebook.com/ pebblehurst.
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June 2021 • B15
Thursday, June 24, 2021
Many Thanks To All Our Sponsors
Aldridge Gardens * Altadena Eye Care * bDot Architecture * BBB of Central & South Alabama * Gwen Brannum, RealtySouth Caprine Engineering * Darnell’s Fun Stuff * Heights Dermatology & Aesthetics * Megan Kincaid, ARC Realty Liberty Park Children’s Dentistry * Meld Financial * Scott Perry, RealtySouth * Pigtails & Crewcuts * Romeo’s Sporting Goods Roofing & Painting Contractor~Oswaldo Sialer * The Smocking Bird * Stone Building Company Town Village Vestavia Hills * The UPS Store * Vestavia Hills Beautification Board
B16 • June 2021
ChelseaFest and the Big Kaboom set for July 3 By LEAH INGRAM EAGLE The city of Chelsea will host the annual ChelseaFest and the Big KaBoom is the city’s largest event each year. This year, it will take place Saturday, July 3. The event is always held the Saturday before July 4, and this year it happens to fall the day Brought to before Independence you by our Day. sister paper: Guests can enjoy food trucks, live music and one of the largest firework shows around. 280living.com Parking will be in the field behind Winn-Dixie and guests can set up chairs and blankets in the grassy area behind Dairy Queen. The event will kick off at 5 p.m. with a variety of food trucks. Back this year is the kid’s play area with inflatables. There will also be between 30-40 local business vendors set up. City Council member Casey Morris is overseeing the food trucks and said this year will feature lots of trucks serving a variety of options. “We’ve got a great lineup of food vendors coming out for the Big KaBoom this year. From tacos to Filipino barbecue and hamburgers and all kinds of desserts. We hope to have a great crowd, beautiful weather and we encourage all of our residents and surrounding communities.” Morris said this will be a clean and safe event and all the food vendors take the health and safety of patrons very seriously and will keep their trucks clean and sanitized for their customers. The bicycle parade for kids will begin at 5:20 p.m. at the corner of Chelsea Road and Chelsea Corners Way. Participants can decorate their bikes in a patriotic theme and ride along the route. The older kids will lead the
The city of Chelsea will host the annual ChelseaFest and the Big KaBoom is the city’s largest event each year. This year, it will take place Saturday, July 3. Photo courtesy of the city of Chelsea.
parade and the younger kids will follow behind them. This year will feature three bands. Fake News, The Marty McFly’s and Trotline will provide music throughout the evening. The fireworks will go off at 9 p.m. For more information, visit the city’s website at cityofchelsea.com/219/ chelseafest-and-the-big-kaboom.
Chelsea Fest and the Big KaBoom • WHEN: Saturday, July 3, 5 p.m.; fireworks go off at 9 p.m. • DETAILS: Parking will be in the field behind Winn- Dixie, and guests can set
up chairs and blankets in the grassy area behind Dairy Queen • WEB: cityofchelsea.com/219/ chelseafest-and-the-big-kaboom
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June 2021 • B17
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B18 • June 2021
The Birmingham Museum of Art is now the first museum in Alabama to be sensoryinclusive certified. Photo by Erin Nelson.
Baskets and bags of peaches from Witt Farms sit for sale at the West Homewood Farmers Market, which returns for the 2021 season starting June 1. Staff photo.
West Homewood Farmers Market back for 11th year By INGRID SCHNADER
Museum partners with KultureCity to become sensory-inclusive certified By JESSE CHAMBERS
Sensory bags, equipped with such items as noise-canceling People with autism, dementia headphones, fidget tools, verbal and PTSD often experience sencue cards and weighted lap pads sory sensitivities or challenges, are available to museum guests including noise or overstimulation. who need them. In fact, 1 in 5 people has a Prior to visiting the Museum, sensory need, according to the families can download the free ironcity.ink Vestavia Hills-based nonprofit KultureCity App to see the sensory KultureCity. features that are available. KultureCity recently partnered “To know that you soon will be with the Birmingham Museum of Art to make able to see families attend an art museum, a the museum and all of its programs and events true community binding experience, with their sensory-inclusive certified. loved ones who have a sensory challenge and The BMA is the first art museum in Alabama who were not able to previously attend, is to become so certified, according to a BMA truly a heartwarming moment,” said Dr. Julian news release. Maha, KultureCity co-founder. The staff is being trained to recognize guests KultureCity has created over 600 sensory-inwith sensory needs and handle sensory over- clusive venues and worked on such special load situations. events as the Super Bowl. Brought to you by our sister paper:
The West Homewood Farmers Market is back this summer in its 11th year. Starting June 1, the market will be every Tuesday in June and July and the first Tuesday in August. Hours are 5-8 p.m. The market website showed more than 50 Brought to vendors accepted for the you by our 2021 season, including sister paper: creators of handmade jewelry, gifts, local farm produce, baked goods and handcrafted thehomewood items. This running list star.com can be accessed online at westhomewood.com. Kenyon Ross of West Homewood Co. said the market’s goal this year is to be more in line with its vision, which is to take care of Alabama farmers and producers. “We wanted to have a good slew of everything (at the market), but I feel like we’ve fallen away from our mission,” he said. “One of the efforts we’re doing is to get back to our mission and to have a lot of farm and animal products there — food, generally speaking.”
West Homewood Farmers Market • WHERE: 160 Oxmoor Road • WHEN: 5-8 p.m., every Tuesday in June and July and first Tuesday in August • WEB: westhomewood.com
Instead of seeing the same craft vendors every week, there will be a rotation of craft vendors as the event focuses more on food. There is also typically a kids’ zone at the event, but Ross said this will be evaluated closer to the market’s start date depending on local guidelines regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. The booths will be spread apart 10 feet, similar to last year’s market, and mask requirements will also depend on local masking guidelines. Ross laughed and said the farmers market has a high “sitability” score. “We want people to feel like they can sit and stay a while at the market,” he said. Learn more at westhomewood.com.
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June 2021 • B19
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