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abbeville An In-Depth Look at Your Community

DOTHAN EAGLE • Thursday, July 18, 2013


W E L C O M E T O A B B E V ILLE 2013






City and County Resources:

Henry County Sheriff’s Department . . . . 585-3131

Comcast . . . . . . . . . . . 866-950-4945

Abbeville Fire Department . . . . . . . . . . . 585-2000

Abbeville Chamber of Commerce . . . . . . . . . . 585-2273

Abbeville EMS . . . . . . . . . 585-3131

Henry County E911 . . . . . . . . 585-1911 • 585-6702

Henry County Probate Judge . . . . . . . . . 585-3257 Alabama Power . . . . . . . . 585-2130 Southeast Alabama Gas . . . . . . . . . . 585-3138

Abbeville Ambulance Service . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 585-3338 Henry County Emergency MGMT . . . . . 585-2000

CenturyTel . . . . . . . . . 800-207-4099

MAYOR JAMES GIGANTI . . . . . . . . . . 4 EDUCATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6-7 BUSINESS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8-9 PAULETTE RILEY. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10-11 DOGWOODS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

Publisher Alan Davis Asst. Advertising Brenda Crosby Manager Layout and Design Traci Rood Writer & Photography Shannon Clinton Ad Production Dothan Eagle Creative Services Advertising Sales Kyle Woodham

ARCHIE THEATRE . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 PAN COUNCIL . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14-15 YATTA ABBA . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 RECREATION . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 SENIOR CENTER . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

mayor M AY O R J A M E S G I G A N T I


W E L C O M E T O A B B E V ILLE 2013



im Giganti spent 28 years learning about Abbeville’s municipal operations as its city clerk, and now as its newly elected mayor, is looking to the city’s future with optimism. Giganti, an Abbeville native, was elected to a four-year term August 28, and took office November 5, 2012, after deciding his years as city clerk had amply prepared him for the role and its challenges. After weighing the decision for a while, and learning the incumbent mayor Ryan Blalock wasn’t seeking another term, “I decided I would throw my hat in the ring and off we went!” he said. Since taking office, one cost-saving measure Giganti has pursued is modifying the employee health insurance plan to save the city about $18,000 per year. “The biggest goals that I have is, one, making the city fiscally and financially stable, and then the other one is like most cities, we are really out looking for jobs for our residents,” he said. Population-wise, the city lost about 300 residents between 200 and 2010, now with about 2,700 residents total, Giganti noted. He hopes to encourage residents to stay and to move into the area through promoting tourism so visitors can see what the area has to offer, while also encouraging retirees to make their homes here, and fostering business development. “We’re a quiet town,” he said. “We don’t want to get huge, but we don’t want to keep losing people either, and become a ghost town.”

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He said about a decade ago the downtown area received a facelift, with new sidewalks and other improvements and in more recent years, some residential areas have followed suit. But aesthetics aside, Giganti said it’s the people of Abbeville who also make the town special and inviting. “The people here are very warm, they’re friendly,” he said. “They see visitors on the street, they stop and talk to them.”

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Abbeville, Alabama

Mayor Jim Giganti Mayor Pro Tempore Terry Allums Councilman Brendt Murphy Councilman Eddie L. Jones Councilman Billy Helms Councilwoman Betty Yoder Clerk-Treasurer Pam Ward

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education E D U C AT I O N


W E L C O M E T O A B B E V ILLE 2013


ne of the cornerstones of any community is the quality of its educational system, exposing students to new technologies and helping them prepare for higher education and future careers ahead. Two of Abbeville’s schools - Abbeville Elementary School and Abbeville HIgh School - fall under the Henry County Public Schools system while Abbeville Christian Academy is a private school. Principals with all three schools recently shared a bit about their learning institutions, and what makes each one special.

ABBEVILLE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL Abbeville Elementary School Principal Jill Barber said 500 students were enrolled at her school in the 2012-13 school year. The school has a yellow jacket mascot. Barber said the school prides itself on giving students hands-on science activities and a challenging math curriculum while fostering an early love of reading through its Accelerated Reader program. This program offers students incentives to read outside the classroom. The school has a new media center with computers for students’ use, and other interactive technologies are used in

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classrooms, she said. The physical education department is participating in a state initiative that enables students to use the Wii Fit program for exercise, launching late last year and continuing in the upcoming 2013-14 school year. Barber said when visitors arrive at the school they immediately notice a prevailing sense of order, in an environment where children can best learn. “We’re always complimented on the students ... very kind, courteous,” she said.

ABBEVILLE HIGH SCHOOL Dale Barnes has spent the past eight years as principal of Abbeville High School, and about 48 years in the school district itself as a

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student, teacher, coach, principal and assistant principal. The school was formed in 1889 as Southeast Alabama Agricultural School, one of only six such schools in the state operating as affiliates of Auburn University, then known as ABI Polytechnic. Today, there are about 428 students enrolled in grades 7-12, with a yellow jacket as the school mascot. Until about three years ago, the school housed only grades 9-12, Barnes said. A few new rooms have been added to the school in the past year, he noted. Barnes is a graduate of Abbeville High School, as are 17 out of about 40 staff members there, he said. “I guess you could say we are really a family because so many of our teachers and staff members have been graduates of Abbeville High School,” he said.



ACA won the AISA President’s Award in 2000-01, 2006-07, 2008-09, 2009-10, and 201011, Arrington said, and this award recognizes the best in academics, arts and other activities within certain categories. The school also earned the AISA Chairman’s Award for Class A Best Overall Athletic Program in 2002, and has been named a “Blue Ribbon School” for the past 12 consecutive years. “This classification is given by the AISA to schools that maintain a high level of excellence in the areas of student and teacher performance, facilities, student life, and community life,” Arrington said. ACA’s Student Government Association has been awarded the “Best SGA” award in 2010, 2011, and 2013. And for the past two years, two different ACA teachers earned the title of AISA “Teacher of the Year.” “At ACA a great education is offered in a safe and secure environment,” Arrington said. “With a strong faculty, the academic program is challenging yet attainable and all are encouraged to participate in extracurricular programs.”

Name Brand Home Furnishings ABBEVILLE CHRISTIAN ACADEMY Established in 1970, Abbeville Christian Academy (ACA) is a coeducational independent college preparatory school with 180 students in grades K4 – 12, said Headmaster Jim Arrington. It is governed by an elected 12-member board of directors, with members representing various areas of school and community life. ACA is an independent, non-profit, Christian based school that admits students of all races, nationalities, creeds and socioeconomic backgrounds, Arrington said, and is a member of or holds an accreditation status with: (AISA) Alabama Independent School Association, (SACS) Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the College Board, The American College Testing Program, The National Beta Club, Spanish National Honor Society, National Association of Secondary School Principals, and Abbeville Chamber of Commerce.


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business BUSINESS T 8


W E L C O M E T O A B B E V ILLE 2013

he Abbeville Chamber of Commerce, local leaders and the community combine efforts with merchants to ensure its business community remains healthy and growing. Abbeville Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Savoy said the business community as a whole for a town Abbeville’s size is much stronger and vibrant than those found in towns of comparable size. “I think being the county seat obviously helps in some regard, although you can look to other small towns in our area that are county seats and don’t necessarily have the same economic activity going on in their downtown areas,� he said. Through a mix of private and government funding, about 15 years ago a downtown revitalization project began, Savoy said, that included redoing sidewalks, planting trees and lighting upgrades. “I belive that kind of started the rebirth, if you will, of the downtown area.� When he’s looked at photos taken before and after the improvements, Savoy said, “It’s pretty amazing.� To keep the downtown area looking its best, Savoy said locally owned businesses are represented in the downtown and take pride in the district, doing a good job to keep their properties looking clean and maintained. As testament to the town’s varied health care offerings, Savoy points to a new dialysis clinic, Davita, that opened in Abbeville recently near Highways 27 and 431, joining other

facilities in the area that provide medical care, therapies and elder care services. “That was a nice addition to the community from a business standpoint but also their facility is beautiful,� he said of the new clinic. The chamber has launched an ongoing “Shop at Home� initiative encouraging people to consciously support local merchants. The effort includes promotional billboards on both ends of town to pull consumers off Highway 431, and a weekly article the chamber supports in the local paper spotlighting items that can be purchased locally. Savoy said in the future, the chamber and others are exploring the development of an arts council, hoping to turn a local building into

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Lester Killebrew, chairman of the chamber economic development committee, said in his own experience working with SunSouth, which has 19 locations, he knows what it’s like to work in other cities, and most don’t compare to what Abbeville has in its favor. “We have access to the quality of life in nearby large communities, yet we are able to maintain the values that make this a community worth working, living and raising families in,” he said. “Abbeville is a community that allowed us to start a business and grow it over the past 44 years. We are working hard to help Abbeville continue to be a place where people can get good jobs, build businesses and raise great Shown is a view from the Abbeville Chamber of Commerce building in downtown Abbeville. families.” a facility to support theater and the arts. Mayor Jim Giganti said his future goals include giving residents even more merchants from which to choose by attracting more retail businesses to open up shop in Abbeville. Doing so will create jobs, help boost city, state and county tax revenues and give residents and visitors more options to complement existing businesses’ services and wares, he said. “We want to bring different types of retail in so we’re not taking away from the existing retail that we have, but to provide … a better mix of items that you can buy here so you don’t have to go to Dothan and Eufaula and wherever to buy the goods that you want,” Giganti said.

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W E L C O M E T O A B BE V ILLE 2013




fter a career spent teaching art to high school students, Abbeville artist Paulette Riley continues to share her art with others, with many of her works shown and sold in galleries, used to promote the community and receiving acclaim. Riley is originally from Abbeville and currently lives there in her husband Buddy’s great-grandfather’s former home, which they remodeled to include an artist’s loft over the garage where she spends much of her time painting. After graduating from Troy University and marrying Buddy, his job took them to Montgomery, where the couple lived from 1969 to 2003 before moving back to the area - first to Dothan for three years, then back to Abbeville. While in Montgomery, Paulette taught art at Robert E. Lee High School, later transferring to the city’s arts magnet program, for which students had to auditon with a portfolio of their collected works. She taught advanced placement college-level studio art to these students. “What I loved about it is I had my students for two hours,” she said. She taught art for 25 years and retired in 1994. She wanted to focus more on her artwork, and joined a group of women renting studio space in Montgomery to pursue painting full time. While she has also painted using oils and acrylics and has studied different types of art during

art fellowships, she found her primary medium in an opaque watercolor style called “gouache.” Her favorite subject is portraiture painting, not with seated subjects painted, but finding people in everyday

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settings with interesting faces and stories to tell. She studies expressions and manners of dress while selecting subjects. “I work from photographs that I take,” she said. “Sometimes I am able to photograph them without knowing because you get them with their natural expression - body expression, facial expression.” On other occasions, she’ll talk to the person and ask permission to photograph them for use in her art. As Paulette became more active about promoting her artwork, more opportunities arose, and more recognition for her work. “I started having shows, entering shows,” she said. “The first year out of retirement I was fortunate enough to win best of show in the Louisiana National Watercolors Society, then I won best of show at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts” among other accolades over her career. She continued selling her artwork, as she had previously during summers off from teaching. In 2010, the Wiregrass Museum of Art purchased a paper sculpture she created, and her works are also featured in a gallery in Montgomery. She painted a wall mural at the Abbeville Memorial Library, and has created art for the town’s annual Yatta Abba Day festival featured on promotional T-shirts and prints.

Paulette explained a bit about the process of working on a new piece. “I think there are a lot of phases you go through when you’re working on a work of art and when I paint people the very first thing I do is I paint the eyes,” she said. “I do that because it kind of breathes life into this flat surface and it becomes more real. That’s a very satisfying moment for me when you take that flat piece of paper and it becomes very dimensional, it develops a personality.” She also enjoys when others appreciate her work and tell her what emotions that the art evokes within them. And she’s always on the lookout for new ideas. “You’re really always looking for it. Sometimes it just kind of hits you in the face and sometimes you’re out there looking for it and you find it but you’re always aware.”

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anners on light posts in and around Abbeville are emblazoned with the nickname, “City of Dogwoods,” with a graphic depicting the dogwood tree’s blossoms. But who decided on this longtime nickname for the city, and why does it remain today? Local historian Larry Smith said the Indian name for the area, “Yatta abba,” roughly translates to “stand of dogwoods.” There were once woods in the area that he said were covered in naturally growing dogwoods, though modern day timber operations have reduced them in number in most places, he said. But when early settlers arrived in the area, Smith said, “It was all heavily wooded,, they were probably all covered in dogwoods along the Yatta Abba Creek.” While the original dogwood stands may be gone today, many Abbeville residents still have dogwoods growing in their yards in keeping with the town’s name. “You ride around in the spring through Abbeville and you see a lot of beautiful dogwoods, downtown and in the neighborhoods, and still on the outskirts of the woods you still see some dogwoods,” Smith said. “There are quite a few people plant now,” Mayor Jim Giganti added. “Some are really old, others are newly planted.”

Signs around Abbeville refer to its nickname as the “City of Dogwoods.”

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.Larry Smith remembers watching

movies at the Archie Theatre in his youth, and as an adult has extensively researched the history of the historic building. Smith is the official historian of Henry County, a designation bestowed to him by the Henry County Commission in 2000. The theatre was named for a World War II hero, Archie Mansville Walker, Jr., who died at age 25 from wounds inflicted on D-Day in Normandy, Smith said. Although he and his mother, Bessie Dunn Walker, were from Fort Gaines, Ga., they eventually moved to Abbeville, where Bessie opened the theatre in July 1948 and The Archie Theatre is a fixture in downtown Abbeville named it for her late son. that has undergone exterior renovations in recent years. Bessie and her family owned a chain of about 20 theatres in three states. community theatre performances, he said. The first movie shown at the Archie “It’s a great building,” he said. “We Theatre was “Sitting Pretty,” starring have some of the original seats that were Maureen O’Hara, Robert Young and in it” and the original projectors. Clifton Webb, according to Smith’s research. The theatre had seats for 400 at floor level and 300 balcony seats. “It was segregated,” Smith said. “They 2 Casinos Every Friday had a balcony for black patrons.” • Branson, MO Larry attended Headland High School • Individual or Group Cruises but said he made several trips with friends to attend movies at the theatre, ADVENTURE primarily westerns. He said the theatre is TOURS BY PAT in the process of being restored by Great Southern Wood Preserving Founder Jimmy 1-800-237-4978 Rane. 334-585-5523 Abbeville Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Savoy said the theatre remains on the Rane family’s to-do list. larry w. mclean, d.m.d “It would remain under private ownership, but the dream is to renovate Comprehensive esthetic & inside and to show historic movies in it,” restorative dentistry he said. The family has also acquired adjacent 315 Kirkland Street buildings to the theatre, as it must be modernized to adhere to Americans with Abbeville, AL 36310 Disabilities Act standards. The building, (334) 585-5600 once renovated, could also be used for


pan Pcouncil AN COUNCIL




n offshoot of the Abbeville Matrons Club known as the Pan Council has recently formed, with members planning to pursue a range of community betterment projects. The Abbeville Matrons Club was organized and federated in 1920 by a committee from the Mothers’ Club, said two-year AMC member and Pan Council Chairman Fay Daugherty. Once a fairly exclusive group, now it’s no longer federated, there’s no age limit and the club maintains a quota of 25 members, she said. It’s a service club for the community, she said, with several committees with responsibilities that include chronicling club history and awarding annual scholarships to one public and one private school student. Other programs the club has are based around themes, such as the arts, public issues and international outreach, Daugherty said. Years ago, the Matrons Club formed a Pan Council but it was later disbanded for lack of interest, Daugherty said. This year, new Matrons Club President Eva Hicks decided to revamp some aspects of the club and among those, reinstated the committee known as Pan Council, with 30 members that in addition to four Matrons Club members, represent business, education, county and


city governments, churches, civic organizations and other facets of the community. Its mission, Daugherty said, is “To unite our community by promoting continued growth and interest in Abbeville through specific goal-oriented projects that will serve the citizens of this town.” The group meets quarterly at the chamber building in downtown Abbeville at 5 p.m. – council members met in March and June, and the next meeting will be September 23. Early on, the focus has been to explore fundraising sources for projects, Daugherty said. Some possible projects include beautifying the trail at the recreational park on Ozark Road, and refurbishing the local cultural arts center. “We would love to be able to fix that because it was really destroyed, or damaged, by the tornado that came through here a few years ago,” Daugherty said.

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Daugherty said that the word “Pan” means “everybody,” and in that spirit, this council will enable its members to pull together from all areas of the community toward common goals. “We have some great minds here in this town, and a lot of good ideas, and a lot of people who are willing to donate their time,” she said.

Matrons Club member Fay Daugherty is chairperson of a new committee, Pan Council, formed to pursue projects that will improve the community.

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ome may know that Yatta Abba Day is an annual festival held in the city of Abbeville, but where does its unusual name come from? Local historian Larry Smith said, “Yatta Abba Day is named for the Indian name of the nearby creek called the Yatta Abba Creek. And in Creek Indian language that translates to ‘a stand of dogwoods,’ so that has not been proven, but that is tradition.” Also, he notes, the origination of the name Abbeville sounds like “Abba,” but over time the spelling likely changed as early pronunciations may have sounded different to various settlers in the area. “It’s been spelled several different ways but the final name in the last 75, 100 years has been ‘Yatta Abba,’” Smith said. As for the origins of the festival, Abbeville Mayor Jim Giganti said it’s primarily an effort of the Abbeville Chamber of Commerce with some participation from the city, to celebrate the town’s heritage. The event was first held in May but in recent years has been held in April. Though festival organizers have changed the lineup of events since Yatta Abba Day made its debut in 2009, with street dances and sock hops held in the past and a pageant that was new to this year’s lineup, the event has remained downtown and many vendors come year after year to sell their food and other items, Giganti said. Local artist Paulette Riley has designed T-shirts for the festival since its inception that pay tribute to some aspect of the town, often nostalgic sites that are no longer in existence but are remembered by many, such

Shown are T-shirt designs from every year of Yatta Abba Day festivals. The annual spring has been held since 2009 to showcase the city’s heritage.

as the drive-in movie theater and old courthouse. The festival is something for newcomers and residents alike to enjoy. “It’s just a fun day to bring people together,” Riley said. Murphy’s station paint p & Body Works inc.

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dding to the quality of life for Abbeville-area residents are its parks and recreational programs, with a few new additions kicking off this year. The city operates three parks: Girard Park, Abbeville Recreation Complex – or ARC – on Highway 27, and Armory Ballpark, said City Recreation Director Danny Creel. Park amenities include a playground and outdoor basketball courts at Girard Park, while the Armory Ballpark’s fields are used for Dixie minors and majors leagues and for use by Abbeville High School’s team. In fact, in June the Armory Ballpark was the host site for boys’ District Six Dixie Minors, Creel said. Armory Ballpark also has a basketball gym where the city’s recreational league plays, Creel added. ARC has tennis courts and three softball fields where girls’ teams play. Keeping facilities maintained and sports programs with wide appeal are important. Last year, Creel said, the city’s softball fields were resurfaced with clay, with help from the county. And there are new programs that are being added, he said. “We’re going to try to do rec league volleyball this summer and we’re also going to try to do adult kickball,” that will include co-ed teams and is set to debut in September, Creel said. “I’ve had a lot of interest. I’ve talked to a lot of people in town about it.” Creel said having a strong parks system especially benefits youth both in the city and in Henry County, adding that the city’s basketball program is one of the most popular of its offerings. As well as opportunities for exercise and for fun, participation in city sports leagues also teaches youth positive life skills, he said. “The main thing is it teaches our kids to work with others,” he said. “That’s one thing we really stress with our coaches, work with your kids to stress the importance of teamwork” and the coaches do a great job of conveying that. An upcoming recreation department

Recreation in Abbeville includes youth sports, a playground and now in development, an adult kickball league. change includes holding baseball camp in January next year, Creel said, with exact dates to be announced. For more information about recreation in Abbeville, visit the city’s web page at

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n a recent Friday morning, the Abbeville Senior Center sounded more like a dance club, with songs like “The Electric Slide” and “The Cha Cha Slide” mingling with the laughter from seniors showing off their latest moves and grooves. Dancing right along with them was Amanda Gamble, a native of the area and director at the center for the past three years. The center opened January 4, 1977, she said, and on any given day sends out 18 meals to homebound people and serves 24 meals on site. There are daily activities for senior center members to enjoy like bingo - with prizes for winners - and periodic field trips to parks for fishing and picnicking. The center also holds monthly birthday celebrations for members, who are 60 and older and hail from Abbeville and surrounding areas. Transportation is provided to those who live in the city. Gamble is teaching an acrylic painting class for members this year, and tablet computers will be purchased for seniors to learn how to use. A Bingo Bash brought different senior centers together earlier this summer to play bingo. Members can receive help with a variety of needs, either from services based in the center’s office or by connecting them with other area organizations and service providers, Gamble said, including helping obtain food stamps and farmer’s market coupons and receive assistance with utilities, among other services, Gamble said. Center funding is provided by SARCOA, the city of Abbeville and private donations, Gamble said, adding that the mayor and city council are very supportive of the facility. “Anytime there’s anything that we need, they

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Members of the Abbeville Senior Center dance with director Amanda Gamble to modern dance favorites and classics like “Jailhouse Rock” and “The Twist.”

do anything they can to help us,” she said. Gamble said she gets phone calls often from older people who are desperate for socialization and need something to look forward to and a reason to get out of the house. The center provides that for them, she said. “The reason that I enjoy my job most is because I picture myself being a senior one day,” she said. “I see all of the needs that they have, and I pray that someone will help me in that way, so I try to give them all the help possible.”

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