May/June 2024 Columbus and the Valley

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HIGHSIDE MARKET CREATES A PLACE FOR COMMUNITY $3.50 MAY-JUNE 2024 Collaborative Adds Miles to DRAGONFLY TRAILS WOMEN at WORK 24 GIFTS FOR Moms, Dads and Grads History Blooms at THE BRADLEY OLMSTEAD GARDEN DISCOVER COMU The Reimagined Columbus Museum More to Explore

From the Editor’s Desk

Our region is wealthy in arts and culture, and one of our best treasures is ready to be rediscovered. The doors of The Columbus Museum have reopened as COMU! Throughout the renovation process the team never skipped a beat and continued to engage the community with exhibits and events at various locations around the city. It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with Marketing Director Kristen Hudson and the staff over the last few weeks on this edition of Columbus and the Valley while they have been fervently working to be reopening ready. You can read all about it here and what’s more, go walk through the doors because there’s more to explore!

Exploring is synonymous with the Dragonfly Trails—the two go hand in hand and far and wide. The trail continues to connect thousands of people and grow in miles with a collaborative effort with Fort Moore, Harris County’s Man O’ War and Phenix City. Access is for everyone and is right here on our doorstep—literally on our doorstep. The Columbus and the Valley offices are located on 10th Street, and the trail runs right past our door. It’s a well-used commute for those walking and riding our way.

The heart of Uptown Columbus continues to thrive, and a hub of activity can be found at Highside Market. The doors are open to this ever-evolving space that at its core is a place for the community to gather and enjoy. A vision has come to fruition for developer Chris Woodruff, who took on the challenges of making the old bones of a building new again. The recent opening of Nonic, which has relocated from Broadway to Highside, adds to the options for exploring all that is happening on the corner of Third Avenue and 13th Street.

And there’s more! Meet the Women at Work who are leading the way with local corporations, nonprofits and family owned businesses. Graduations and celebrations of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day keep our local retailers busy, and we have 24 notable gifts in our guide that are sure to be just right for your mom, dad or grad.

Off to COMU, out on the trails, gathering at places, or visiting local retailers and businesses, there’s ALWAYS more to explore!

— Established 1991 —


Jodi and Gerald Saunders


Jodi Saunders


Calista Sprague


Margie Richardson

Julie Jernigan, Sales Assistant


Sixty Two Graphic Studio


Brett Buckner

Janet Burden

Pat Daniel


Doug Gillett

Marquette McKnight

Scott Phillips


Jerry Mucklow Photography

John Pyle Photography

Margie Richardson Photography

Ritchie White Photography


P.O. Box 229 214A 10th Street

Columbus, GA 31902

706-324-6214 • fax 706-324-6216

COLUMBUS AND THE VALLEY MAGAZINE is published bimonthly for $18 per year by Valley Life Ventures, LLC dba COLUMBUS AND THE VALLEY MAGAZINE, P. O. Box 229, Columbus, GA 31902. The cover and contents are fully protected and may not be reproduced in whole or in part without the written consent of COLUMBUS AND THE VALLEY MAGAZINE. We are not responsible for loss of unsolicited inquiries, manuscripts, photographs, or other materials. They will not be returned unless accompanied by return postage. Editorial contributions and letters should be addressed to COLUMBUS AND THE VALLEY MAGAZINE, Post Office Box 229, Columbus, GA 31902. Copyright © 2024 by Valley Life Ventures, LLC trading as COLUMBUS AND THE VALLEY MAGAZINE. Postmaster: Please send address corrections to: Post Office Box 229, Columbus, GA 31902.

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Brad Barnes
PARTNER BENEFIT 2 Columbus and the Valley MAY-JUNE 2024
On the Go? Read Columbus and the Valley Everywhere on Your Tablet or Smart Phone. FEATURES DEPARTMENTS 7 Calendar 45 Sow It Grows 47 The Cine Files 55 Much Ado About Something 57 Valley Scenes 62 Dining Guide 8 Come to COMU Come inside and explore the renovated Columbus Museum. 16 History in Blooms While The Columbus Museum is reimagined, its historic garden is being restored. 20 Gift Giving Season Great gift options for moms, dads and grads MAY-JUNE 2024 VOLUME 33 | NO. 4 what’s inside... ON THE COVER The Columbus Museum reopens it’s doors as COMU. Welcome back to this amazing space for our community.
25 Always Evolving Highside Market flourishes in the heart of Uptown. 33 Women at Work Spotlighting those who excel in the workplace. 41 Crush Learn how Argentinian wines have been affected by a freeze. 49 You Can Go for Miles Dragonfly Trail Network continues to expand. 64 Meet This Year’s Debutantes The Cotillion Club of Columbus announces 20 new members. 4 Columbus and the Valley MAY-JUNE 2024

What's Happening?


Every Saturday

Market Days in Uptown hosts over 100 local and regional vendors three blocks along Broadway. Visitors can expect to find fresh and organic produce, home goods, jewelry, unique crafts and delicious baked goods. Market Days is the perfect Saturday activity for family, friends and visitors. Don’t forget to bring your furry pals to get in on the fun.

May 2-12

The Springer Opera House presents Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Winner of both the Grammy Award and the Tony Award, Beautiful tells the glorious story of the incomparable Carole King’s rise as one of the greatest names in popular music. Beautiful features a song list that includes such timeless hits as I Feel the Earth Move, So Far Away, Will You Love Me Tomorrow, You’ve Got a Friend, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and many more.


3 & 4

Uptown Columbus invites the community and visitors alike to experience RiverFest 2024, featuring two days of live music, food, kids zone and arts and crafts. The festival will be held along the banks of the Chattahoochee River in Woodruff Park. The fundraiser is priced starting at $10 on Friday, $15 on Saturday and $20 for both days. Children 12 and under are admitted free.

May 4

The Midland Community Farmer’s Market, located on 9110 Warm Springs Road, happens each Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. They offer fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh flowers and potted plants with original arts and crafts.

May 4 & 5

The public is invited to a free weekend celebrating the newly reimagined Columbus Museum and the area’s vibrant cultural scene. The weekend kicks off at 10 a.m. on Saturday with a celebratory ribboncutting ceremony followed by two days of nonstop fun and interactive programming with activities for all ages. Highlights include artistic docent-led tours, a mystery scavenger hunt, collaborative art making, children’s story time, food trucks, giveaways and a Saturday night silent disco.

May 11

Join the National Civil War Naval Museum for a Victorian tea experience on Mother’s

Day weekend. Executive Director Holly B. Wait will lead a captivating presentation about Julia Dent Grant, wife of Ulysses S. Grant. Delightful desserts and hors d’oeuvres will be served, accompanied by hot tea and refreshing lemonade. Gentlemen are welcome, too. Tickets are $30 and includes a keepsake tea cup and saucer.

May 15

The RiverCenter presents Pretty Woman: The Musical. One of Hollywood’s most beloved romantic stories of all time springs to life with a powerhouse creative team led by two-time Tony Award®-winning director and choreographer Jerry Mitchell, an original score by Grammy® winner Bryan Adams and Jim Vallance, and a book by the movie’s legendary director Garry Marshall and screenwriter J. F. Lawton.

May 18

Playing for Good is teaming up with Paws Humane Society and The Youth Orchestra of Greater Columbus (YOGC) to present two incredible benefit concerts on May 18. The King Is Back features the renowned Elvis Presley 2021 Ultimate Tribute Artist, Patrick Dunn, gracing The Springer Opera House stage for an electrifying night of rock ‘n’ roll. Get ready for a sensational experience as Dunn delivers unforgettable performances of Elvis’ greatest hits, accompanied by stunning orchestral arrangements.

May 19

The Columbus Community Orchestra commemorates Memorial Day. To honor the sacrifices of America’s service men and women, the CCO will perform a Pre-Memorial Day Tribute Concert on Sunday, May 19 at 3 p.m.. The concert will be held at the St. Mark UMC Activity Center, 6795 Whitesville Road, and is free and open to the public.

May 24-26

Kick off Memorial Day weekend at Callaway Gardens, featuring the 64th Annual Masters Water Ski and Wakeboard Tournament.


June 1

The 11th Annual Columbus Georgia LGBTQ+ Pride Festival starts at 9 a.m. on the 1000

and 1100 blocks of Broadway. Guests can expect vendors, food, musical performances, a block party, prizes, photos, a drag show and even a parade that starts at 4 p.m.

June 2

Join Salsa Sundays at Art of Yoga where you’ll take Latin dance classes. Learn how to dance from scratch and practice your basics with and without a partner. This class will leave you feeling confident that you know how to dance. If this is your first time dancing, you need to practice or need a refresher, this is the class for you.

June 8

Join The Youth Orchestra of Greater Columbus for an amazing celebration of their 30th Anniversary Season with a Alumni Reunion Concert. Bring your lawn chair or blanket, and get ready for a fun night on the Old Town Green listening to musicians from the past 30 years of the YOGC perform for you! This is a family friendly event, so bring your kiddos, students and friends to join in on the fun.

June 13

The Columbus Museum will be having a Volunteer Workday in the beautiful and historic Bradley Olmsted Garden the second Thursday of every month from 8 a.m. to noon. Join in anytime during the morning. All necessary tools will be provided, and water and snacks will be available.

June 16-19

The Columbus Civic Center presents Unity Week and the Juneteenth Jubilee celebrations. Come out and celebrate rich heritage through history, music, arts, block parties and lots of free fun.


July 4-6

Visit Callaway Gardens for their annual weekend-long Star Spangled Beach Party. Enjoy three days of family fun on the sunny shores of Robin Lake Beach. Play all day long with beach volleyball, putt putt, paddle boarding, kayaking, Aqua Island, TreeTop Adventure and so much more. Each day ends with a bang thanks to their nightly Fireworks Extravaganza.

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Polishing a Gem

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The Columbus Museum (COMU) is a local gem, and a recent “polishing” has refreshed its brilliance. After five years of planning, fundraising, construction and big dreams, COMU is ready to reopen its doors, revealing dazzling results.

The History

You may have seen the stately structure in the heart of Columbus’ Wynnton neighborhood—a Mediterranean Revival house nestled on almost nine acres of beautiful gardens.

Donated by the family of industrialist W.C. Bradley to the city of Columbus after his death in 1947, the bequest came with a dream—that it be used as a center of culture and education. That dream came true—and then some. Since its founding in 1953, The Columbus Museum has become one of the largest in the Southeast and is recognized for its dual concentration on American art and regional history.

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The Museum’s original building was built as a home in 1911 by Brick S. Miller and purchased in 1925 by W.C. Bradley. The Bradleys lived in the home until his death in 1947 and had it donated to the city of Columbus to be used as a center of culture and education.

The Museum opened in the Bradley’s former home, built in 1912 for Brick S. Miller, after remodeling to create galleries and offices. Its immediate popularity led to the completion of a significant new wing in 1963, just 10 years after its opening. A major expansion in the 1980s resulted in 89,000 square feet. Though the square footage remains the same, this reimagining has increased the Museum’s linear footprint by strategically optimizing the available space. Within these expansive galleries, visitors will find a rich array of art treasures and historical artifacts, spanning from pre-Columbian times to the present day.

Its appeal has always been a vitality, a force that goes beyond the structure, the art, the history, the staff and the lush grounds. It is truly a sum greater than its parts. However, evolving societal and cultural expectations have provided this opportunity for a transformation at the Museum.

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The Bradley Museum opened in the Bradley’s former home in 1953 and unveiled a new expansion in 1963.

An Ambitious Timeline

That is why, in 2018, the Museum turned an eye toward creating a revitalized cultural gathering place—maximizing existing space with a concentration on increased community involvement. After an analysis of consultancy findings, board members launched a capital campaign and onboarded architectural firm Perkins and Will in 2019. In 2020, design firms Local Projects and The Design Minds were engaged to conceptualize the redesign of the children’s and history galleries, respectively.

Groundbreaking ceremonies took place on October 31, 2022. In





One of the first challenges faced was how to keep the Museum’s collection in the public eye during renovation. The solution? The Passport Program. Museum staff organized seven pop-up exhibitions in established galleries and community venues, giving visitors the opportunity to view curated shows at convenient locations throughout the city. A variety of themes charmed and surprised patrons, keeping material accessible to all. Whether strolling through downtown, browsing at the public library or dining at local restaurants, patrons enjoyed seeing the museum’s permanent collection in a series of exhibits, often in spaces they never knew existed.

A Ribbon Runs Through It


January 17-March 4, 2023

First stop along the tour, an exhibition exploring the importance of textiles in the Chattahoochee Valley—then and now—hosted by the Art Department at CSU. This show featured a noteworthy intermingling of both the Museum’s art and history collections.

Columbus’ Bradley Olmsted Garden


February 24-May 21, 2023

Designed for W.C. Bradley in the 1920s by the noted Olmsted Brothers landscape architectural firm, these gardens have a rich Georgian history. This panel exhibition highlighted the history and design of the important garden, which has undergone extensive restoration during the Museum’s reimagining.

Breaking News: Ledger-Enquirer Photographs


April 5-June 17, 2023

What better way to expose yourself to photographs than by taking in an exhibition of news media shots? Beginning in April, this Museum exhibition focused on historical images from the Ledger-Enquirer archives. The intimate gallery space gave viewers a glimpse into Valley history and reminded them of the talent behind the photographs.

less than two years, COMU and its grounds once again came alive with a series of grand reopening events that would have made W.C. Bradley proud.

Reopening Ceremonies

April 26: Beginning with a Grand Reopening Gala, Museum supporters experienced a first look at the reimagined space. Upon entering the building, open sitelines, increased natural light and improved accessibility created a smooth transition between remodeled features and highlighted art and history collections,

Facts and Figures: Contemporary Realism from The Columbus Museum


May 23-August 26, 2023

Patrons not only feasted their eyes on some of the Museum’s most striking contemporary realism pieces, but also on Columbus State University’s collection of Bo Bartlett pieces at the River Park campus in downtown Columbus. The exhibition featured such established artists as Janet Fish, Burt Silverman, Wes Hempel and Bartlett.

Americans and the Holocaust: The Chattahoochee Valley


July 7-August 18, 2023

The journey to the past is sometimes painful. Fittingly, the Columbus Public Library was the setting for an important exhibition with an addendum of powerful photographs and objects depicting life during the Holocaust for the people of the Chattahoochee Valley.

Flora & Fauna: Drawings from The Columbus Museum


September 15-December 9, 2023

From small, delicate graphite renderings of solitary trees and botanical studies to huge, colorful renderings of the animal kingdom, these works from the Museum’s permanent collection impressed—and, like all the exhibitions, served to remind patrons of the COMU’s many treasures.

Awkward Family Photos


November 14, 2023-January 5, 2024

Just in time for the holidays, this quirky, one-of-a-kind exhibition was dedicated to “spreading the awkwardness.” The cringe-worthy family portraits display attracted nation-wide attention when USA Today picked up the story. Held in the Museum’s temporary headquarters at the former Garrett’s Home of Photography studio, visitors could not help smiling and laughing as they viewed the portraits and posed in the pop-up photo booth.

It is estimated that approximately 20,000 visitors took advantage of the traveling shows. Their proximity to downtown, uptown, and midtown locales enabled art and history lovers, students and even venue patrons to drop in and view world-class shows. The program also received state-wide recognition in January when the Georgia Association of Museums honored The Columbus Museum on Tour with a Special Project Award.

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There’s a new generation of children who are about to have the opportunity to create memories of visiting what will be known to them as COMU. The timing for this reopening couldn’t be better—just as school is getting out, COMU is in! We were delighted to get a sneak peek of the reimagined Children’s Gallery and Garden as it neared completion, as well as a photo opportunity to feature our Valley Parent Magazine Readers’ Choice Award Winner, Sydney Judkins.

The relocated space is now front and center and is designed with the convenience for visiting families in mind. The lighter and brighter gallery has numerous new, interactive and immersive activities for children of all ages to spark their five senses, including an exhibit that allows guests to project themselves into masterpieces and explore art in a whole new dimension. Visitors can climb to new heights in the treehouse, where

a thrilling slide awaits. For budding curators, a mini-museum offers the chance to create and curate exhibitions, fostering a love for art and storytelling. Make it a date for a family day out. Gather for lunch at the relocated café with seating options inside or outside on the terraced courtyard, located by the newly designated front entrance overlooking Hermit the horse who is now proudly reinstated on the front lawn.

fostering a deeper connection between visitors and the items on view. Live music and high-quality cuisine enhanced the experience.

April 28: COMU has a reputation as being a place for all ages to come together to learn, explore and create, and an important component of the reopening events was an afternoon devoted to members and their families.

On Member Family Day, visitors found that designers had expanded the alreadypopular children’s area, relocating it from the basement to front and center on the main floor, further gearing it toward learning through the power of play. A sense of discovery guided groups and individuals alike throughout the interactive activities in the new Children’s Gallery and adjacent Garden.

May 1: For loyal patrons, Museum on Tour Passport Day was set aside for Museum lovers who attended the traveling exhibitions at collaborating partner venues around the Chattahoochee Valley during the building’s closure.

Can be found at: Barnes & Noble Columbus Museum Dinglewood Pharmacy Durham’s
Galleria Judy
Books Marriott
Convenience Store Piggly
Whitewater Express
Midtown Medical
Gift Shop
The Children’s Garden
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The Children’s Gallery

The tour was a collaborative showcase of not only the Museum’s holdings, but the countless venues in which to view and appreciate other collections around the area. This preview event served to thank tour attendees for their ongoing support during COMU’s renovation.

May 2: A Member Preview Night included intimate open house tours of updated gallery spaces. The transformation of collections,

exhibitions and gardens has made them engaging and relevant to people of all ages, ensuring a rich and varied museum experience for all.

May 4 & 5: After a ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday at 10 a.m., the doors open! The community-wide Grand Reopening Weekend of the reimagined museum and the area’s vibrant cultural scene highlight COMU’s commitment to culture and education. Two

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Silver Clouds (L) is a special interactive installation on loan from the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh that will be on view for COMU’s reopening. Created in 1966, this installation consists of a roomful of floating, pillow-shaped balloons. The reflective balloons are inflated with a proprietary mixture of air and pure helium, enabling them to float enchantingly in the space from floor to ceiling. This will be enhanced by Warhol’s Cow Wallpaper (R), the first in the artist’s series of wallpaper designs, which were never made commercially available.


(Excerpt taken from The Muse: A Columbus Museum publication)

days of interactive programming and activities include docentled tours, scavenger hunt, collaborative art making, children’s story time, food trucks and lively—but silent—Saturday night “disco.”

When Reality Surpasses the Dream

COMU’s reimagining strengthens visitors’ understanding of American art and regional history whether they are visiting the area, new residents or already call the Chattahoochee Valley home. A destination for people of all interests and ages, COMU

With the help of ESPLOST funds through their partners in the Muscogee County School District, the Museum’s collections storage area was recently renovated. The storage capacity was expanded to meet the needs of our growing collections of art and history artifacts. The Museum will also have a dedicated workspace that can be used by both staff and researchers for cataloging and examining objects. Removing the old storage units, laying a new concrete floor and adding a brandnew coat of paint have created a bright and improved space. Updated museum-specific storage equipment is currently being installed, including new painting racks and collapsible shelving. We are grateful to the MCSD and the community of Columbus for the ESPLOST funding to make this much-needed renovation a reality.

has something for everyone—from the art enthusiast to the history buff, the nature lover to the leisurely visitor—all free and all in one space.

The must-see attraction is perfect for intimate strolls through the displays and grounds, group tours and interactive learning for all ages. Located at 1251 Wynnton Road in Columbus, COMU has a presence on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, X, YouTube and Tripadvisor. Visit the Museum’s website frequently for news of upcoming exhibitions, programming and events as well as hours of operation. C

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History in Blooms


During the 19th century, Columbus was in the early stages of becoming the thriving city that it is today. William Wynn built his home in the 1830s on the hill that would later bear his name, and the Bradley Olmsted Garden that surrounds The Columbus Museum had yet to be built. As the area surrounding the city continued to develop, a lawyer named Brick S. Miller

bought a plot and built a two-story home that was known as Hill Haven. Miller hired a young landscape architect in Augusta named William Bell Marquis to create a garden on the west side of the property.

When Marquis went to work for the preeminent landscape Olmsted Brothers firm in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1920, he took his plans with him and continued with his work on the Miller property. His work

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up to that point had already seen him plant a rose arbor, a pecan grove and Japanese oleaster and privet. Design elements of an Olmsted Garden typically include a naturalistic setting, an emphasis on vistas, the inclusion of manmade items, a spatial balance between wood and water, and ample opportunities for recreation. Renowned creations of Frederick Law Olmsted include New York City’s Central Park and the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina prior to his death in 1903.

His sons, John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., continued his legacy most notably becoming founding members of the American Landscape Architects Association and assisting in the creation of the National Park Service. Interestingly, they also designed a masterplan for Auburn Polytechnic Institute, now known as Auburn University.

In 1925, Brick S. Miller and prominent businessman W.C. Bradley struck a deal to swap houses. W.C. Bradley and his wife Sarah had lived in downtown Columbus at 1440 Third Avenue for nearly 40 years. The deal garnered a lot of attention from the local Columbus Enquirer-

W.C. Bradley poses on a bench in his home’s gardens in the 1930s with the Wynn House peaking through the trees.
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This grotto used to provide water from a natural stream. The hopes are to bring the stream back to life for new visitors to enjoy.

Sun as was noted that “when Mr. Miller bought the place and began planning what is now to be seen, it was one of the most unpromising hillsides in the entire Columbus section, and no one ever thought that the charming result finally obtained was possible.”

When Bradley took over the property in 1925, he quickly contacted Marquis to continue his work. Bradley also noted that he would like to add a “modern” swimming pool for his family and friends, a goal which would be aided by his purchase of small pieces of adjacent land. Marquis returned to his plans from the previous decade, writing to Bradley that “we have tried to develop a plan which will take advantage of your topographical situation, namely, a steep hillside. A great deal of the interest and charm of many well-known gardens is due to the development of just such possibilities as you have here.”

W.C. Bradley’s Sunset Terrace Garden continues to be a showpiece on Wynnton Road more than 90 years after its initial development. Though neglected for some years, the garden experienced a resurgence

in the 1990s when a Columbus Museum volunteer group known as the Guild Gardeners started to restore the garden. Efforts have continued with volunteers during the 60th anniversary of the museum in 2013 and are continuing today.

While The Columbus Museum interior has been undergoing a major redesign, a team of volunteer master gardeners and enthusiasts are fervently working to remove the non-native, invasive plants, and install plantings noted on the original master plan. The ravine and grotto that W.C. Bradley and his wife Sarah installed are also the focus of continued restoration work, with the museum hiring a masonry firm to reestablish the stonework of the ravine. Long term goals include realigning the underground stream that originally emerged at the head of the ravine, cascading water down into the grotto. A treasure worth preserving, The Bradley Olmsted garden is now widely recognized as the most substantial and significant of the 13 residential projects the Olmsted firm worked on in Georgia.

The newly paved viewing terrace is a

part of the museum’s renovations, drawing visitors outside and allowing them the opportunity to absorb the view described by the Columbus Enquirer-Sun as, “The beautiful grounds, from which there is a wonderful outlook over the entire city and the Alabama hills, are in keeping with the house, which is said to be one of the finest in the state.”

The W.C. Bradley family, upon the death of W.C. Bradley in 1947, donated his 13-acre estate to the city of Columbus to be used as a center of culture and education. Founded in 1953, The Columbus Museum is one of the largest museums in the Southeast and is unique for its dual concentration on American art and regional history, displayed in its permanent collection, temporary exhibitions and educational programs. This historical landmark is truly the gift that keeps on giving back to all of those who enter its doors and meander through the gardens. C

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Article adapted from The Bradley Olmsted Garden: A Wynnton Oasis by Rebecca Bush featured in Muscogiana


Know an Outstanding Professional Under 40? NOMINATE THEM TO

We’re looking for our next Five Under 40 top nominees. These notable professionals will showcase the best and brightest in our region.

Previous top nominees have proven to be successful in his or her profession and are passionate about their career, family, philanthropy and community service. Their job alone may prove to make someone a top nominee, but we’re looking for those whose involvement and commitment go well beyond what they are paid to do.

Please complete the form in full for your nominee. Additionally, separate nominations as well as resumes, letters of recommendation and of support are encouraged. The recipients will be chosen by a panel of past recipients and business leaders.

Previous Rising Stars are eligible for 5 under 40 nominations. All nominees must be under 40 years of age as of September 1, 2024, to be eligible.
DEADLINE: JUNE 14, 2024 AT NOON Scan to fill out a nomination form.
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Highside Market “A Place for All”

AAt an age when most boys are preoccupied with their favorite football team’s standing and which muscle car they’d drive, 16-year-old Chris Woodruff had his sights set on a building.

Specifically, he was interested in the structure at the corner of 13th Street and Third Avenue in downtown Columbus. For about a half-century, it was the JNO Pope Motor Company, where a huge curved window allowed pedestrians and motorists alike a tantalizing view of the sparkling Chryslers, Dodges and Plymouths in the showroom. For a decade or so after that, it was Ray’s Uptown Body Shop.

And for about a decade and a half after that, it was . . . well, not much, honestly, other than dusty, empty rooms and a crumbling roof. But Woodruff’s love for the place never went cold. “It was captivating,” he says. “It just felt cool. Even

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when it was vacant and the roof was caving in, I’d see it and think, ‘That’s a beautiful building with great bones.’”

Six years ago, while driving past the building for what was probably the thousandth time, Woodruff felt called to do something with those bones. And last December, his vision became reality in the form of Highside Market, a 55,000-square-foot mixed-use development that has turned the old car dealership into a bustling focal point for the ongoing revitalization of downtown Columbus.

Visitors to Highside can get everything from a beer and a burger at Nonic to designer outfits at Council Wardrobe Studio to camping gear at Mountain High Outfitters. But to Woodruff, the most important aspect of the development is that it’s a place where people don’t have to spend any money at all. “Highside Market is an organism—it’s a place for people to get together, to enjoy, to become,” he says. “Which means it’s not just about the shopping; it’s not just about the great restaurants—it’s about creating a place for the community.”

Chris Woodruff at one of the grand opening events for Highside Market last Fall.
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A vision completed: After years of work and planning, Highside Market opened in 2023.

Continuing A Family Legacy

The economic history of Columbus— and, really, of the state of Georgia—can’t be written without mentioning the Woodruff family. Generations of Woodruffs started successful businesses and created developments across the Chattahoochee Valley region; Jim Woodruff, Chris’s great-grandfather, even spearheaded

the construction of the 36-megawatt hydroelectric dam near the GeorgiaFlorida state line that now bears his name.

But as much as his family has enjoyed creating new things, Chris Woodruff says they’ve always been taught to maintain respect for the old ones. “Growing up with [grandfather Barnett Woodruff] and my great-aunt Emily Woodruff, preservation was always there—it was,

‘How do we save this building?’ Emily, her passion was ‘How do we save the Springer Opera House,’ because there’s so much value in the history of those things. I think that started it for me as a kid, being around that ideology, understanding the value of historic preservation. And also the pragmatic value of, ‘Let’s not scrap everything and start new, let’s take what we’ve got and improve upon it.’”

MAY-JUNE 2024 Columbus and the Valley 27
The evolution of the space: (L) Six years ago, the Cotton Companies purchased the vacant and neglected body shop and surrounding space. (R) The space previously operated as Jno. A. Pope Motor Co. for about 50 years.

Those values were on his mind when, after 12 years at the W.C. Bradley Company, Chris Woodruff ventured out on his own founding The Cotton Companies in 2016 with a specific emphasis on “adaptive reuse conversions that honor architectural, cultural and historic context.” Along with principal, Martin Huff their efforts include Midcity yards, which repurposed a dormant industrial area near the Columbus train yard, and several projects along the Broadway corridor downtown.

While fantasizing about sprucing up old buildings is easy, Woodruff says the actual work of repurposing and revitalizing them is immensely challenging. “If you have the vision to see what the potential is, that’s just step one,” he explains. “Step two is you’ve got to be able to execute on that successfully. And Highside Market, which is basically 1.8 acres with three buildings plus an outdoor park, that’s not an easy task—that’s not an ‘I’m John or Jane Doe, and I think I want to take on this project to make this building look pretty.’

“There’s no way that I or the Cotton Companies could have done this by ourselves. If a project this large is going to be done successfully, it requires either an absolute genius who can do all things at once, or it requires a team who all believe in the same vision, and also believe that the way you build and make something great is by not caring who gets the credit. Our team all fought for the same vision and the same goal.”

A Vision on a Mission

So what is that vision, exactly? Highside Market is shopping, sure. It’s also dining— sit-down restaurants as well as Parlor Doughnuts and Whit’s Frozen Custard. There’s even office space and a Pilates studio.

But the most important part of the Highside Market’s vision, Woodruff states, is to be a place for the community, all parts of the community, to gather—whether they intend on spending any money or not.

“One of the ways I thought we could do that was to create a very active programming calendar that is all-inclusive and is continually operating, meaning we have a calendar of events that gives all

“It doesn’t matter who you are or how you look, Highside Market is a place for all.”
- Chris Woodruff

walks of life a reason to come just check out Highside,” he says. “Come here, hang out, listen to a great band play in Daisy Park for free. Come do yoga in the park on a Saturday morning for free. Come enjoy carolers singing during Christmastime and just know that you’re in a place that you’re welcome. It doesn’t matter who you are or how you look, Highside Market is a place for all.”

So far, that vision seems to be coming true. Woodruff says he’s heard from people who initially didn’t think they’d ever go to a place like Highside because “It just seems like it’s too expensive,” but when they actually visit, they find “normal” prices and a down-toearth atmosphere. “I want you to be able to come here whether you’ve got 25 cents in your pocket or $25 million,” he declares. “And if you don’t want to spend any money, that’s fine. It’s not about spending money, it’s about being together. Because if we can do that and create that safe community atmosphere, you’ll want to come back.”

Connecting the Community

Highside Market officially opened to the public in December of last year, but Woodruff says it’ll never truly be complete. “It’s meant to ebb and flow, it’s meant to grow with the people that inhabit it, the community it exists in, the region that it enjoys,” he says. “It’s nearly leased up now, actively engaging in our programming for events and all sorts of things like that, but it’ll never be finished.”

Which makes sense, because the market is part of a much wider revitalization of Columbus that started nearly 40 years ago and is still going—and growing. In its early years, Woodruff recalls, the development was mostly restricted to the Broadway corridor and the riverfront, but the recent stages have moved farther and farther off the Broadway path. With the newly renovated Columbus Museum anchoring similar revitalization in

28 Columbus and the Valley MAY-JUNE 2024

Along with the two other buildings and large outdoor space included in Highside Market, the open interior of the old body shop has been totally reimagined to create a unique area for a wide variety of shopping, dining and other activities.

MAY-JUNE 2024 Columbus and the Valley 29

midtown, and projects like Highside, Midcity and the Dragonfly Trail linking it to a thriving downtown, Woodruff says he’s seeing his hometown start to become connected in ways it hasn’t been in decades.

“Columbus is not what it used to be,” he says. “We’re coming together, and maybe it’s not even intentional, but we’re all seeming to

embrace this idea of connecting community. And I hope and pray that continues, because if we embrace that and if we’re willing to explore these new developments, the idea that ‘old is the new new,’ there’s going to be no stopping this town as it grows and becomes the best place to live and raise a family in the Southeast.” C

30 Columbus and the Valley MAY-JUNE 2024
Several murals throughout the Highside Market space act as a way to engage the community.
32 Columbus and the Valley MAY-JUNE 2024



Slade Pair


After spending a year recovering from a serious car accident in 2016, Slade Pair yearned to work again. But rather than return to the dental field, where she spent 30-plus years as a dental hygienist, dental practice administrator and dental consultant, she opted for something different.

“After much prayer, I decided to work in the business we (she and husband, Mike) purchased in 2006—Auto Masters Repair,” Pair said. “Neither my husband nor I worked here because we had someone else managing it, and my husband works in his own business.”

Auto Masters Repair is a full-service, luxury, domestic and import car-repair facility specializing in general repairs, engine diagnostics and electrical systems.

It was a decision she’s never regretted. “I have the best job ever,” she said. “Besides being the Chief Operating Officer, I am able to develop marketing programs which attract the kind of customers we most enjoy—friendly, family oriented and just really nice people.

“Other exciting responsibilities include implementing efficient systems for taking care

of our customers, our team and our vendors.”

Pair enjoys meeting new customers, but she’s not the only one customers recognize.

“Buoy, our shop dog and mascot welcomes customers who have seen her on a commercial or flyer,” Pair said. “The customers arrive happy and eager to meet her, and we end up talking, laughing and just getting to know each other.”

“My staff is also one of my biggest blessings. We have a hard-working team, but we also enjoy loads of fun.”

Though auto repair could be viewed as a male-dominated career, Pair believes it’s all about what you know.

“No one is born with the knowledge of the intricate workings of a vehicle, it’s all learned behavior,” she said. “Female technicians and service advisors are as competent and detail oriented as men. I am most proud of the knowledge my certified technicians and experienced service advisors have taught me about vehicle safety, repair and maintenance.

The Auto Masters Repair team helps educate its customers and treat thems like

family. “Hopefully everyone leaves happy,” Pair said. “This is our way of taking care of our community.” ADV.

AUTO MASTERS REPAIR 7401 Fortson Rd. Suite A 706.507.5466
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6867 Mountainbrook Dr. Suite 102


ILeigh Anne Thomas & Becca Covington


f there were a slogan that defined Townsend Wealth Management (TWM), it could easily be: working is hard, retirement shouldn’t be.

“We develop a great relationship with our clients,” said Leigh Anne Thomas, a partner at TWM, “and help them make the best financial decisions so they can achieve their long-term financial goals and have a great retirement.”

Those goals extend to TWM partners as well. After 23 years in her “dream job” at TWM, Leigh Anne Thomas plans to fully retire by the end of the year. After creating her own financial plan, she was prepared to retire at age 65, but to be able to continue working part-time was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.

That extra time has allowed Thomas the chance to work closely with and essentially train Becca Covington, whose responsibilities will soon increase.

“She has learned quickly and has improved things I didn’t know needed improvement,”

Thomas said of Covington, “and since so much of what we do is relationship based, it’s been wonderful to get this extra time to make sure that our clients are comfortable with her as well.”

As client relations and operations manager,

Covington is the “go-to person” for TWM clients.

“If they need anything, I am the person to whom they come,” said Covington, who joined TWM last July. “I facilitate money movements and answer questions about their assets.”

She also assists with financial planning by helping clients think through their goals and priorities.

“Our goal is to help clients build the lives they want, which is an extremely intricate and personal process,” Covington said. “One of my jobs is to guide clients through those conversations thoroughly and comfortably.”

For Thomas, the best part of her job has been getting to know the TWM clients while learning about their financial aspirations and hearing about their projects, hobbies and the organizations and causes they support.

Covington echoes Thomas’s focus on clients and their interests as what she finds to be the most rewarding.

“I know that the team I’ve joined is giving our clients excellent advice and putting them on the best path to being secure and confident in retirement,” she said. “It makes me incredibly happy to see people who have

worked hard their entire lives be able to enjoy the assets they built.”

Covington also realizes how fortunate she is to be learning from Thomas, who joined TWM in 2001 and was named a partner in 2008.

“She has been here since Townsend Wealth Management began and has helped build the company,” she said. “She knows the ins and outs of this job, and I get to learn all of it straight from her.”

Though there are challenges as well.

“Not every conversation is easy,” Covington said. “People put off planning because the perception is that talking about money is stressful.”

One way Covington has learned to help remove the stress clients feel is showing them the importance of starting to save for the future immediately.

“While Tyler [Townsend, managing partner] does a wonderful job investing and building clients’ wealth, the sooner a client starts planning, investing and saving, the better their post-work life will be,” she said. “I love it when younger clients come in and want to start building toward financial success later in life.

“I know that they are going to be able to move through life without the burden of uncertainty so many people live with.”

While Thomas is looking forward to traveling during her retirement, she knows that TWM clients will be in very capable hands.

“She is intelligent, learns quickly and has already streamlined her responsibilities,” Thomas said. “She is kind and cares about our clients. I knew I felt comfortable turning things over when she came to the interview, and we all enjoyed being around her.”

“She has a great personality and sense of humor—Tyler, Ken and I agreed that she would be a great fit for our clients and our firm.”

Covington is a Columbus native who lives in Midtown. Away from work, she enjoys making stained glass and stays involved in the community and city government.

“I genuinely think Columbus is one of the coolest places to live,” she said. “I love this community and can’t wait to see how Columbus continues to grow and improve over the next few years.” ADV.

34 Columbus and the Valley MAY-JUNE 2024


Driven and collaborating. Those are the words Libba Dillon believes that customers and colleagues alike would use to describe her. Chances are, they’d be right.

Since 2009, Dillon, 37, has worked for Columbus’ Malone Office Environments, assisting local companies, ranging from Piedmont Columbus Regional and Mercer Medical School to W.C. Bradley Co. and Synovus, creating workspaces that perfectly wed form and function.

It’s a career—a talent—Dillon learned at an early age. “I think it goes back to my grandmother and the way I grew up,” said Dillon, who is the head interior designer and sales executive of furniture sales at Malone. “When I was growing up, I loved watching my grandmother, especially decorating her house and how she set up her house for entertaining. It really inspired me to want to do that for myself.”

However, interior design for businesses was not how Dillon envisioned her career playing out. “I sometimes laugh when I think back to graduating from college,” said Dillon, who graduated from Auburn in 2009. “I thought I was going to be doing high-end residential and didn’t put much thought into the commercial side of the industry.”

However, Sam Buracker, owner of Malone Office Environments, took a chance on her, offering her a job even before she’d graduated from Auburn’s design program. “He hired me without me knowing anything about office furniture, and now I feel like I could write a book,” Dillon said.

Buracker recognized talent when he saw it. “She just has a knack, she has good taste, just has an eye for it,” he said. “She never lets the customer down, which builds loyalty. Then ultimately, they like to buy from her, which keeps them coming back.”

In addition to her skills as an interior designer, Dillon is also a great salesperson, who works well as a member of the Malone team. “It is also very rewarding when I get to work on projects that have a substantial impact on improving the community of Columbus.”

“Amazing,” Buracker said. “She’s played a great role in helping me grow the business. She comes in every day with a great attitude and is just a pleasure to work with.”

But that’s not to suggest that even a job she loves doesn’t come with certain challenges. “One of the most challenging parts of working at Malone’s in our role in the furniture department is trying to get the word out there that they can purchase the same thing from us,” she said. “We can help you create your space locally versus competing with the Amazons of the world.

“Malone Office Environments has been around for almost 100 years, and we are constantly evolving to try to keep up and compete with the internet because it has changed the entire business.

“There are so many details that it is so easy to make mistakes if you are not paying close attention,” Libba said. “Also, the logistics can be challenging when you have an install, and ordering from multiple manufacturers, you have to make sure all those dates align to have the perfect outcome.”

When it comes to her favorite part of the job, for Dillon it’s all about the end result. “I find a lot of joy collaborating with different designers, architects and clients,” she said. “Planning a project and finally seeing it come to life is a great feeling.”

Dillon lives in the very same house that her grandmother once took such pride in decorating. When she’s not at work, she is all about spending time with her husband, Will, two boys, Wells and Graves, and dog, Piper. They are the fourth generation of her family to call Overlook home.

That’s just a microcosm of the deep roots that Dillon has within the community, and they extend into everything she does.

In addition to working at Malone and owning Park Place Interiors in Midtown, Dillon has invested in Fountain City Coffee and FCC at Banks Food Hall, owned with her brother,

Jud Richardson, and Libba’s husband, Will, and also owns an offshoot of Malone’s that specializes in floor coverings. As a result of all her endeavors, Libba was named the 2022 Entrepreneur of the Year by the Columbus Chamber of Commerce.

In October 2021, Dillon was named one of Columbus and the Valley magazine’s Five Under 40, and in October 2023 she was named as a Brookstone Distinguished Alumni.

She’s also involved in local fundraising efforts for MidTown Mingle, Steeplechase and Brookstone School. This spring, she was a dancer for the local Alzheimer Association’s Dancing with the Stars fundraiser, where she raised the third highest amount of $47,415. She was dancing for her paternal grandmother who had Alzheimer’s.

“I LOVE COLUMBUS!” she said. “I grew up in the same neighborhood where I am currently raising my children. I grew up with both sets of my grandparents around the corner.

“I went to Brookstone from K4 through senior year and developed very strong relationships with my classmates—many of whom have moved back to Columbus. We are still close and now raising our own children together.” ADV.

MAY-JUNE 2024 Columbus and the Valley 35


500 Brookstone Centre Pkwy.

Building 300


IDr. Devon Paris & Dr. Laura Watterson


n the ever-evolving landscape of dentistry, the presence and influence of women is more pronounced than ever.

While navigating those complexities, it’s clear that the contributions of female leaders are not only invaluable, but also driving forces behind innovation and progress. Gentle Dentistry of Columbus celebrates the women who are shaping the future of our practice— Drs. Devon Paris and Laura Watterson.

Drs. Paris and Watterson are working mothers, balancing the demands of their professional and personal lives.

“Our journeys serve as powerful testaments to the strength, grace and resilience of women in the workplace,” Dr. Paris said. “Our contributions have brought a refreshing energy to our practice, inspiring us all to reach new heights.”

Dr. Watterson is the newest member of the Gentle Dentistry team. “Gentle Dentistry felt like the ideal fit for me because it aligns with my desire for work-life balance, allowing me to spend time with my family while still delivering top-notch care,” she said. “The team is fantastic, the office is state-of-the-art, and I feel confident in my ability to provide the best results for my patients in a gentle and caring manner.”

Dr. Watterson grew up in a ranching family in the small town of Pine Bluffs, Wyoming. After spending all her life in Wyoming, she

moved east to Philadelphia, where she earned her Doctorate of Dental Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine. She moved to Denver, Colorado to practice dentistry at her aunt’s dental office. She and her husband recently relocated to Columbus so her husband could serve in the United States Army.

“Dentistry was the perfect fit for me because it offered the ideal blend of fulfilling my passion for healthcare, fostering meaningful connections with patients, and allowing flexibility for a future family life,” she said. “I was drawn to dentistry because I wanted make a positive impact on people’s lives, and this career provided that avenue while also affording me the opportunity to build relationships with patients on a personal level.”

Recognizing the need to evolve, Gentle Dentistry has embarked on a journey of transformation by recently moving into a new facility in the Brookstone Centre.

“We will start to offer cutting-edge services like Botox later this year,” Dr. Paris said. “With the introduction of Botox, we are expanding our repertoire to address a wider range of patient needs.”

From relieving chronic facial pain to enhancing the overall facial aesthetic, Gentle Dentistry’s cosmetic services are designed to enhance both form and function.

“With our team’s extensive training and expertise,” Paris said, “patients can rest assured that they are in capable hands every step of the way.”

The idea of going to a dentist for Botox and facial cosmetic services might sound unusual, Dr. Paris concedes. But it actually makes sense.

“Because improving smiles are what we specialize in,” she said. “Beyond restoring teeth, we are dedicated to enhancing the overall facial aesthetic, ensuring that every patient leaves our office not just with a brighter smile, but with newfound confidence and self-assurance.

“Furthermore, dentists possess in-depth knowledge of facial anatomy, nerves, and muscles, making them ideal providers for such treatment.

Not only do they design beautiful smiles daily, Dr. Devon Paris, Dr. Laura Watterson and their team prioritize patient comfort, “but we especially pride ourselves in honing our stressfree injection techniques through continuous education and practice,” Paris said. “Injections are a necessity in the field of dentistry to ensure patients are comfortable during procedures, so why would you want any other medical professional to inject your Botox?”

The American Academy of Facial Esthetics states that dentists are actually the easiest provider to teach and best provider to administer injections.

“Having now trained hundreds of dental professionals and other healthcare providers in Botox therapy, I can testify that dentists are the easiest to train, the most realistic, and conservative with the treatment, and the best healthcare professionals to deal with any complications in the head and neck areas,” said Dr. Louis Malcmacher, President of the AAFE.

With Gentle Dentistry of Columbus, patients can rest assured, knowing they are receiving the highest quality care from a team of experts who are passionate about helping them look and feel their best. Dr. Paris’ facial esthetic services will be available starting late summer 2024. Interested, current or prospective patients can contact us to join the waitlist. And to ease concern, comfortable blankets, headphones, stress balls, pillows and protective eyewear are available. ADV.

Dr. Paris
36 Columbus and the Valley MAY-JUNE 2024
Dr. Watterson

Nancy Weekley, Lynn Weekley & Sarah Frances Harp COLUMBUS MONUMENT COMPANY

When asked about the favorite part of her job, Nancy Weekley, vice-president and part-owner of Columbus Monument Company, answers without hesitation, “That’s easy,” she said, “it’s the people I work with.”

That’s a good thing because almost everyone Nancy works with is a family member, including her daughter, Lynn Weekley, granddaughter, Sarah Frances Harp, son, Wade Weekley and grandson, John Weekley.

“We seem to respect what each other brings to the mix,” said 88-year-old Nancy, who’s worked at Columbus Monument Company for 40 years, and alongside her daughter, Lynn, for 36 years. “Each person has their own niche, but nobody has a job description. If there is a challenge before you, you handle it.”

Lynn’s mother and father owned Columbus Wilbert Vault Company since 1984 before opening Columbus Monument Company in 1986. In 1987, at only 50 years old, her father died, and six months later she joined the family businesses to help her mother. She says, “We legally swapped our titles of president and vice president about 10 years ago, but the roles didn’t change. She’s still very much in charge!”

Lynn, her brother, and her sister were raised to respect and support each other. “Fortunately, those same traits have been passed down to the next generation,” she said. Nancy and Lynn welcomed three additional family members to the company in the last four years, including Sarah Frances, 31, who says she and her family members share a common goal. “We want to see the business continue to thrive for each other.”

Columbus Monument Company’s core business is and will always be family monuments and individual markers that are placed in the cemetery. They also provide unique memorialization options such as a boulder at a loved one’s favorite location, a bench at a local school, or even a granite star on the sidewalk outside of the Springer Opera House. Sarah Frances describes the types of customers they serve outside of cemetery memorials: “We work with active and retired military groups to create stones honoring our troops and their service, we work with families grieving the loss of a pet on a marker to place in their yard or home, and we work with local businesses and neighborhoods

to create commercial and street signage.”

“I love the variability of our work,” she adds. “No day is ever the same in our office, and we love to take on new challenges. We pour all of our skills, talents and hearts into every memorial we work on, and we take pride in being able to take a grieving family’s vision and bring it to life for them. I truly think that is something that separates us from other businesses.”

Columbus Monument Co. has adopted new talents and skills over the last several years, including sandblasting and engraving capabilities, which allows them to serve families and communities in unique ways. They are now able to provide lettered bricks and granite pavers for schools, churches and government fundraising projects. The company continues to evolve and can also add letters and images on rocks, boulders, wood and on HDU (high density urethane), which all have been used as memorials or as signage for businesses and subdivisions.

No matter the client, behind every marker there lies sorrow and loss, which everyone at Columbus Monument Co. tries to respect. The secret to understanding those emotions is relatively simple. “Listening,” Nancy said.

“Every family is different,” Lynn added. “Some know exactly what they want and appreciate how easy their selection was. Others struggle with the process and are thankful that they can take their time. We assure them that this is not a decision they have to make today and that we’ll be available for them when they’re ready. We plant thoughts and ideas as seeds that may grow months later or sometimes years later.”

“I enjoy helping families progress through the grieving process by listening and letting them tell their stories,” she said. “Sometimes those are expressed through tears, other times through laughter; but they are always filled with love.” ADV.

WOMEN @ WORK COLUMBUS MONUMENT CO. 530 Andrews Rd. 706.687.1052
MAY-JUNE 2024 Columbus and the Valley 37


1251 Wynnton Rd.


CMarianne Richter


hange has come to The Columbus Museum. For the first time since 1989, The Museum recently completed a “major transformation” to the building and the grounds. This includes new history and children’s galleries, “a stunning new look” for the Galleria, complete re-installation of the art collection, improvements to the Historic Bradley Olmsted Garden and new visitor amenities, said Director Marianne Richter.

The Museum also has undergone a rebrand— complete with a new logo and website. Marketing for The Museum will incorporate the new abbreviation COMU.

“Wier/Stewart in Augusta created a fresh and vibrant new look that matches the energy of our renewed Museum,” said Richter. “The building has served us well, but it was time to look at how we might make better use of the space, connect the building better to the Bradley Olmsted Garden and update and reconfigure our galleries.”

Discussions surrounding potential renovations

began in 2018. Construction began in late October 2022 and was recently completed this past April.

“To make the renovation possible, we began a capital campaign—‘Reimagining The Columbus Museum.’ Campaign co-chairs Kathelen Amos and Elizabeth Ogie and an incredible campaign committee did remarkable work raising funds,” Richter said. “We are very grateful to them and to our generous community for supporting our renovation.”

As director, Richter’s daily responsibilities include working with the staff and volunteers to ensure The Museum’s exhibitions, programs, collection and events are “engaging and relevant, creating opportunities for every visitor to find connections and feel a sense of belonging when they are here,” she said.

Much of what she does is behind the scenes, making sure the collection, building and grounds are cared for. She also has administrative responsibilities in managing the staff and the budget. She works to remain connected with stakeholders, being engaged

in community activities to keep The Museum’s special partnership with the Muscogee County School District strong.

“I can’t pick a single favorite part of my job,” she said, “but high on the list is when I am in the right place to have the good fortune of seeing a visitor’s excitement about an object, exhibition or new idea of skill they saw or learned here.” ADV.

38 Columbus and the Valley MAY-JUNE 2024

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40 Columbus and the Valley MAY-JUNE 2024

The State of the Argentinian Wine Industry CRUSH

In this article we will explore the year 2023 for the Argentinian wine industry and how it was affected by influences from a change in the country’s leadership to Mother Nature herself. Argentina is known to have natural beauties, a scrumptious food scene with dynamic flavors and, most importantly, a vibrant wine industry producing some of the world’s best wine. Argentina is the world’s fifth largest wine producer and contributes an array of unique wines. Seventy percent of the wines produced in the country are red varietals with malbec being king at 22 percent of the country’s total yield. Most may not know that this grape, while now being synonymous with Argentina, did not originate in the country but was introduced by the French in 1850. The other amazing wines that come from this beautiful South American country include some familiar faces, such as cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, pinot noir, and chardonnay. Also, there are some varietals that are perhaps not as well known, such as torrontes, bonarda and pedro gimenez.

The Growing Season and Harvest

The winemakers of Argentina experienced a particularly unpredictable growing season and harvest of the 2023 crop. In a year that kept experts guessing what the 2023 vintage would be and how it would be received, everyone was pleasantly surprised

MAY-JUNE 2024 Columbus and the Valley 41

by the quality of the wines produced. A predicted polar freeze that came up from the south took the temperature below freezing for several hours. Those winemakers who covered their grapes to protect them saved most of their crop but at great expense. Those who didn’t risked no harvest at all.

This freeze caused the 2023 harvest to be the lowest in 63 years. The frost and recovery for the vines had some thinking the harvest would be later than normal. However, the summer months saw the pace speed up due to the drop in volume and temperatures 12 to 13 percent hotter than the previous year. Martin Kaiser, who is the head of Dona Paula, explains this phenomenon. “In Ugarteche, Lujan de Cuyo, we saw our highest average temperatures in January, 30.5C (~89F), reached for 125 consecutive days.” This caused the picking work to be pushed forward by two weeks in most areas and

four weeks in even warmer areas of the country.

According to the National Viticultural Institute, the harvest only had a total volume of 1.437 kilos. This is a drop of about 25 percent for the country as a whole and as much as 40 to 50 percent in the worst affected areas.

What Are Their Duties?

We have discussed how 2023 was a challenging year at best for the wine industry in Argentina with the growing and harvest. But outside of that, the country was facing other issues, such as inflation reaching 140 percent moving the poverty line in the country to 40 percent of the population. This dramatic shift caused the people of Argentina to vote in the country’s first libertarian president, Javier Milei, in December. His first day in office, he implemented dramatic cuts and changes, including devaluing the Argentinian Peso by 50 percent.

While most of the wine industry welcomed the devaluing of the peso, because it makes exports more favorable, the new president also announced an increase in export duties from zero to eight percent just days after, which was a devastating blow to the winemakers. Why would this be so devastating? Not only do the winemakers have less product to sell because of the frost, they would now have to pay to get their products to the global market as well. This export duty could eventually cause the quantity of wine exported out of Argentina to become severely limited, allowing the winemakers to save some money and avoid the tax.

In January, Bodegas de Argentina, a national wine chamber created in 2001, launched a social media campaign to raise public awareness of how the new export duties will impact the wine industry and the economy. They are claiming that these new export duties will put Argentina’s international competitiveness at risk and only lead to a further drop in export value.

It may be too early to tell if this will have the impact many are thinking it could. All we can do is sit back and wait with a nice glass of malbec or torrontes while they are still readily available. C

42 Columbus and the Valley MAY-JUNE 2024

Sow It Grows

One of the tried and true oneliners about home gardening is when a practiced grower tells a newbie, “Tomatoes! Start with those. They’re the gateway drug.”

I get it. The seeds or plants are readily available, you can grow a single plant in a pot, and it’ll flower and fruit. Tomatoes offer probably the greatest reward of all crops: a hefty piece of fruit, deep red with the promise of juicy flavor so rich that they even named one variety “beefsteak.”

But tomatoes are a bad first choice for someone just starting.

Because they’re finicky about how much water they get and what soil they’re in. Because they’re best started inside and then replanted. Because they need sun but not lots of direct sun. Because they almost always need to be caged or trellised. And because once those red globes arrive, gleaming in the sun, they are a homing beacon to all creatures great and small, especially to those winged pillagers of your vegetable kingdom.

It’s not that you can’t overcome these obstacles, it’s that you have to overcome all of them.

If you grow, say, bell peppers, you’ll have half as much trouble. The problem with that strategy is that you’re growing peppers and not tomatoes. I love a good pepper, but a bell pepper is not a tomato. That’s why, at the farm, we grow an average of 300 pounds of tomatoes a year compared to 55 pounds of peppers. We preserve 100 pounds of those tomatoes for our home larder, and I can’t begin to paint a word-picture of the chaos of our red-spattered kitchen in the heart of the summer, our diving bell of a pressure canner rocking on the stovetop like a gleeful R2D2.

And so, ambitious, foolhardy friend, you’re growing tomatoes. Fine, let’s tackle the biggest problems.

Staking Your Claim

First of all, forget what Google tells you about tomatoes and full sun. Here in the Deep South, where the heat’s hot, direct sun will scald the plants and crack your tomato skins. So, a best practice is to grab tall tomato cages for your babies. Go for the four-foot ones or taller, readily available at box stores or nurseries for just a few bucks more than the little three-footers. Once your tomatoes are outside and caged, drape those cages with 30- or 40-percent shade cloth—a mesh fabric that’s readily available online but less so in brick-andmortar stores.

Trust me on avoiding full sun. Rather, trust researcher Martin Gent, whose study for the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station showed a 10-percent better yield of “marketable” tomatoes with the cover (essentially replacing scalded and split tomatoes with unblemished ones).

This shade plan also solves the plant’s staking needs and will keep thieving birds at bay, so it’s a threefold solution. As an aside: you might be tempted to try bush or dwarf varieties of tomatoes, thinking you can avoid staking. Don’t be fooled as we were last year. Our yields

MAY-JUNE 2024 Columbus and the Valley 45

suffered tremendously, and the plants still grew tall enough that we needed to trellis them to keep branches from snapping under fruit.

From the Ground Up

But even before you put them in the ground, take a look at that soil and do some preemptive troubleshooting.

Nearly every first-time tomato grower will look as the burgeoning harvest goes from little green orbs to large green orbs, to big yellow ones—but then, right as they start to redden, they blacken at the bottom. It’s the dreaded malady called blossom-end rot.

It has myriad causes, making it hard to diagnose, but most often the plant’s getting too little calcium in the soil or too much water. (When the soil is too wet, the tomato can’t pull enough calcium from the soil, so in both cases, we’re talking calcium deficiency.)

We amend our beds with bone meal to add calcium and phosphorus, applying it just to the holes where we’re planting the seedlings along with some worm castings for fertilizer. Check your soil’s overall pH level, too. The University of Georgia Extension recommends that it be between 6.2 and 6.8. The agency can check a soil sample for you (and give you a full nutrient profile to boot) for a small fee. Or you can pick up a $20 probe sensor that will measure pH, light and moisture.

Aim for about two inches of water per week. Use your head here: if it’s slated to rain in a few days, maybe skip the watering unless

the plants are really parched. If it pounds rain for two days straight? Well, that’s what they call an “act of God” in the insurance business. Not much you can do about it, unless you’re the praying type.

Critter Gitters

The list of insect pests is long, but most people find hornworms the most meddlesome. When we were just growing at home, we had them aplenty, and we tracked them down by hand. It’s not elegant. Look for the black dusting of poop on the leaves, then move your gaze up until you find the worm nom-noming on the plant. Then throw it in the street for the birds, as some recompense for denying them tomatoes. Check daily or risk losing a whole plant overnight to these very hungry caterpillars.

We haven’t found the first hornworm at the farm, and I can’t tell you why. Maybe our overarching treatment for insects keeps them at bay. We do a two-part regimen of organic-approved sprays. The first is bacillus turingiensis, or just “Bt.” The second is oil from the seeds of the neem tree. Neem oil has a bitter, sulfury taste that most bugs hate, but it doesn’t linger on the plant or penetrate the fruit. We apply one of the sprays each week, alternating between them.

That covers the so-called basics, but I’m just scratching the surface. There’s a lot to learn about disease-resistant varieties, determinate versus indeterminate plants and heirloom or hybrids.

But learning is easier on a full stomach. For now, let’s settle for just getting something ready for that first BLT sandwich. C

Freelance writer Brad Barnes was a journalist for 17 years and a marketing expert for 9 years before he and his wife, Jenn, started Dew Point Farm in MidTown Columbus in 2019. You can email him at, and he’ll get back to you after he’s washed his hands.

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ccasionally we hear about celebrities like Bruce Willis or John Travolta coming to town for a few weeks to make a film. While it’s easy to be starstruck by such things, the true lifeblood of a regional filmmaking community is the local talent: the writers, directors, cinematographers and actors living right here in Columbus and surrounding communities. Ever wonder what our local film world looks like for a true indie filmmaker?

Paul Rowe is a Columbus resident. He’s placed in the top two percent in the Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition and the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards. He currently has three feature film screenplays “under option” with production companies or individuals interested in turning them into motion pictures. When I ask him if he’s driving a Bentley and has a home in the Hollywood Hills, he laughs. “For one of these projects to be greenlit would be a miracle, and miracles only happen

so often unless you’re someone like Martin Scorsese. The metric is eight years for a screenwriter to break into the business.”

When I first met Paul at one of the monthly meetings of the Rankin Screenwriters, he and his writing comrades, Andy Carpenter and Andrew Gray, were solely interested in being screenwriters, not producers, directors, etc. Paul smiles at my recollection of that conversation. “Go and make your own stuff,” he says, acknowledging his change of world view. “I lean toward the lower budget microfilms. It’s another avenue to be creative that doesn’t require you to wait on someone else to greenlight your work.”

In February, Paul premiered Mother of Lost Things, a horror short film that he wrote, directed and produced. He took on some production duties for Andy Carpenter’s short film West of the New Kansas which was shot in historic Westville, Georgia. The Kickstarter campaign for that short film raised $15,000 for the required location shoot.

This spring and summer, Paul will be co-writing, producing and directing the feature anthology film A Southern Horror. The film is comprised of three different stories linked by a “wrap around” narrative. Think of it like a Southern-flavored Creepshow. The film will be shot in and around Columbus and will be released by Paul’s production company, Last Caress Productions. The Last Caress motto is “Horror with a Heart.” An Indiegogo fundraising campaign is underway now.

“We want it based in the South, the place that we live and love. Stories from down here. Stories that aren’t caricatures or stereotypes. There’s too much of that already,” Paul says.

When I ask Paul about making the jump from crowdfunded shorts to a crowdfunded feature, he answers without hesitation. “We need to be ambitious. We need to push ourselves. Always be leveling up. If you’re an aspiring filmmaker in a town like Columbus, you’ve got to find your tribe. That to me is how this film community is really going to grow.”

To that end Paul started Film Bar Mondays in Columbus. The meetings are held quarterly at a local bar/restaurant to give creatives an opportunity to network and learn about each other’s projects in development. The intent is to fill labor and creative needs through barter. You help me produce my short film or feature, and I’ll be the camera operator on yours. The concept began in Atlanta, spread to Savannah, and now Paul has brought the tradition to Columbus. The next meeting will be held on the last Monday in June. See you there. C

Scott Phillips is a Columbus resident and serves as the President of the Southeastern Film Critics Association. His reviews and other work can be found at

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The Dragonfly Trails current map includes 34 connected miles throughout Columbus with plans to extend by more than 70 miles.

A Connected Community


TThe world reveals itself to those who travel on foot … or by mountain bike … or led by a dog on a leash. For those in the Chattahoochee Valley seeking beauty and adventure, the Dragonfly Trail Network promises a new path of discovery.

The Dragonfly Trails consists of 34 miles of interconnected trails—including the Riverwalk and Fall Line Trace—with direct access to Uptown, Fort Moore and North Columbus.

Just the Beginning

Dragonfly Trails, a non-profit organization that entered a public-private partnership with the City of Columbus in

2015, has a 70-plus-mile master plan it hopes to complete within the next 10 years to extend the trail across Columbus.

Connectivity creates a sense of belonging, of being a part of something greater. That idea is what the Dragonfly Network wants to foster.

“When you’re building trails, the goal is connectivity,” said Becca Zajac, executive director of Dragonfly Trail Network. “To have isolated trails, that don’t connect to each other or to destinations, is really not ideal. So here we are in Columbus with two 10-mile trails—having one is impressive, but two is almost unheard of—and to be missing a mile and a half of


Recent Trail Additions

• Linwood Connector at 1.4 miles completed in 2018

• MLK Jr. Trail at 1.9 miles completed in 2019

• RiverWalk ramp expansion at 1.5 miles completed in 2022

• 11th Street underpass at 1.5 miles completed in 2022

Future Trail Additions


• Midtown, Dinglewood Park Trail at 1 mile

• River Road Connector at 1 mile

• 5th Avenue Connector (14th Street to 10th Street) at 1 mile


• Midtown, Lakebottom Park Trail at 1 mile

• Midtown, Fall Line Trace Connector at 1 mile

• Follow Me Trail Extension

2026 & BEYOND

• Fall Line Trace Extension to Harris County

• Bull Creek Trail

• Elliot’s Walk Trail

connection is insane.”

Dragonfly Trails exists today because of the RiverWalk and the Fall Line Trace, which was an old railroad line that ran for roughly 10 miles and was repurposed as a hiking/biking trail.

“The RiverWalk is really the area’s most beautiful utility road,” Zajac said. “Back in the ‘80s, Columbus Water Works needed to create a new infrastructure. Thanks to some true visionaries, they built it along the Chattahoochee River, making it pedestrianfriendly. The RiverWalk totally reimagined what a riverbank could be.

“That all changed people’s perception of what trail building could be.”

Both trails—each about 10 miles long—were already in place with only a couple of miles separating them.

In 2016, representatives from the Atlantabased PATH Foundation, which has designed “some of the most significant trails in the Southeast,” visited Columbus to evaluate the potential for a trail system.

“They created a master plan, and that’s what we’re still using today,” Zajac said. “It has about 70 miles of trails, and we’re at about 34 that have been built.”

That master plan and the mileage will increase dramatically with the passage of the most recent T-SPLOST sales tax. Of the 16 road

projects in Columbus that were approved, all have a trails component attached.

“That means, if they’re building a road or repaving a road as part of T-SPLOST, there will be a trail adjacent,” Zajac said. “That’s huge for us. So, we say a 70-mile master plan, but it could end up being closer to 100. We just don’t have the exact mileage.”

Those final pieces will hopefully be designed and built over the next 10 years. As part of their partnership, Dragonfly funds the design and engineering costs, which is generally 10 percent of the overall cost, while the city covers the construction. “Trail building is just a slow process,” Zajac said.

Currently, there are two trail pieces that will go into construction this year. The first is about a mile-long extension that runs along the northern part of the RiverWalk, basically from Lake Oliver to the River Road and Bradley Park Drive roundabout. The second is a milelong extension of the existing 10th Avenue Connector that will run east, then north toward the backyard of The Columbus Museum, around Jarfly and through Dinglewood Park to end at Lakebottom.

The Dragonfly Trail Network is also developing trails outside of Columbus. The group is working with Cherokee County and Phenix City, which recently applied for a grant

The trails are mostly flat and shaded making it easy for all to enjoy.

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to extend their portion of the RiverWalk north to the Fall Line Trace into Harris County, which has a 13-mile rails-to-trail called the Man O’ War that opened in 2023.

“We’re working with them to bring our trail up,” Zajac said, “and they’re working to bring their trail south, so we can meet up.”

Trail users don’t necessarily know when they’re crossing state or county lines. And they don’t really care.

“That’s the beauty of what this region is going through,” Zajac said. “We’d love to have 100 miles of connected trails that lead through multiple states, cities and counties. That’s a dream scenario, and it’s really feasible.”

‘Great Trails Are About Great Destinations’

When asked to describe the partnership between the Dragonfly Trail Network and Fort Moore, Kirk Ticknor, director of public works for the installation, doesn’t hesitate.

“In one word?” he asked. “Collaboration. It’s all about the exchange of ideas.”

In 2017, Columbus launched Columbus 2025, a strategic plan to address some of

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Fall Line Trace section of the trail goes by Columbus State’s main campus, which is convenient for students, and even connects to the downtown campus.

the region’s most pressing issues while enhancing the quality of life for all its citizens. Fort Moore personnel served on various committees, including Ticknor, who worked on the Vibrant & Connected Spaces Committee with the objective of connecting people and places by expanding opportunities for walking, biking and transit. Ticknor submitted work orders to improve connectivity and accessibility through trails to the major destinations on Post.

“We really just started sharing ideas on how to improve our trails,” he said. Through his work with Columbus 2025, Ticknor became a volunteer board member for the Dragonfly Foundation, while advocating for the steady expansion and improvement of the 20-mile network known as the Fort Moore recreational trails.

“He totally gets it,” Zajac said of Ticknor. “He knows how much the soldiers and their families love those trails and want to be more connected with Columbus, so he’s building mile after mile out there.”

The recreational trail connects thousands of soldiers, their families and civilians to the Main Post and housing areas, and it features a historic tour of more than 40 sites from Fort Moore’s 100-year history. It also connects with the greater trail system of the City of Columbus.

Trail users can depart from Post Headquarters and travel uninterrupted across the installation to the 22-mile Chattahoochee Riverwalk trail, and the 11-mile Fall Line Trace activity trail.

Non-military people are allowed to use the trail as well. The entrance to Oxbow Meadow spells out the rules for biking or hiking on post.

“Basically, anybody with a driver’s license or with any form of official government ID can use the trail,” Ticknor said. “You just need an ID and a helmet. We try to be very welcoming to visitors, who can roll right on through the checkpoint.

“We don’t usually stop you, but we’re always watching.”

Fort Moore is at something of an advantage when it comes to building and extending its trails.

“Columbus has a more extensive network, but our process is much simpler because we own all the grounds,” Ticknor said. “We don’t have to go through all the zoning and real estate issues. We can basically draw a line on a map

Becca Zajac, executive director of Dragonfly Trail Network, spends a lot of time enjoying the trails.
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Several murals have been commissioned throughout the trail network, including this one by Trudy Tran and Vinh Quang Huynh at the 11th Street underpass.

and say, ‘This is where we want it,’ and it gets done.”

Ticknor added, “The Defense Community Resilience Program at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government at the University of Georgia has recently been assisting us with some conceptual plans related to our trail system. These conceptual plans are being developed by students as part of their degree program. Furthermore, our very first trail master plan was conceptually designed by some University of Georgia engineering students as part of their senior capstone project approximately 10 years ago. They worked hand in hand with our master planner to develop the plan.

The recreation trail is a huge draw for the soldiers and their families. “It’s always cited as one of their favorite amenities,” Ticknor said. “It connects them with each other and with other areas because they’re so close to Columbus.”

Half of the base’s 4,000 housing units are in neighborhoods that are directly connected to the trail system. “And in the next five to 10 years, we intend to connect the other half.”

The beauty of the Dragonfly is that everybody could be a trail user. Though it’s normally viewed as recreational—to ride bikes, or jog or walk their dogs— Zajac has witnessed a shift with people choosing to use trails for transportation: to get to their jobs, to school or to get groceries.

“In the future, I’d love to see us move away from such a carcentric view of the community,” she said. “I want us to someday have such a robust network that people realize, ‘Oh, it’s just quicker and more efficient to use the trail,’ not even thinking about the exercise component, but just that it makes more sense.”

Can be found at: Barnes & Noble Columbus Museum Dinglewood Pharmacy Durham’s Pharmacy Galleria Judy Bug Books Marriott Midtown Medical Center Gift Shop Pierce Crossing Convenience Store Piggly Wiggly Whitewater Express
MAY-JUNE 2024 Columbus and the Valley 53

Much Ado About Something...

State of the City

Spring has sprung, and with it, the annual State of the City luncheon, where Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson gave the huge crowd at CSU’s Cunningham Center the highlights on our city’s progress. It’s always interesting to hear straight from our leaders about how we’re moving forward.

This year’s event was packed with notable figures from across the region, making it quite the gathering. Phenix City Mayor Eddie Lowe was there, alongside Major General Curtis Buzzard and Chief of Staff Michael Dempsey from Fort Moore. In our community, it’s not that unusual to sit at the table with a General, but I felt like I should buy a lottery ticket after getting to sit with two generals, Major General (retired) Pat Donahoe and General (retired) Andy Hilmes, bringing some serious experience and stories to our table!

The room was full of familiar faces deeply invested in the entire region’s future. Audrey Tillman, Ben Moser and Amy Bryan, to name a few, were all ears, showing their support and engagement. Chris Woodruff, Wes Kelley, Dr. David Lewis, LaRae Moore, Will Thompson, Sean Knox and Shaun Culligan were also in attendance, each contributing to the positive vibe and focus on our region’s advancement.

The luncheon was a great reminder of the community and leadership we have in the tri-city area. With such active participation from various sectors—government, military and community leaders—it’s clear we’re all on the same page about moving forward. It’s this kind of collaboration and engagement that keeps our region on the right track.

An Artist’s and Artistic Wedding

Normally I don’t include weddings in my column—you need to see Columbus and the Valley’s wedding issue for all those lovely events—but when a nationally-known Columbus artist gets married, it does pique my interest. It was anything but a typical wedding as Evelyn Henson married Johnny Kyger in April. Evelyn, the daughter of Ken and Chris Henson, was born and grew up in Columbus.

You may not recognize her name, but surely you’ve seen her largest piece of work in Columbus—the Confetti Hearts* mural on 2nd Avenue, right across from the post office. The wedding reflected the artist’s philosophy that “painting is a celebration of life” with the bridesmaids wearing all different dresses from sequined hot pink long sheath and lavender ruffled chiffon to delicate floral asymmetrical boho and a chartreuse taffeta silk ball gown. It was a very artistic tableau—looked stunning and even more gorgeous in the photos taken by uber photographer Eliza Morrill. Almost everything about the wedding reflected Evelyn’s artwork, starting with the beautiful design of the wedding invitations (the most lovely invitations I’ve ever seen!), continuing with the hand-designed wedding program, artist-designed monogrammed cocktail napkins with the same monogram on

the wedding favor cookies, and the floral pattern design-onfabric tablecloths at the reception. This woman is living her art! Glorious blessings on an artful marriage together.

*There are three other Confetti Hearts murals in Columbus schools, where students and local folks got to get in touch with their inner artists—Dimon Magnet Academy, River Road Elementary and Fox Elementary.

70 Years of Armistice

This year marked a significant milestone with the 70th anniversary of the U.S. Korean armistice. To commemorate that anniversary, Columbus State University (CSU) rose to the occasion by hosting a year-long lecture series that brought the community and experts together to dive deep into U.S./Korean relations. Having caught the final lecture of the series, I’m kicking myself for missing the earlier discussions!

The last session turned the spotlight on the Economic Relations and Impact on Georgia’s topic that hits close to home with the presence of multiple Korean businesses in our state. The panel featured an impressive lineup: the Honorable Consular General Ambassador Sangpyo Suh from Korea (based in Atlanta), Stuart Countess, President and CEO of Kia Georgia; U.S. Representative Drew Ferguson; and Troy Stangarone, a Senior Director and Fellow at the Korea Economic Institute. CSU professor, Dr. Gisung Moon, with his expert moderation, ensured the discussion was both enlightening and engaging.

The audience was as illustrious as the panel, with community leaders like Joel Wooten, Ben Moser, Dr. Deb Kidder, Betsy Covington and CSU President Dr. Stuart Rayfield who brought greetings to the full house. The series, a brainchild of Dr. David Kieran and Major General Pat Donahoe, wouldn’t have been possible without the support from the Hallock Endowment for Military History at CSU, courtesy of the late Richard Hallock. It was delightful to see Mim Hallock looking so good—the first time I’ve seen her since COVID. Along with a whole contingency from Spring Harbor, including Mary Boyd Trussell, Bill Huff and Janice Van Meter.

One standout moment came from CSU professor, Dr. Daewoo Lee, who shared that Koreans make up five percent of CSU’s faculty—a testament to the university’s diversity and its connection to the broader narrative of U.S.-Korea relations. It’s clear that CSU doesn’t just teach history; it actively engages with it, fostering a community that’s informed, curious and connected to the global stage. This lecture series was more than just educational—it was a reminder of the vibrant, interconnected world we live in and the roles we play in these international relationships. Here’s to more enlightening events like this at CSU.

Page One Award Winners

As the school year wraps, there’s always a buzz around the Page One Awards—an event that has become synonymous with excellence in our region. It’s the night where the spotlight

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shines bright on the future leaders emerging from our high schools, celebrating 234 of the most brilliant minds and dedicated students from across the Chattahoochee Valley. In its 49th year, the Page One Awards program remains one of the most high-profile, prestigious award ceremonies in the region, recognizing high school seniors who have demonstrated exemplary achievement and high school teachers who are outstanding in their profession. Nominees are among the most talented and gifted high school seniors in the region—students who have distinguished themselves with exceptional character, service, leadership and scholarship. They belong to dozens of honor societies; have leadership positions in more than 400 clubs, organizations, community groups, faith communities and non-profits. They are smart, creative and brave; they have part-time jobs; they tutor; they volunteer; they organize; they right wrongs; they do good!

Community-minded sponsors are what make the Page One program possible, and no one’s bigger than Piedmont Columbus Regional, the unwavering Presenting Partner. President and CEO, Scott Hill and his team have been the backbone of this event for over a decade, playing a crucial role in making the awards what they are today. And we are most grateful for Aflac, the Cornerstone Partner in their second year, whose support has been a game-changer.

The Page One Awards are a collaborative triumph, with partners like Columbus State University, Columbus Technical College, RiverCenter, FABArts, the Ledger-Enquirer and Media, Marketing … and More! ensuring the tradition continues to celebrate the hard work and achievements of the students and teachers in the Chattahoochee Valley. Congratulations to all the nominees and a special shoutout to the winners and runners-up.

It’s clear that our community thrives when we come together to support and recognize the young people who are shaping our future. Here’s to the Page One Awards—a beacon of excellence that reminds us what we can accomplish together.

Heroes and Servant Leaders

It’s with great sadness that I note two deaths of people I frequently mentioned in this column over the years. Richard Smith was a long-time community servant; a county extension agent, interim City Manager, Columbus Councilor, and for the last two decades served as this area’s Representative in the Georgia Legislature, where he presided with a gentle hand as the Chair of the all-powerful Rules Committee. Richard was the President of the Chattahoochee Valley Fair and Exposition, a founding member of the Chattahoochee Valley Community Foundation and a long-time board member of the Muscogee Educational Excellence Foundation. He was a true champion of our community. His leadership … and his heart will be greatly missed.

‘Hero’ is not a moniker to be taken lightly, but there’s no other way to describe

2024 Page One Award Winners

Art- Madison Greenwood, Columbus Athletics- Anna Grace Griggs, Glenwood Columbus Technical College Career and Technology- Arha Gandhi, Columbus Citizenship- Lance Peterson, Smiths Station RiverCenter Drama- Louisa Oduro, Central English and Literature- Paige White, Northside Foreign Language- Riley Yates, Columbus Columbus State University General ScholarshipSara Frances Adams, Brookstone Ledger-Enquirer Journalism- Mia Bell, Central Mathematics- Raymond Yao, Columbus FABArts Music- Prince-Roshawn Williams, Kendrick Science- Tanay Pathakamuri, Columbus

Social Science- Landon Teel, Northside Top Teacher- Jeremy McCrary, Kendrick


Art- LiLi Kalish, Brookstone

Athletics- Tyler Nguyen, Columbus Columbus Technical College Career and Technology- Haley Wilson, Central Citizenship- Foster Lambertus, Northside RiverCenter Drama- Liliana Perez, Shaw English and Literature- Grace Johnson, Columbus

Foreign Language- Sophia Boyanchek, Brookstone

Columbus State University General ScholarshipLacandra Davis, G.W. Carver

Ledger-Enquirer Journalism- August Mobley, Columbus

Mathematics- Om Patel, Harris County FABArts Music- Azehia Lewis, Jordan Vocational College and Career Academy

Science- Nicholas Sasser, Central Social Science- Sandra Njama, Spencer

Top Teachers- Cherine Cobb, Jordan Vocational College and Career Academy and Tamela Ransom, G.W. Carver

Colonel Ralph Puckett. Lauded for his bravery and courage (and dedication to his troops) during the Korean War, Ralph was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Joe Biden in 2021, an honor he never sought, but so richly deserved. As a military leader, Ralph continued to support all things for troops, but he was also interested in people and what makes them tick, frequently engaging in long discussions about “what we are fighting for.” While he might have disagreed with you about something in our country, he frequently said “I fought for the right for you to speak out freely.” He was a gentleman and a scholar, as well as a beautiful human being. C

Marquette McRae McKnight is the owner of Media, Marketing, and More! Inc., a full service public relations firm. She may be reached at 706-660-9702 or at

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Page One Award nominees for citizenship gather on stage.

Valley Scenes

Toast of the Town

The CSO’s annual Toast of the Town fundraiser was held on Friday, March 1, 2024 at the Columbus Georgia Convention and Trade Center. The sold out event allowed guests to savor world-class wines, handcrafted beers and delicious Southern spirits and dine on food prepared by some of the region’s most celebrated chefs, all while mingling with the contributing brewmasters, vintners, master-distillers and culinary luminaries. A silent auction was filled with a variety of wines, hard-to-find bourbons, experiences, art and unique treasures. The Columbus Symphony Orchestra (CSO) is the second orchestra formed in the United States and has produced masterful music for the citizens of the Chattahoochee Valley since 1855. Funds raised through the Toast of the Town provide vital financial support needed to support the CSO’s artistic and education outreach initiatives.

Columbus and the Valley will publish as many photos as quality and space permit. Black and white or color photos may be used. Please identify all subjects with a brief description of the event and the date. Mail them to: CVM, P.O. Box 229, Columbus, GA 31902. Email them to: Columbus and the Valley assumes no responsibility for care and return of photographs submitted.

Judicial Center


On April 4, Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson welcomed community leaders, partners and residents to celebrate the start of this important project. The state-of-the-art facility with modern amenities and advanced technology will serve the ever- evolving needs of our local government.

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Highland Galerie Reopens in New Space

Friends and family joined Elizabeth Cliatt and Landy Cartledge for their grand reopening at An Evening with Highland Galerie. The art gallery’s doors are now open at the new location on Second Avenue.

Local Chi Omegas Hold Annual Make-A-Wish Fundraiser

The Columbus Area Chi Omega Alumni Chapter held its annual fundraiser for Make-A-Wish at Divine Dinners. Members present included: (front row, L-R) Elizabeth Calhoun, Kathleen Mullins, Lori Cooper, Cathy Bickerstaff, Kathy Chancellor, Nancy Prohaska, (back row, L-R) Jill Tigner, Carol Kirven, Ginger Starling Ollman, Julie Gilstrap, Karen Hopkins and Jenni Foster.

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Springer Opera House Janice Biggers

Portrait Dedication

Janice Biggers and her two greatgranddaughters Florence (L) and Elizabeth (R) Trotter pose with her new portrait and the portrait of Dot McClure in the background. “I had the pleasure and privilege of painting this portrait of Janice Biggers, my longtime friend and hometown hero. It was unveiled today at the Springer Opera House, state theatre of Georgia, in recognition of her many contributions to this venerable Institution. Both Janice and the Springer have served Columbus well over these many years.”

-Garry Pound

Keep Columbus Beautiful Commission Received Governor’s Circle Award

Keep Columbus Beautiful Commission recently received a 2023 Governor’s Circle Award for its outstanding achievements in community beautification and environmental sustainability. The Keep Georgia Beautiful Foundation (KGBF) presented the award to Keep Columbus Beautiful Commission Lisa Thomas-Cutts, executive director in recognition of exemplary performance in litter reduction, waste minimization and community greening.

Columbus Police Officer Named First Friday Hero

Piedmont Columbus Regional has named Officer Shane Abreo with the Columbus Police Department the organization’s First Friday Hero for the month of March. Officer Abreo was patrolling a shopping center in South Columbus when he was approached by a man frantically saying someone wasn’t breathing inside his car. Officer Abreo saw an infant in the back seat and called for EMS. He took the baby and performed lifesaving measures. Officer Abreo was able to clear the baby’s airway before EMS arrived on-scene. His actions saved the baby’s life and prevented possible brain damage.

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State of the City

Harris County School District

Welcomes New Superintendent

Upon being formally announced as the next superintendent for the Harris County School District, Dr. Justin Finney stands with the members of the Harris County Board of Education in the historic building on February 27, 2024. (L-R) Scott Greene, Harry Proctor, Shane Lipp, Bridgett Oliver, Dr. Justin Finney, Dr. Monica Sparks, Garnett Ray (chair) and Steve Goodnoe (vice chair)
60 Columbus and the Valley MAY-JUNE 2024
Carter Schondelmeyer of Page Scrantom introduced Mayor Skip Henderson at the Columbus Georgia Chamber of Commerce annual State of the City event.

Jack and Jill Beaux Presented

Columbus Georgia Chapter of Jack and Jill of America, Inc.

Beautillion Ball Class of 2023 presented 35 great young men symbolizing black excellence.

Front Row (L-R): William Little, III, Junior at Hardaway; Aaden Williams, Junior at Harris County; Gabriel Myers, Junior at Columbus; Joseph Dawson, Senior at St. Anne-Pacelli; Quentin Barber, Senior at St. Anne-Pacelli; Elijah Hatter, Junior at Northside; Jackson Close, Junior at Northside; Ja’Tavious Wisdom, Junior at G.W. Carver; Khalil Luttrell, Senior at Hardaway; Harrison Black, Senior at Hardaway

Middle Row (L-R): Noah Coleman, Senior at Columbus; Kenyen Hardy, Senior at Hardaway; Trenton Latham, Junior at St. Anne-Pacelli; Elijah Brooks, Senior at Hardaway; Skyler Williams, Senior at Harris County; Mataye Youman, Senior at Harris County; Jaiden Harper, Junior at Northside; Omar Kimbrough, Senior at St. Anne-Pacelli; Bryson Stokes, Junior at G.W. Carver; Matthew Hill, Senior at Shaw; Robert Malone, II, Senior at Columbus

Back Row (L-R): Joshua McCain, Junior at Chattahoochee County; Keith Lafavor, Jr., Senior at Hardaway; D’Antarion Whitehead, Junior at Hardaway; William Taylor, Senior at Columbus; Jason Pernell, Junior at Northside; Joseph Baker, II, Senior at Columbus; Jailen Bush, Junior at St. Anne-Pacelli; Otis Lofton, Senior at Columbus; Treyvion Hightower, Senior at Hardaway; Carson Calhoun, Senior at Shaw

Not Pictured: Jesse “Nicholas” Averett; Deceased, was a rising senior at Columbus; Timothy Hill, Senior at Shaw; De’Sean Thomas, Junior at Spencer; Christian Youngs, Senior at Columbus

CVCC Hall of Fame Ceremony

Chattahoochee Valley Community College (CVCC) celebrated the induction of three distinguished individuals into the CVCC Hall of Fame during its 10th annual gala at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center. Recognized by the Chattahoochee Valley Community College Foundation, this year’s inductees included Dr. Lorenza Pharrams, Distinguished Alumnus; Lynne Greene Frakes, Distinguished Service Award; and Steve O’Steen, Distinguished Athlete. President Screws presented Foundation Board Chair Roz Durden with the prestigious President’s Award, acknowledging her exceptional service to CVCC and the Foundation Board.

CVCC President Jackie Screws (L) with Foundation Board Chair Roz Durden (L-R) Inductees Dr. Lorenza Pharrams, Steve O’Steen and Lynne Greene Frakes with CVCC President Jackie Screws
MAY-JUNE 2024 Columbus and the Valley 61

Dining Guide

62 Columbus and the Valley MAY-JUNE 2024

Big Mama Vietnam Kitchen

Big Mama’s is proud to serve you fresh, homemade food made with local ingredients that you are sure to love. Our specialty involves healthy cuisine with plenty of fresh vegetables and a variety of flavorful spices.

Tu-F 11AM-3PM, 5PM-9PM, Sa-Su 11AM-9PM

5300 Sidney Simons Blvd., Unit 14

Country’s Barbecue

Real Barbecue Slow Cooked Over Hickory and Oak. Casual dress, takeout, catering, kids’ menu.

Su-Sa 11AM-10PM Mercury Dr., 706.563.7604

Broadway/14th St., 706.596.8910

Veterans Pkwy., 706.660.1415

Fountain City Coffee at Banks Food Hall

FCC's second location located in Bank's Food Hall. Serving up made from scratch baked goods and delicious sandwiches daily in the heart of Columbus.

M-Th 8AM-6PM, F-Su 8AM-8PM 1002 Bay Ave. • 762.524.7774

Mellow Mushroom

The combination of a great menu, hand-tossed dough, fresh ingredients and friendly service makes the Mellow Mushroom a must when you have a taste for pizza. Bring your group for a family-friendly dinner or join your friends in our comfortable neighborhood bar.

M-Th 11AM-9PM, F-Sa 11AM-10PM, Su 11AM-9PM. 6100 Veterans Pkwy. • 706.322.4602

Ruth Ann’s Restaurant

A Columbus tradition for families, friends and great food. Ruth Ann’s offers authentic Southern style lunches, and breakfast is served all day.

W-Su 6:30AM-2PM • 940 Veterans Pkwy. • 706.221.2154. Place your next takeout order at


A local favorite serving great, homemade food and drinks in a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere.

Su-Th 11AM-8 PM, F-Sa 11AM-9 PM 3123 Mercury Drive • 706.561.0411

Uptown Vietnam Cuisine

Uptown Vietnam Cuisine offers authentic, traditional Vietnamese dishes that are both delicious and healthy, featuring fresh ingredients and a variety of flavorful spices. Dine-in, carry-out and party trays are available, as well as a 10 percent military discount.

M-F 10:30AM-3PM & 5-9PM, Sa 11AM-9PM • Closed Sunday. 1250 Broadway • 706.576.9922

Wasabi Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar

Traditional Japanese cuisine with hibachi grill tops and fresh sushi. Come and try our flavorful and fresh ingredients.

Su-Th 11AM-9PM, F-Sa 11AM-10PM 1808 Manchester Expy 706.642.0888

Dine in or order online at

To have your restaurant featured here, contact Margie Richardson at 706.575.7825

MAY-JUNE 2024 Columbus and the Valley 63

The Cotillion Club of Columbus Announces 20 New Members for 2024

Introducing the 2024 debutantes who will be presented at The Wynn House Heritage Ball. The ball benefits the preservation of The Wynn House.

Sara Gordy Hill President

Marianna Swift Branch Co-Vice President

Spence Jennings Berard PARENTS

Mr. and Mrs. Leo Stewart Berard SCHOOL Auburn University

Anna Grayson Dykes PARENTS

Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Hayes Dykes III

SCHOOL Samford University

Officers of the Cotillion Club:

Carter Elizabeth Hudson Co-Vice President

Rebecca Jordan Calhoun Corresponding Secretary

Kathryn Louise Brown PARENTS

Mrs. Lynn Bowers Averett and Mr. Dustin Thomas Brown

SCHOOL Auburn University

Grace Elizabeth Farrar PARENTS

Mr. and Mrs. James Roger Farrar

SCHOOL University of Georgia

Anita Katherine Scarborough Social Secretary

Mildred Collins Rustin Treasurer

Callaway Laurie Champion PARENTS

Dr. and Mrs. Hunter Clay Champion

SCHOOL University of Georgia

Mackenzie Laine Harris PARENTS

Dr. and Mrs. Jay Allen Harris

SCHOOL University of Georgia

Frances Wheat Cottrell PARENTS

Mr. and Mrs. Chad Tremayne Cottrell

SCHOOL Pepperdine University

Anna Kathryn Helton


Dr. and Mrs. Brett Denman Helton

SCHOOL University of Georgia

64 Columbus and the Valley MAY-JUNE 2024

Lucy Elizabeth Jones PARENTS

Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Floyd Jones SCHOOL University of Mississippi

Elizabeth Patricia Norman PARENTS

Mr. and Mrs. Steven Rae Norman, Jr. SCHOOL University of Alabama

Mary Virginia Sluder


Mr. and Mrs. Michael Scott Sluder SCHOOL University of Alabama

Ella Kay Lane


Mr. and Mrs. Mark James Lane SCHOOL University of Georgia

Helen Franklin Prince


Mrs. Claire Tillery Prince and Mr. David Franklin Prince, Jr. SCHOOL University of Alabama

Abigail Lee Tillery


Mr. and Mrs. Robert Allen Tillery, Jr. SCHOOL University of Alabama

Isabel Diann Livingston PARENTS

Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Scott Livingston SCHOOL University of Kentucky

Ann Simmons Raines PARENTS

Mr. and Mrs. Robert Alanson Raines SCHOOL University of Alabama

Elliott Bradley Tommey


Mr. and Mrs. Frank Sheram Tommey SCHOOL Samford University

Sarah Katherine McKinstry PARENTS

Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Scott McKinstry SCHOOL University of North Georgia

Mary Frances Sessions PARENTS

Mr. and Mrs. Lee Moultrie Sessions III SCHOOL University of Georgia

Ruth McKnight Wade


Mr. Travis Fitzgerald Wade and the late Mitchi McKnight Wade SCHOOL Georgia Tech

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