LIVE Lee - The Joys of Summer

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Ann Cipperly Emily Key Tucker Massey Amy Matthews Kara Mautz Evan Mealins Natalie Salvatore

Michelle Key, Publisher Originally from Albertville, Alabama, Michelle Key and her family moved to the Opelika-Auburn area in 2011 after her husband’s retirement from the U.S. Navy. She is a graduate of Troy University, and she joined The Observer in 2014 as an office administrator before assuming ownership of the newspaper in January 2018.

Rita Smith

DESIGN / LAYOUT Kendyl Hollingsworth Michelle Key Hannah Lester


Hannah Lester, LIVE Lee Editor Hannah Lester is an Auburn University 2019 journalism graduate who is originally from Birmingham. She started with The Observer in July 2020 and began as the associate editor for the LIVE Lee Magazine. She assigns, writes and edits pieces for the magazine, as well as helps to design the pages. She was named editor of LIVE Lee in July 2021.

Rena Smith

PHOTOGRAPHY Marcia Hillsman Kendyl Hollingsworth Becky Jones

Wil Crews, The Observer Sports Editor Wil Crews is an Auburn University 2020 journalism graduate originally from Prattville, Alabama. He works as The Observer’s sports editor and assists in developing the weekly paper and LIVE Lee Magazine.

Emily Key Hannah Lester Amy Matthews Ed Sikora Ellen Wagner Photo

CONTACT US Key Media, LLC 223 S. 8th St., Opelika Phone: 334-749-8003


is a publication created by

Kendyl Hollingsworth, Staff Reporter Kendyl Hollingsworth is a Huntsville native and 2018 journalism graduate of Auburn University. She interned at The Observer in early 2018 before returning to north Alabama to work at two newspapers and a magazine. Following a brief hiatus to serve as a missionary, Kendyl has returned to The Observer and LIVE Lee to help tell the unique stories of people across Lee County.

Robert Noles, Photographer Robert Noles is an award-winning photojournalist who has been with The Observer for more than 10 years. Originally from Tallassee, he is a graduate of Alabama Christian College and Auburn University.

Key Media, LLC.




From The Editor

ummer is here! I don’t know about you but I’ve already taken one trip to the beach, with at least two more planned out! There will be pool days, lake days, walks on Samford lawn, ice cream and beautiful summer sunsets. I have two weddings to attend and packed weekends with family! And I can’t wait. To be honest with you, I think fall is my favorite season, but I love summer. I think everyone loves summer. Because let’s be honest, even when the days of “summer vacation” are long gone … we remember the feeling of that last day of class, that last project turned in and freedom for two months. When we were young, it meant two months of fun (with maybe some chores thrown in) before we were old enough for summer jobs. But even when summer jobs were a necessity — there was still something exciting about summer break. For me, it meant working as a camp counselor. If you’re a teenager reading this … and you need a summer job … next year, apply to be a camp counselor. This was one of the best jobs I’ve ever had. In this magazine, we didn’t choose a theme other than “summer.” All things warm, sunshine and fun. I plan to visit Beehive Sunflowers’ farm for its second season open to the public. See more on page 8. I may even branch out and try making jam or jelly for the first time. My grandmother used to make jelly regularly. We visit her house and you don’t pull out store-bought jelly. You grab any flavor you want off the shelf in the basement. Ann Cipperly put together a whole list (page 63) of recipes to try in jam-making this summer. I definitely plan to visit Food Truck Friday again. I’ve been twice and highly recommend it to Auburn and Opelika residents, alike! See more on this Opelika Chamber project on page 77. However you choose to fill your summer, I hope that it includes time with family, friends and lots of local experiences. God has blessed us with a beautiful world. Go enjoy it!

Table Of Contents Bursts Of ‘Sun’ ..................................... 8 A Worldwide Opportunity ................ 16 City Fest .............................................. 21 Happier and Healthier ....................... 26 Starstruck For Space Camp ................ 30 Growing Something Good .................. 36 Encore! ............................................... 42 Sipping On Cloud Nine ..................... 46 Experience The Revolution ................ 52 Goats On Blueberry Hills .................... 58 Summer Jammin’ ................................ 63 Camp War Eagle ................................. 69 Severe Weather Prep ......................... 75 Rev The Trucks, Rev The Fun ............. 77

Do you know where to find us? Issues of LIVELee can be found at the following locations in one of our community-sponsored boxes: Beauregard Drugs - sponsored by SouthState Bank Butcher Paper BBQ - sponsored by Wadkins Metal Hardees Exit 60 Krispy Kreme Sam’s Club - sponsored by Harvest Thrift Terry’s Grocery Terry’s Marathon - sponsored by Price’s Small Engine Toomers Drug Store - sponsored by Gorees Furniture Walmart Neighborhood Store at University The Observer - sponsored by Hippie Street

Get the next issue of LIVE Lee in your mailbox by subscribing to the Observer at subscribe-today/.

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Bursts of ‘Sun’

Story By Hannah Lester Photos Contributed To LIVE Lee



Owner of Beehive Sunflowers Robert Miller

Photo By Becky Jones


eehive Sunflowers is ready for its second successful year operating in Loachapoka. The sunflower farm opened to the public last year, boasting ‘pick-your-own’ sunflowers, strolls through the tall stalks and plenty of photo shoots to go around. There are sunflower seeds for munching on and for planting. “I’ve been planting sunflowers for 20 years, probably, behind my house for wildlife, and they’re pretty, too,” said Owner Robert Miller. Robert has been running his farm for decades; he started farming in 1973. It was passed down in the family. In fact, he lives in the same home his grandfather lived in, though he has updated it. “We farm 500 acres of cotton, so we only had 7 acres of sunflowers, and that was just a drop in the bucket of what we do,” Robert said. “We’ve grown everything. I’ve been doing this for, this will tell my age, but started when I was 19 years old. When I put cotton seed in the ground in a couple weeks, it will be number 50 cotton crop for me. “We’ve grown peanuts, soybeans, I always grow a little bit of corn every year. I mean, we don’t grow all these things every year… sesame, sunflowers. We have cattle, too, and hay. If you combine everything, all the grow cropland,


and the hay land, and the pasture land and the cattle, it’s around an 1100-acre farm.” Talk about a family farm. Now, Robert runs his farm with his sons, Ward and Drew. Drew lives next door and works on the farm. Ward runs social media for Beehive Sunflowers while living in Minneapolis. “They grew up on the farm, I took them to the fields with me,” Robert said. Over the 20 years that he has planted sunflowers, Robert said strangers would approach him about taking pictures in the sunflowers that he had on his property. “People would see them and they’d stop and ask [to take pictures],” he said. “Because I had them off the road, I had to stop what I was doing, and come down here and so last year, my two sons and I decided we would commercialize it. “We had a lot of people come last year. When they bloom, they’re so yellow and pretty, it’s hard not to look when you go by.” The sunflowers are not located on the piece of property that Robert lives on. They are located on 7 acres in Loachapoka (685 Lee Road 61). Robert said he has had that piece of property for growing crops since 2003. The 7 acres used for sunflowers will be surrounded by cotton fields. “It was more profitable than growing cotton on those


Photo By Ellen Wagner Photo



Miller seven,” Robert said. “… We had more people come from Georgia, Columbus area, you know, and LaGrange.” The farm opened to the public on July 8, 2021, and stayed available throughout the peak season, closing on Aug. 15. It did reopen during the fall for cotton picking for two weekends in October, but now it’s time for sunflowers once again. Beehive Sunflowers will reopen on July 7 as planting began in April.

Working with the public, Robert said, was no problem and they enjoyed being with the community. “People are people, everybody’s nice and people came,” he said. “We had no problems with anybody at the sunflower fields. They were glad to be there, and we were glad to be there and it was pretty. I took a couple of round bales of hay up there for the kids to play on. We took a little toy John Deere tractor for them to sit on.”



There is an entrance fee to the fields, and then sunflowers are available by the stalk or to buy a bucket’s worth, Robert said. Last year the hours were Thursday to Sunday starting at 11 a.m. and closing between 5:30 and 7 p.m. Robert said people should check the Beehive Sunflowers Facebook page for more updated information: beehivesunflowers. “Some people think that farming is all about trying to make money. For me, it’s never been that way,” Robert said. “I mean, everybody likes to make money, you want to get paid for what you do. And some years we’ve had really bad years and I worked all year for nothing. But, I just love seeing stuff thrive. “I’d rather go out there and pick a bumper crop of cotton and get a low price for it … it’s no fun harvesting bad crops. You know, and I might get a high price and get the same amount of money, or more money, for the bad crop because the price is high. It’s my passion. I never thought of it as work.”

Photos By Ellen Wagner Photo



Photo By Becky Jones




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2017 World Games Opening Ceremony

A Worldwide Opportunity Story By Hannah Lester Photos Contributed By The World Games




aybe as you pick up this magazine and flip through these pages, you’re on your way to watch The World Games. The games are being held July 7 through 17 here in our state — in Birmingham. And, if you happen to pick this magazine up after the games are over, then I hope you enjoy reading about the event that just took place in our state — bringing in “out-of-towners”, tourism dollars and national/global attention. Opelika resident Raven Harvis will serve as an ambassador for the games, representing this area on a worldwide stage. “I was extremely excited [to be accepted as an ambassador] because I knew what this meant for the state of Alabama to have an event like this,” Harvis said. “It’s a version of the Olympics. It’s international.

It’s an opportunity for me to represent East Alabama, Opelika, in a way that doesn’t come around very often.” Harvis applied and was accepted and will serve as a hospitality liaison. “The World Games 2022 will bring visitors from around the globe to Birmingham and we want to be certain that they are shown the best that our city and state has to offer,” said Harvis’ ambassador acceptance letter from Kathy Boswell, vice president of Community Engagement. As the hospitality liaison, Harvis and the other ambassadors will welcome guests, host a reception, publicize the games and have been involved in planning the opening ceremony. “I’m not sure if when people think about the World Games, if they think about the city of Opelika,” Harvis said. “But we are also, you know, Opelika was founded



2017 World Games Speed Skating

2017 World Games Speedway

World Games Artistic Roller Skating

World Games Road to Birmingham - Team Finland



2017 World Games Sport Climbing

as a transportation hub. So many people came in, out and through Opelika when it first was founded. “I think that’s a part of our culture here is to be welcoming and to be inviting to people, and that’s how I feel like me bringing the Opelika charm to the games, small town charm to the games is able to provide a warmer presence than maybe large-city ambassadors could provide.” The games encompass well-known sports, like softball or lacrosse, but also lesser-known events like dancesport, sumo, powerlifting, drone racing, canopy piloting, compound archery, wheelchair rugby, roller derby and more. “This is, first of all, multiple sports, multiple disciplines, multiple things going on that you cannot see on an everyday sporting arena,” Harvis said. “So, this is for those, I would say, [sports like sumo

wrestling] that we all love and appreciate watching but we never get an opportunity to see how that platform is created.” The games still have tickets available too (as of press time, at least) and Harvis encouraged local East Alabama people to make the drive to Birmingham. Tickets are available, along with other information about the games, at the World Games website: twg2022. com. “These are not events that you can see every day,” Harvis said. “This is a worldwide opportunity and the next World Games could be somewhere like Brazil or somewhere that’s not so close in our backyard. So while it’s in our backyard and only two hours away from where we live, I would encourage people to go and visit it and have a memorable experience for them and their family.”



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City Fest

Auburn’s Premier Festival Story and Photos By Hannah Lester




hen the first people you see walking into CityFest are some of your favorite small business owners, you know it’s going to be a good event. The wait for parking was worth it. Auburn CityFest is the city of Auburn’s biggest arts/crafts festival of the year. It was held on April 30 this year in Kiesel Park with homemade goods, live music and local, tasty eats. I walked up to Kiesel Park and found both Market Street Paint Shop and Boonie Hat Coffee Company right away. Not to brag, but the LIVE Lee office is right up the street from Boonie Hat, so our staff enjoys coffee from Luis Saavedra (owner) regularly. CityFest was a chance to meet new business owners, veteran citizens of Auburn and see friends milling about the booths. If you missed this year’s event, make sure to stop by next year!





Happier And Healthier Story By Emily Key and Amy Matthews Photos By Emily Key, Amy Matthews and Contributed By Shoofly Farm



Owner Louise Cardoza


estled within the woods of the Oak Bowery community is the oh-so-charming Auburn Bed and Breakfast at Shoofly Farm. Owner and caretaker since 2009, Louise Cardoza has created a wonderful place to unwind from the stresses of life. As you pass the sign and reach the gated entrance, the picturesque view of the property will cause your worries and daily stress to melt away. The large main house and cottages are rich in history, preserving remnants of a bygone era. A mixture of modern and traditional art is scattered throughout the main house, including musical instruments in every room, providing character and some insight into Cardoza’s taste. “I met my husband on a cruise ship,” Cardoza said. “We are both musicians, so that’s why I make sure there are instruments in each room.” Creatively displayed, you’ll see a guitar leaning against a wall, a banjo hung above a bed and a piano in the corner. There are three suites on the first floor of the main home and a large penthouse loft upstairs. The suites and cottages each have names that coincide with either their history or their view. The cottages are the Apple House, Sugar Shack and the Legacy Cottage. Hidden from any view of the main property, the Sugar Shack features a bidet, soft fluffy robes to don while relaxing in the large room and an oversized tub

surrounded by windows to show you a beautiful view of nature. Each building is unique and pays homage to the history of the farm. The Apple House reminisces the farm’s days as an apple orchard. This converted apple shed is the centerpiece of the farm with herbs all around. “The Farmhouse” was the original caretakers’ house. It used to house the picked apples from the orchard but is now a rustic, efficiency cabin. This transformed space offers four large, en-suite bedrooms — each with its own bath and climate control. There is the Samford, the Groom and the Pasture, which boasts an exterior entrance and a soaking tub. The Jail, not remodeled into a cottage yet, sheds light on the property’s use as a poor farm. Historically, poor farms employeed disadvantaged persons, usually the elderly or disabled, where they would tend to the farm, the house and other residents. Shoofly incorporates gardens of fresh herbs like rosemary, mint and parsley (growing next to the Apple House) to use in its meals. “We are 80% organic now,” Cardoza said. Everything on the property has a purposeful use, including the 35 chickens that provide fresh eggs. Cardoza’s own family has restrictive diets, so she is aware of the many dietary needs of individuals. Being able to accommodate these diets, including gluten-free,



dairy-free and sugar-free, is something Cardoza and her staff pride themselves on. Cardoza makes sure to ask guests before their arrival about any of their dietary restrictions and allergies. Bob Leverett, the chef, is amazing in the kitchen and will whip up something off the newly constructed menu, or off the cuff, provided ingredients are available. The house-made almond crackers are worth a try. It is the conversation with Cardoza, and her personality, that make guests never want to leave. Cardoza’s focus on her guests’ well-being is evident in her accommodations and warmth. “I love seeing people feel better leaving than when they got here,” Cardoza said. “Day two is the best. The guests are my favorite part of what I do.” Having purchased the property while living in New Jersey, Cardoza’s initial goal was not a bed and breakfast.


“I just wanted goats and horses and for my kids to grow up in the south,” Cardoza said. She purchased the property after striking a deal with the owners in one day. Cardoza has painstakingly remodeled and decorated each structure in a luxurious way. When remodeling and repairing buildings, you naturally cannot do it all at once. Unfortunately, the last structure to be completed was found to be beyond repair. Plans are in the works to replace the structure with a new, tiny home. By the time Cardoza completed the extensive remodel of the property, her children had grown up and begun lives of their own. While the children didn’t get to grow up on the farm, the success of that original goal was achieved. Shoofly Farm is now home to 10 goats, two rabbits, two horses, 35 chickens, seven cats and one dog, Opie. Opie greets as warmly as Cardoza, although a bit louder, and while one of the cats looks rather grumpy, rest


assured, he is, in fact, a sweetie. The farm seems to have its own heartbeat and voice. “I feel like the farm is screaming at me to do retreats,” Cardoza said. And that is exactly what she has done. Shoofly hosted its first wellness retreat in May, featuring outdoor yoga, hiking and three healthy meals. There are plans for another in September, with entertainment, like comedians and guest speakers. “I hope all the guests enjoy the camaraderie, the entertainment, good food and good wine,” Cardoza said. With their focus on health in the kitchen and the comfort of the cottages, everyone will leave not only happier, but healthier.





Starstruck For Space Camp A look back at the impact of my Space Camp experience Story and Photos By Kendyl Hollingsworth and Asa Calvert


ost of us will only ever dream of going to space — floating in zero gravity, eating strange space foods and seeing the world from new heights. As I sit here listening to David Bowie’s “Life on Mars,” I think we all wonder at some point or another what it would be like to escape the disillusionment and challenges of daily life and live on another planet. Who knows? Maybe one day, humanity will have those answers. For now, we must embrace the fog of life on Earth. Whether we chase the astronaut dream or choose a different path in life, one Alabama camp reminds us that we are never too young (or too old) to live out those fantasies,

and we can do it all from the comfort of solid ground. I chose to become a writer rather than pursue a STEM career, but I’ve always had a soft spot for science and astronomy. As a Huntsville native, I grew up minutes from Redstone Arsenal, the U.S. Space and Rocket Center (USSRC), NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and the Von Braun Civic Center, aptly named after the “father of rocket science” himself: Wernher von Braun. They don’t call Huntsville “Rocket City” for nothing. But the highlight of my space-obsessed youth was going to Space Camp: the world’s first and only cosmic retreat of its kind. You’d think I might be a little desensitized to the excitement of space, but on the contrary; I couldn’t wait



to spend a whole week learning about it outside the classroom. I was privileged to attend the camp with my whole fifth-grade class in March 2006 — the grand finale of our unit on space. My science teacher, Mrs. Martin, worked hard leading up to Space Camp week, teaching us everything from common acronyms to atmospheric pressure to the evolution of space suits. Our Space Camp experience wasn’t an overnight one (although that is an option for visiting campers, or locals, who want the “full experience”), but the promise of spending each day at the Space and Rocket Center still made getting up for school a lot easier. On the first day, we were divided into groups and met our camp counselor. Each team was named after a star; mine was “Arcturus,” a red giant in the Northern Hemisphere and the brightest star in the Boötes (herdsman) constellation. Kenyetta, a kind and supportive counselor, was the leader of Arcturus and made sure we were having fun each day. Over the next few days, counselors and instructors


showed us around the USSRC. We got to explore the exhibits, watch an educational film in the IMAX theatre, meet industry professionals and participate in plenty of hands-on activities. But as a group of 10-to-11-year-olds, we couldn’t wait for the chance to try out the five degrees of freedom motion simulator, 1/6th gravity chair and multi-axis trainer (MAT). The three chairs allowed us to feel what an astronaut might feel moving around in space, walking on the moon or going through a “tumble spin.” According to Space Camp instructors, the latter actually happened to Neil Armstrong and David Scott aboard the Gemini 8 — but because of their training, they were able to regain control and complete the mission. What a relief! We were also eager for the rides in and around the USSRC: the HyperShip simulator, G-Force Accelerator and Space Shot (now called the Moon Shot), to name a few. Our week of educational fun culminated in a mock space mission. We all had different roles to play, from astronauts to mission control to scientists aboard the International


Space Station. It was an entertaining way to put our knowledge to the test, practice problem solving and build teamwork in the process. After a big “mission accomplished,” we celebrated in a Space Camp graduation ceremony. I still have my certificate. Whether you want to be the next Neil Armstrong or just have a casual curiosity about space, Space Camp is a valuable source of information, interaction and inspiration. I may not be orbiting Earth in the ISS or building rockets, but Space Camp did teach me one thing I’ve carried with me: It doesn’t matter where I’m from or what the obstacles may be; I’m smart, I’m capable and I can do great things! And the same is true for all of us. I had a blast experiencing the wonders of space with my peers, but it’s also a fantastic opportunity for individual or small-group campers to meet and connect with other eager

learners from across the globe, as far as Australia and China. And that opportunity isn’t limited to young children. There are programs for teens, adults, families and teachers. Other camps under the Space Camp umbrella — such as Space Academy, the Aviation Challenge, Space Camp Robotics and U.S. Cyber Camp — also cater to different interests. Scholarships are available for eligible children 9 to 18 years old. As Alabama residents, we can thank our lucky stars that we live so close to an international hotspot for space education and exploration that “inspires the next generation of dreamers and doers!” Most camps are full for this summer, but to find out more about Space Camp or keep tabs on registration dates for 2023, visit or follow on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.



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Growing Something Good

Andrew Reynolds


Story By Evan Mealins Photos By Marcia Hillsman

wing by O Grows Community Garden and you might see high school and middle school students planting herbs, or residents tending to their plots. You might see children playing with pet goats. On Saturday mornings, you can see local farmers set up their tables to sell their produce. O Grows, short for Opelika Grows, is a communityuniversity partnership between Opelika City Schools, the Food Bank of East Alabama, Envision Opelika and Auburn University. It was started in 2012 by Sean Forbes, a professor in Auburn’s College of Education, and Susan


Forbes. The garden is located at 1103 Glenn St. in Opelika. O Grows interacts with the Opelika community via its community garden that is open to anyone, its weekly farmers’ markets and its youth programs to teach students about agriculture. At the most basic level, the organization serves two functions: improving access to healthy food and giving students, particularly those most often written off by the education system, a place to learn that isn’t a classroom. “You’ve got students … who could really use some hands-on experiences,” Sean said. “There’s a lot of food


insecurity in Opelika. So the way I look at it, one need kind of helps the other, and it’s just a really mutually beneficial thing.”



or many people in Opelika, their home is a long walk from the grocery store. In fact, O Grows is located between two “food deserts,” a term used to designate areas where places to buy healthy food are more than a mile away. While the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service no longer uses the term “food desert,” the ERS calls the census tract east of O Grows both low


income and low access. In that area of town between Second Avenue and Interstate 85, running from 10th Street to Ridge Road, the average person is more than a mile away from a supermarket. Additionally, 22% of the 1,364 households in the area don’t have vehicles, which makes it even harder to get to a place to buy healthy food. O Grows began holding farmers’ markets in the summer in 2016. Although she had been volunteering and advocating for the group in previous years, Susan became the farmers’ market manager in 2018 and was in charge of communicating and interacting with both farmers and the general public to spread the word about the market. “[Susan] was absolutely part of growing the market and, you know, making it a great place to be,” Sean said. O Grows’ weekly farmers’ markets, which are now held year-round, give residents a chance to buy healthy, local food without leaving their neighborhood. During the offseason, O Grows hosts its markets on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., where a few vendors bring their produce, pastries and other goods and set up in the parking lot to sell. In the summer, the market is held Tuesday afternoons from 3 to 6 p.m. Sean said that once momentum picks up by the third week of the summer, about 14 vendors will usually show up. O Grows held its first summer market of 2022 on May 17. Chris Harman of Harman Family Farms in Opelika has been going to the summer farmers’ markets since they began. On April 30, Harman was one of a few vendors set up for the offseason market. Harman said his favorite part of the market, besides getting the chance to get some more business for his farm, is being able to engage with the community and see their faces when they try his tomatoes. Andrew Reynolds, a graduate student at Auburn earning a master’s in adult education who works at O Grows, said he’s trying to get storage facilities at O Grows so food-insecure residents have more options and can get food year round. “I’m working on getting a cold storage and a dry storage ... so people can actually come over here and feel secure for food and not have to worry about stuff,” Reynolds said. “Even if it’s just like oatmeal and eggs — something besides gas station hot dogs, nachos with cheese.” In addition to farmer’s markets, O Grows has a community garden where residents can purchase a plot of land to grow their own food. Tony Amerson, captain of community relations for the Opelika Police Department, has a plot at O Grows where he grows several different types of vegetables, like greens, zucchini, tomatoes and onions.


Chris Harman of Harman Family Farms “My grandfather was a big farmer,” Amerson said. “And I used to work with him all the time trying to figure out what worked and what didn’t work when it comes to plants. And as a child, I hated it.” Now, though, Amerson said he finds peace in working the soil and experimenting with different growing


methods. After years of serving in the military and working as a police officer, he said gardening helps him deal with the stress his work can create. “This is my therapy,” he said. “This kind of helped me with my PTSD, stress relief and a little bit of everything else. So yeah, it kind of takes my mind off of it.”


Amerson and his wife use the food grown there for their dinners, and he also delivers some of his crops to some of the people in the community who need food. And while he enjoys the harvest, Amerson said he values the act of gardening and working with his hands more than seeing a good return. “I found out that coming out here in the garden, and just being able to get away and get off the hamster wheel, it nourishes my soul,” he said. “The harvest at the end is great. But really, I’m trying to nourish the soul.”



he Forbes’ first project with O Grows was creating a garden at Southview Primary School in Opelika in 2012. At the time, as an associate professor in the College of Education at Auburn University, Sean said they had two reasons for starting the school garden. “The idea there initially was just to get my students a chance to do something out with kids in schools and also give the kids in the school something other than just classroom stuff, like give them some actual physical outdoor education,” Sean said. They went on to start gardens at other local schools with help from colleagues and students.

To date, O Grows has established gardens at six different schools in the area and has engaged thousands of K-12 students in project-based and interdisciplinary learning. After talking with former Opelika City Schools Superintendent Mark Neighbors, the Forbes started working with students at the Opelika Learning Center (OLC), whom Sean said he felt may benefit the most from handson education. OLC is a K-12 school that functions as the school district’s “alternative school,” where many of the students enrolled were sent for disciplinary reasons. O Grows devotes most of its energy in schools to OLC, teaching a food systems course that is held every day throughout the school year at OLC’s campus or at O Grows’ community garden. When working with students from OLC, it’s important that the space is a learning environment, but that students are still able to lead the experience, said Jessi Riel, who handles community engagement and education at O Grows. “The idea here is to give them a space where they can learn practical skills,” Riel said. “They can get things that they can put on their resume, like learning gardening and cooking skills. They can have a space where people are invested in them, believing in them and giving them a lot of autonomy in what they’re doing.” O Grows also offers a paid internship program primarily for students most at risk of dropping out of school. The program started in 2014 thanks to a donation from Pharmavite, a California-based dietary supplements company with a manufacturing facility in Opelika. Since then, 15 students have participated in the year-long internship program. When Tyquavious Barnett was transferred to the Opelika Learning Center in 2019, he got the chance to meet Sean, who was teaching the health systems class. It was Barnett’s senior year, and he needed help getting ready for life after graduation. After seeing how hard Barnett worked, Sean offered him a position as an intern at O Grows. As he worked in the garden, Barnett said he saw his work ethic improve. While he played football in previous years, he said working in the



garden was different — with only three to four people out there, you can’t slack off. After deciding he wanted to join the Army, Sean helped Barnett study for the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, the entry test for the military. When Barnett said he needed extra help with the math section, Sean got him set up with a math professor at Auburn University to tutor him. Now in Poland as a construction engineer for the army,

Barnett still speaks highly of Sean and his time at O Grows. “He’s really the backbone and just treated everybody like family, doing what he can to make sure everybody gets what they need,” Barnett said. “Dr. Forbes is just a great man.” When Sean looks back on the countless hours they have put into O Grows, he smiles. “It has been the single greatest experience of my professional life,” he said. “I mean, that’s hands down. It’s the most generous thing I’ve ever been a part of.”

109 N. College Street Auburn, Alabama 36830


334-216-9659 —40—

Have information to SHARE about a crime? You can now send ANONYMOUS tips directly from your cellphone. SCAN THE QR CODE and DOWNLOAD THE LEE COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE APP


Lee County Sheriff’s Office

1900 Frederick Road, Opelika, AL 36803 334-749-5651 CRIME STOPPERS 334-215-STOP (7867) —41—


ENCORE! Photos By Hannah Lester The Jay and Susie Gogue Performing Arts Center is gearing up for its 2022/2023 season.

Here’s the lineup: Aug 27: An Evening with Vince Gill Sept. 8: Clint Black Sept. 14: Croce Plays Croce Sept. 21: Aizuri Quartet Sept. 29: Jessica Vosk Oct. 6: Tab Benoit & The Dirty Dozen Brass Band Oct. 18 and 19: Legally Blonde Nov. 1 and 2: Fiddler on the Roof Nov. 8: Mark Morris Dance Group


Nov. 15: Our Song, Our Story: The New Generation of Black Voice Dec. 2: Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox Jan. 9: Jay Leno Feb. 16: MOMIX: Alice Feb. 24: Orpheus Chamber Orchestra Feb. 26: The Kat & Dave Show Feb. 28 and March 1: Hairspray March 14: Complexions Contemporary Ballet March 19: Jazz at Lincoln Center Presents Songs We Love March 24: Chad Lawson April 14: Trinity Irish Dance Company May 3 and 4: Chicago


Executive Director of JPAC Christopher Heacox




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2022–23 SEASON

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presents our





Encanto Thursday, June 23

Beauty and the Beast Thursday, July 7

Sing 2 Thursday, July 21

Black Panther Thursday, August 4

Join us this summer for free screenings under the stars! Amphitheatre at the City of Auburn Lawn and Porch Gates open at 6 p.m. • Films begin at 7 p.m.

Free and open to the public! Blankets and chairs permitted. No outside food or beverages allowed. GOGUECENTER.AUBURN.EDU • 334.844.TIXS (8497)



Sipping On Cloud Nine Story and Photos By Hannah Lester


ubbles floated through the air, live music drifted down the street, the smell of Sword + Skillet drew the crowds in and Auburn met its newest business — Cerulean at Midtown wine

bar. Cerulean opened in April as Auburn’s only wine bar with a covered patio, indoor seating and choices galore to fill your glass. And to think ... Auburn would have had the bar sooner if not for everyone’s favorite pandemic — COVID-19. The idea for Cerulean was originally meant to accompany the Sword + Skillet Food Truck, an idea by owners Torrey Hall and Jordan Whitley. Hall was a San Diego chef long before he started whipping up food on The Plains. But he and his wife, Jordan, moved back to Alabama where they had family. While they run Sword + Skillet, Hall is also the chef at the Landing at Parker Creek.

Hall and Whitley reached out to Chris Kennedy about consulting on the Cerulean project. “The more we talked and the more we grew a relationship, they asked me if ‘hey, would you be interested in working out a partnership with us,’” Kennedy said. “I had wanted, years earlier, to do a wine bar downtown but the timing and logistics didn’t work out.” Kennedy knew his wine. He worked as a wine rep for years. “I worked for a wine distributor for five years before this,” he said. “I was one of the original employees at Acre and worked there for four years and before that I was in the restaurant and bar business, not only in Auburn but also down in the Daphne/Fairhope area.” Although Cerulean is finally open, there are still challenges to be faced. “As you know, if you’ve read anything over the last couple of years since COVID hit, the hospitality sector



Owner Chris Kennedy



was really difficult and there were some awesome hospitality employees that decided to move onto different career paths,” Kennedy said. He said he was worried at first that he would not be able to hire enough bartenders to keep the business running. “I took all the positives and negatives I had from people above me about what not to do, or how not to act or how not to treat your employees,”he said. “So once the word got out about how I was treating my first two employees I now have, I’ve gone from ‘oh, am I going to have enough bartenders?’ to I have a waiting list of people who want to bartend there.” Kennedy said he is pleased with the timing of opening Cerulean. “Technically, we could have probably opened a little sooner than we did, but it actually worked out that we took our time because it allowed kind of these waves of COVID and kind of get to a point now where people are either comfortable and vaccinated or they are going out more so, the timing of opening — it is also a good thing for us, for the community,” he said.

Cerulean is located in Midtown on Opelika Road. “Midtown is such a growing area for people to have between not having to go to the large crowds of downtown or they don’t want to go Opelika, it gives them that segue,” Kennedy said. “And it’s just a great place that comes a long way from there being an old motel and a RaceTrac gas station there.” Next to the wine bar sits the Sword + Skillet Food Truck. “You have a great food truck that is not just serving runof-the-mill food,” Kennedy said. “So, long term, we want to be a hub for a lot of different things.” The menu at Cerulean will change from time to time, also accommodating a wide range of people, Kennedy said, novice to expert wine drinkers. The bar offers ‘Wine Down Wednesdays’ from 4 to 9 p.m. with $2 off glasses of wine and 10% off bottles. The bar also offers wine flights, giving patrons a chance to sample new things. “We want to be able to do wine dinners,” he said. “Let’s just say someone comes in from a winery and says ‘wow, this would be a unique way to do a wine dinner, coming out of a food truck.’” Cerulean serves as a private event space, Kennedy said. “We want to be a multi-faceted tool for the community,” he said. “And also we have a full retail license, so, my vision for this is that if you’re not getting the wines that Kroger and Publix have, you’re getting them from us. So, I want to corner that market of the slightly more boutique, or just not as commercialized, wine.” Kennedy said he feels Cerulean is just a natural fit to Auburn’s expanding amenities. “The Auburn food scene has grown immensely in the last eight years,” he said. “It started with Acre and Hound, and then the addition of The Depot and Lucy’s. The Auburn University hotel was thriving alongside the university’s hospitality program and kept building and building and it’s become quite a little foodie scene. So when you think



about towns and cities you go to that have a great foodie scene, one thing they all have is a wine bar that represents a lot of those wines.” Find Cerulean online at its website, www., or on Instagram @ ceruleanmidtown. “Everybody that I have talked to and everyone that my bartenders have talked to have been just so exuberant,” Kennedy said. “Being able to see the look people have when they come in and see it, they feel the vibe, they give positive feedback, has just been humbling, to be honest with you.”



Locally owned and operated, Goree's Furniture Express has been bringing you savings for more than 20 years! 334-742-0607 THE JOYS OF SUMMER 3797 Alabama —51— Highway 169, Opelika



Experience The Revolution

Story By Ann Cipperly Photos Contributed By American Village




elebrate Independence Day in a 1776 setting this year at American Village in Montevallo where history comes alive. Historical interpreters in period dress relive important moments in a young country’s struggle for independence and liberty. With fireworks at twilight, the Fourth of July event is the largest of the year. The daylong celebration at the 18th century-inspired village includes more than 40 patriotic activities throughout the day, including music, dance and games. Encounters with patriots of the past and the battle at Concord Bridge will be reenacted this year. American Village was created by Tom Walker, whose perseverance brought the living-history center to life on 188 acres in Shelby County. Walker envisioned students being able to “step into the scene” of history, making our country’s legacy real, personal and relevant. Each year, 30 to 40 thousand students from Alabama and nearby states visit the Village. The authentic reproduced village offers a glimpse of history in the buildings and sites. There is a full-scale


replica of the White House Oval Office and the President’s desk. The Resolute desk is a reproduction of the one used by most presidents since Rutherford B. Hayes. A replica of the East Room at the White House is named the Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore Liberty Hall. Moore, who lived in Auburn, was the Distinguished National Honorary Chair for the American Citizenship Trust. The American Village is the educational campus of the Trust. The Miniature Museum of American History has been restored and has found its home in the American Village. Businessman H. Pettus Randall Jr. commissioned sculptors and artists from 14 states to create dioramas illustrating America’s past. The Inaugural Ballroom scene displays every president and first lady in authentic period formalwear. Step into history at the Colonial Courthouse, Washington Hall, Colonial Chapel, President’s House, Liberty Hall, the National Veterans Shrine and Register of Honor, two Colonial gardens and a replica of the North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts. Washington Hall was inspired by Mount Vernon with a


life-size statue of George Washington in the grand foyer. The green room features a reproduction of Washington’s secretary desk. Inspired by Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, the Assembly Room is where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were adopted. The hall contains a reproduction of the “Rising Sun Chair” where Washington sat during debates. In this room, students recreate the Constitution Convention. The replica 1770 Colonial Courthouse of Williamsburg hosts outdoor and indoor educational programs. The interior is transformed into the Mayflower for Thanksgiving programs. Patterned from the first president’s home, the James B. and Sylvia S. Braswell President's House is furnished to interpret the presidency of the 1790s. The original house, which no longer exists, was the home of the Washingtons and Adams when the first capital was in Philadelphia. In late 2000, during excavation for the new Liberty Bell Center, foundations of the Philadelphia President's House were uncovered. Washington occupied the house from November 1790 to March 1797. President John Adams lived there from March 1797 to May 1800. Adams oversaw the transfer of the federal government to the District of Columbia and first occupied the White House on Nov. 1, 1800. Modeled after the Bruton Parish Church of Williamsburg, the Ryals Thompson Colonial Chapel is the site of many weddings. From a 100-year-old pulpit, an interpreter representing Patrick Henry gives a stirring “Give me liberty or give me death” speech. Completed in 2014, the National Veterans Shrine is patterned after Philadelphia's Carpenters’ Hall. The Shrine honors veterans' service and sacrifice for America. It features major sculptures and paintings by nationallyrenowned artists, interactive media, artifacts and exhibits. Housed within the Shrine is the Veterans Register of Honor, a website and database containing photographs, biographical sketches and stories of America's veterans and active members of the United States Armed Forces. After visiting American Village, you will leave with a better understanding of how our country was formed. “We have almost a national amnesia of about the roots of our freedom,” Walker said. “When we have an understanding that freedom and liberty did not come cheaply, it increases our stewardship.” The American Village is located at 3727 State 119, Montevallo and is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. For summer activities, check the events list. For further information, visit the American Village website: or call 205-665-3535. American Village Summer Events Celebrate America! - Tuesdays through Saturdays June 1 through July 30 (excluding July 1 to 3 and 5) - $5 admission. Veterans, active military and children ages

4 and under are free. - Open 10 .m. to 4 p.m. Family-friendly red, white and blue fun for patriots of all ages. Play colonial games, explore the Randall Museum of miniature American history, meet patriots of the past, see a puppet show, learn about apothecary herbal remedies and march with Washington’s Continental Army. Be sure to experience the multi-sensory West Wing of Independence Hall and see the original film “Choosing to be an American People.” Independence Day 1776! - Monday, July 4 - Gates open at 11 a.m. with programming offered from noon through evening fireworks. - $5 admission. Veterans, active military and children ages 4 and under are free. - Food trucks will be onsite. The fourth of July means fun, food and fireworks at the American Village. Enjoy more than 40 patriotic activities throughout the day, including music and dance, games, encounters with patriots of the past, the battle at Concord Bridge and fireworks at twilight’s last gleaming. August at American Village - Mondays through Fridays, August 1 to 31 - Free self-guided walking tours of campus. Pick up a Gazette and a map at the gift shop and explore the 188-acre campus at your own pace. The public buildings and grounds will be open, but there will be no scheduled programming.



ALLEN ASPHALT SERVICES 4590 Co C Rd 430 Smiths Station, AL 36877 Office: (334) 297-5725

Paving the Way to the Cross LIVELee


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Goats On Blueberry Hills Story By Kara Mautz Photos By Hannah Lester


n old dream re-imagined, Carla and Ray Humphrey are the owners of Blueberry Hills Farm, a livestock farm located in Opelika. Ray and Carla married in 1971 and both started as students at Auburn University early that fall.


“We had to cut our honeymoon short in order to make it to the first day of classes that semester, the fall of 1971,” Ray said. Ray and Carla both graduated from Auburn University in the spring of 1973 and relocated to north Alabama to


Ray and Carla Humphrey, owners of Blueberry Hills Farm

work as teachers. However, the loveliest village on the plains continued to call to them and they moved back to the area briefly in 1981 so that Carla could earn her master’s degree from Auburn. “We left the area for a second time after this stint in service, and after another hiatus of about 20 years we returned to the area to make it our permanent home,” Ray said. “No better place to live than The Plains. “We have always wanted to have a small farm with a log-cabin style home. We were able to find that in the Beauregard area, which also happened to have a fairly new log-cabin home on the property.”

Ray said that he and his wife are longtime fans of the old television show, “Green Acres”, which played a part in the inspiration for their move and the decision to open up their own farm. “Green Acres” tells the story of a husband and wife who make a move from the city to the country to open a farm and live a simpler life off of their new farmland, mirroring the real-life story of Ray and Carla. Ray said that he and Carla had always dreamed of opening up their own farm, and with the creation of Blueberry Hills Farm, that dream became a reality. “I know that this would have been the ideal situation when we were much younger, but we were determined to



fulfill our dream, which was the inspiration for us to open our own farm,” Ray said. Blueberry Hills Farm opened in 2009 and although the farming practices have slowed down, the Humphreys still live on the farm and primarily use it to raise goats, chickens and to sell eggs to the local community. “We never had many crops, although we tried our hands with a few items from a small garden,” Ray said. “I planted and picked crops and Carla processed vegetables to be frozen and canned. Ultimately, we realized that we are better balanced working a smaller farm operation.” Ray said that while they have scaled the crop production back on the farm, they still enjoy the work and have planted enough blueberry plants on the farm to keep them well supplied. “Hopefully, some of the other orchard items will soon give us a better variety of fruits,” he said. “It just takes a while for that to happen, but we are in no rush. We still have a little time left.” Ray said that although he was raised in the country on a working farm, Carla grew up in the city and they both experienced some growing pains as they worked to get the farm up and running. “My dad was a cotton farmer in north Alabama, where we also had several truck-patch gardens,” Ray said. “When I was younger, it was hard for me to see the value


in getting up early in the morning to chop or pick cotton and work until the sun went down. Many times, I said I would never be a farmer, but now I love it.” Ray said that as the years have gone by, he has grown to love running the farm and has since “eaten his own words” and now appreciates the amount of hard work and dedication it takes to run a successful farm. Ray said that he and Carla have learned a lot since their farm opened back in 2009, both about running a farm and the ways that the hard work and lifestyle can take a toll on the farmers who run it. “We began our farm raising registered Appaloosa horses, Jersey milk cows and Saanen milk goats,” Ray said. “Gradually we added more animals with turkeys, chickens, ducks, geese, peafowl, guineas, etcetera. However, Carla laid down the law pretty quickly that we wouldn’t be raising hogs on the farm due to the foul odor they carry.” Ray said that not only would they care for the animals on the farm, but they also prepared and cured hogs for winter butchering. He also said that while they loved caring for all of the animals on the farm, they faced many challenges and a strain on their personal lives and health due to work involved with caring for them. “Carla is a breast cancer survivor and a very hard


worker,” Ray said. “She is also a loving, caring and selfless wife and mother. “Although we raised some beautiful Appaloosa horses, Jersey cows and Saanen goats, we realized that we were putting more money into the farm operation than we were getting income from it.” Ray and Carla decided to cut back and reduce the production on the farm. “We exchanged all of our large animals for a few Jersey-Angus cows to put in the freezer,” Ray said. “For a couple of years we cut so far back that I really missed caring for the animals.” Ray said that soon after that, a shoulder injury and surgeries led him to explore


incorporating smaller livestock into the farm. “We began growing our herd of Nigerian Dwarf goats and all of our birds dwindled down to just chickens, but we still have all of the eggs we can eat, and Carla has some to sell and give away,” Ray said. Nigerian Dwarf goats are miniature goats originating from West Africa and are primarily used for milk production. According to the official Blueberry Hills Farm website, Nigerian Dwarf Goats also make nice pets due to their small stature and friendliness, and their milk can be used to make soaps, lotions and food products. Today, the farm


primarily focuses on raising and selling those Nigerian Dwarf goats to the local community, and all goats sold on the farm are officially registered with the American Dairy Goat Association (ADGA). Registering the goats with the ADGA allows each Nigerian Dwarf Goat to be recorded and ensures the preservation of the pedigrees of dairy goats, provides genetic management and related services to dairy goat breeders, per the official ADGA website. “Although our farming practices have slowed somewhat, we still enjoy rising early to feed and care for animals and to see another beautiful day in Opelika, Alabama,” Ray said.



Summer Jammin’ Story By Ann Cipperly


hen fresh fruits are in abundance during summer, consider making jams and jellies to enjoy for many months and also for having wonderful homemade gifts on hand. Generally, the process is not complicated, uses a few ingredients and cooks quickly. Freshly baked biscuits with homemade jams are the best with a delicious southern breakfast. Jams are made from crushed or ground fruit. Preserves are whole, larger or smaller fruits, that are chopped. Jellies use the juice from the fruit. Tomatoes can be used for making jams, and peppers are versatile for making jellies. Pepper jelly is good to have on hand for pouring over cream cheese for an instant, delicious appetizer or party dish. Fruit butters is sweet and are made by cooking fruit pulp and sugar until thick. It needs to be spreadable. Refrigerator jams may be held up to 3 weeks in a refrigerator; but for longer



storage, keep them in a freezer. While some fruits have enough pectin to become thick, many cooks rely on commercial pectin for successful jam and jelly making. Pectin is the gum in the cell walls of a plant that causes the jams and jellies to gel, and most are made from apples or citrus fruits. Many recipes will call for sugar, acid and pectin to be added to the fruit. Step-by-step instructions from the Alabama Extension Service: • A large deep sauce pot is essential for cooking the ingredients. To bring a mixture to a full boil without boiling over, use an 8 or 10 quart kettle with a broad flat bottom. • A jelly bag or a fruit press may be used for extracting fruit juice for jellies. The bag may be made of several thicknesses of closely woven cheesecloth. Use a jelly bag or cheesecloth to strain pressed


juice. A special stand or a colander will hold the jelly bag. • A jelly, candy, or deep-fat thermometer is an aid in making fruit products without added pectin. • A wide-mouth funnel is needed for pouring or ladling jelly into the jars. • Use only standard canning jars and two-piece lids made for home canning. The best size storage jar is half-pint because jellies are best made up in small amounts. Six-ounce jars may also be used, and you can use pint jars for other jellied products. • Purchase new canning lids. Check all jars for cracks and chips. Check all rings or band closures to ensure that they are free of rust. Discard any jars with cracks or chips, or rings or bands with rust: defects prevent airtight seals. • Prepare canning jars before you start to make the jellied product.


Wash them in warm, soapy water and rinse with hot water. Keep them in hot water until they are used. Only jars may be washed in the dishwasher. Leave the jars in the dishwasher to keep them hot as well. Keeping the jars hot will prevent containers from breaking when filled with hot jelly or jam. • Wash and rinse all lids and bands. Metal lids with a sealing compound need to be warm, not boiled. Follow the manufacturer’s directions. • Wash all fruits in cold running water, or wash them in several changes of cold water, lifting them out of the water each time. Do not let fruit stand in the water. • In products made without added pectin: If you want a softer product, shorten the cooking time. If you want a firmer product, lengthen the cooking time.

• In products made with added pectin: If you want a softer product, use 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup more fruit or juice. If you want a firmer product, use 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup less fruit or juice. • Making jelly without added pectin: Jellies made without added pectin require less sugar but longer boiling time to bring the mixture to the proper sugar concentration. Thus, the yield of jelly per cup of juice is less. • When making jelly, whether with or without added pectin, it is best to prepare only a small amount at a time. Do not double the jam or jelly recipe. • It’s usually best to have part of the fruit under-ripe because it has a higher pectin content than fully ripe fruit. Using 1⁄4 under ripe and 3⁄4 fully ripe fruit is generally recommended to ensure sufficient pectin for jelly.



• When cooking jam, conserves, and marmalades, remove mixture from heat and stir gently at frequent intervals for 5 minutes. Before each stirring, skim off all foam that appears on the surface. • Fill hot jars up to 1⁄4 inch to the top with hot jelly or fruit mixture. Wipe the jar rim clean and place the warm metal lid on the jar with the sealing compound next to the glass. Screw the metal band down fingertip tight. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. • Processing in a Water Bath • Processing jellied fruit products in a boiling water bath is recommended in warm and humid climates like Alabama’s to reduce the risk of spoilage. Use a clean container with a close-fitting lid. Use a wire rack in the bottom. Fill the water bath container half full of water and heat it. • Place hot, filled jars on the wire rack. Do not let jars touch each

Spiced Blueberry Jam

blueberries and measure 2 ½ cups. In an 8 or 10 quart stock pot, combine berries, sugar, lemon juice, ground cinnamon and cloves. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil; boil hard, uncovered, for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in liquid fruit pectin. Quickly skim off foam with a metal spoon. Pour hot jam at once into hot sterilized jars; seal. Makes 5 or 6 half pints.

Mama’s Peach Jam

or paper towel, to clean the tops and rims of the jars before sealing with rings and lids. Water Bath: Place jars in a boiler which is deep enough to allow you to cover jars completely with water. Once water comes to a boil, set timer for 10 minutes. Turn off the burner and let set for 5 minutes. Remove jars and allow them to cool before storing

Julie Sosebee’s mother’s recipe. 1 lb. fully ripe blueberries 3½ cups sugar 1 Tbsp. lemon juice ¼ tsp. ground cinnamon 1/8 tsp. ground cloves ½ of a 6 oz. bottle of liquid fruit pectin Sort, wash and remove any stems from the fresh blueberries. Crush the

Laura Bence Hartley 8 cups crushed peaches 6 cups sugar ½ cup water Combine peaches and water. Boil for 10 minutes. Add sugar and cook until thick, over low heat. Place in sterilized jars ([pint, or ½ pint). Use a damp cloth,

Strawberry or Blackberry Jam

Julie Sosebee makes jams for bake sales at her church. Her mother, Helen Jones, taught Julie how to make a variety of jams using her recipes. 5 cups pureed strawberries or blackberries


7 cups sugar 1 box Sure-Gel 2 Tbsp. real salted butter 1 tsp. lemon juice Wash and drain strawberries or blackberries well before beginning using blender to puree the fruit. Pour pureed fruit int a large stock pot. You will need to allow extra space in pot

other or the sides of the container. Add enough hot water to cover the tops of the jars by about 1 or 2 inches. Bring water to a rolling boil and gently boil for 10 minutes. • Remove jars from water after canning and place them on a rack to cool. Do not tip jars to remove water atop the jar, as this could disturb the seal. Do not let them stand in a draft while cooling. For additional information and USDA recipes, go to the Alabama Extension Service website at If you need to ask questions, contact Janet Johnson, Food Safety and Quality Regional Extension Agent, at 334.703.2237. Recipes for jams and jellies are provided by good cooks in Lee County. If you don’t have fruits growing in a garden, shop local farmers’ markets for just picked fresh fruits for making a variety of jams and jellies.

because the mixture will expand as it boils. Add sugar and Sure-Gel and stir until mixed. Cook over medium high heat, bringing to a boil. Once it starts to boil, add butter and lemon juice. This will help reduce the bubbles and foam. Boil for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly.


To test, spoon a spoonful of hot jam onto a cold saucer. If the jam is still thin and runny, keep boiling for another two minutes. Pour jam into clean, warm/ hot sterilized jars. Cover with lids, and let stand until you hear a “pop” from the lid.

Fig Preserves

Paula Harris 2 qt. (about 4½ lb.) figs 7 cups sugar ½ cup lemon juice 1½ qt. water 2 lemons, thinly sliced Cook figs 15-20 minutes in enough boiling water to cover; drain figs and set aside. Combine sugar, lemon juice and 1½ quarts water in a large Dutch oven; cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves. Add figs; return to a boil and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add lemon slices and boil 15 minutes or until figs are tender. Carefully remove figs from syrup with a slotted spoon. Boil syrup an additional 10 minutes or until desired thickness. Return figs to syrup; skim off foam. Quickly ladle preserves in hot sterilized jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Cover with lids; process in boiling water bath 30 minutes. Makes 5 half-pints.

Cranberry Jalapeño Jelly

Ann Whatley This recipe was given to Ann by Kathleen Lobretch who lived in Opelika for many years before moving to Texas. 2 cups cider vinegar 1½ boxes Sure-Gel ¼ cup water 2½ cups chopped green pepper ½ cup chopped seeded jalapeno peppers 1½ cup chopped cranberries 1½ cups chopped pecans 7½ cups sugar Combine vinegar, water, and sure jell/pectin. Bring to a boil. Add peppers and cranberries. Bring back to a boil and let boil 5 minutes. Add sugar and pecans. Stir and bring back to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and ladle into 8 pint/16 ½ pint jars. Process in a water bath 10 minutes. After cooled, invert jars. Shake to mix. Makes 8 pints or 16 half pints.


Pear Preserves

Paula Harris 1½ gallons water 2 Tbsp. vinegar 1 Tbsp. salt Pears, peeled Sugar Mix together water, vinegar and salt. Drop peeled pears into this mixture. Core and thinly slice 4 cups pears from the water mixture and put into cooking container. Cover with 2 cups sugar. Repeat layers. Use no more than 10 cups of pears for each batch. Let set about 30 minutes. Bring to rolling boil; boil over medium heat 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Let set again about 12 hours. Boil again, third time, 20 minutes. Immediately put in sterilized jars and seal.

Tomato Jam

Ann Whatley This is a Whatley family recipe and it goes great with summer vegetables or vegetables all year long. The original recipe is from Esther Lynch Whatley, handed down in the family, and can be made with fresh tomatoes or canned ones. 4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes or two 14.5 ounces cans diced tomatoes ½ cup apple cider vinegar or white distilled vinegar 3 cups sugar Pickle flavoring to taste, optional Hot sauce to taste (couple of drops) Cook ingredients and stir until desired thickness. Process in hot water bath or store in refrigerator.


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Story By Tucker Massey Photos Contributed By Camp War Eagle

or nearly 30 years, Auburn University has provided a program for incoming freshmen to ensure that they come onto campus feeling comfortable and prepared. That program is known as Camp War Eagle, which takes place at Auburn before each fall semester. Camp War Eagle is Auburn’s orientation program. Each year, thousands of incoming freshmen are welcomed by camp counselors who are tasked with showing the future students around Auburn’s campus, giving them information about what to expect in the coming semester, introducing them to their academic advisors and allowing them to interact with one another. “What we’re trying to do with Camp War Eagle is really just let the students and their families leave feeling comfortable, having all their questions answered and knowing the academic and social sides of college,” said Melissa Dunn, assistant director of First Year Experience orientation.


Though this is a college orientation, a large focus is creating a network for students who may feel uncomfortable coming to a new place or are worried about how to make friends in a new environment. Dunn said Camp War Eagle has changed a lot from its origins. She said that Camp War Eagle was first piloted in 1994 at the 4-H Camp in Columbiana, Alabama. This first trial of Camp War Eagle was centered on Auburn’s history and traditions from the university. “The president at the time, Dr. William V. Muse, brought in some ideas from his previous experience at Texas A&M,” Dunn said. “Dr. Muse was fundamental in seeing that Auburn turned their orientation into a fun, spirit-filled program.” After V. Muse’s suggestions, the first official Camp War Eagle was hosted on Auburn’s campus in 1995. The program has been expanding ever since, having initially hosted just 100 students in its pilot run. The insistence that Camp War Eagle be focused on


Auburn and what it has to offer can still be felt to this day. Many of the camp counselors spend their day hyping up the wonderful academic and social programs that the university offers and try to form bonds with those in their group. “I think for a lot of freshmen, this is their first real opportunity to experience Auburn’s culture, our welcoming nature, our family orientation,” said Camp War Eagle Head Counselor John Boles Jr. “We want everybody to feel like they’re a part of our family.” Since these freshmen are essentially in a new world, the work done by the counselors to make them feel welcome and at home is especially important. Many of these students have never had as fresh a start as what they receive when they come to college. “We can make a huge difference to students who have really only read about Auburn or have just been here for a day on a campus tour,” Boles said. “But now they’re really able to buy into that family and culture and can eventually contribute to it themselves.” By providing a welcoming atmosphere, counselors are creating a campus where students can feel comfortable. When counselors make an effort to interact with their groups and allow them to get to know one another, these

students are given a head start on making Auburn their home. Along with the connections that students make at Camp War Eagle, this program is also a very energetic experience. Camp War Eagle seeks to make students excited about the choice they’ve made and wants them to be excited for their upcoming school year. “I think a lot of students feel excitement when they come to camp,” said Camp War Eagle Head Counselor Jared Peters said. “Getting them excited during the summer and getting them into some of the traditions and culture kind of allows them to jump right in.” Creating an atmosphere that students want to be a part of is vital to Camp War Eagle’s success. When the students feel like they can have fun and be themselves in this new environment, they will be better oriented into the Auburn community. What most people do not realize about Camp War Eagle is that it is not only beneficial to those in attendance and their families, but the First Year Experience office is actively providing their student counselors with a professional work environment and skills while putting on this program. “This has really improved my professional skills within a work setting,” said Camp War Eagle Head Counselor Blake Spradlin. “We’re getting a chance to work in the First Year Experience office, and it’s different from other types of involvement on campus.” Spradlin noted that the work done by him and his fellow counselors is more like a real job, rather than a campus club. He said that they were fortunate to be working with a very professional group who actively guide them through the work that they do each summer. After two years of Camp War Eagle being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Dunn and Chris Landry, assistant director of First Year Experience Orientation, said that they were happy to be incorporating new features in the program, as well as restarting some past features that had to be paused. “Our family program is coming back,” Landry said. “It will be helpful for families to see more of what campus looks like, especially since we largely kept them away last year.” Dunn also said that students will be staying on campus this year, which was avoided entirely in 2020 and was optional during 2021’s Camp War Eagle. Despite efforts to return to normal Camp War Eagle sessions, Landry said that they are trying their best to make sure that no student who wants to attend is left out. A virtual option for the camp will remain for those who can’t attend in person. “We also are continuing an element of virtual programming for those who can’t come to campus for whatever reason,” Landry said. “So trying to give those students and guests a pleasant experience is important. We want them to know that it may look a little different, but we want them to still feel welcome.”



No matter through which medium students attend Camp War Eagle, they will still be introduced to the many programs and organizations that Auburn has to offer. Camp War Eagle Head Counselor Sydney Williams said that the First Year Experience office works effortlessly to provide students with plenty of information about what happens at Auburn. “I think the best feature of Camp War Eagle is how many opportunities it highlights,” Williams said. “The First Year Experience office has amazing relationships with all the campus partners, and there’s a chance for students and their guests to speak directly to these partners.” Williams said that it was beneficial for students to see the countless involvement programs at the university. She also said that having so many of these programs set up in a specific space was a special opportunity. Williams described Camp War Eagle as a “onestop-shop for all of your questions to be answered.” Though the camp



hosts approximately 5,000 students, Camp War Eagle Head Counselor Isabelle Scott described the program as “intentional.” “We try to make sure that all 5,000 students know at least one person when they come back to campus,” Scott said. “I feel like every student is more than a number; I feel like they’re really connected to someone.” Scott also said that the counselors are very personable when interacting with the students. The intentionality of the program is what it is all about. Much of the intentionality of the camp is due to the small group setting. Each counselor is assigned a group of students and leads breakout sessions, referred to as “Tiger Talks,” throughout the day where the students get to ask questions and interact with one another. In these small groups, many students can find a companion. They often find people with things in common with them in these groups, which Camp War Eagle Head Counselor Emmy Beason said was her favorite feature of the program. “I think there is something really special about getting into a group and meeting people your age who are going through

the exact same process as you,” Beason said. “Though you may have grown up miles away from one another, you’ll often find that you have a lot in common with someone during the camp.” Camp War Eagle is a special event for Auburn University. It is often incoming freshmen’s first experience of the university. The connections they make here could last a lifetime and often help assimilate them into college life. Chloé Dwyer, a graduate student working with First Year Experience, said that camp was a great time for students to challenge themselves and set a tone for what their upcoming year will be like. “Their experience at camp is going to be kind of challenging and a little uncomfortable for them,” Dwyer said. “But they quickly catch on that their counselors are trying to help them figure things out.” Landry noted how pivotal this program was for incoming freshmen. “For everybody, Auburn is something new,” Landry said. “Camp War Eagle is a chance for them to see ‘what am I going to be like in college,’ ‘who do I want to be’ and ‘who do I want to be well beyond my time at Auburn.’”

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SEVERE WEATHER PREP Story By EMA Director Rita Smith


eather conditions can occur rapidly, and severe weather can develop without a lot of notice. Severe weather could include thunderstorms, lightning, straight-line wind damage, tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, as well as freezing temperatures and ice creating hazardous road conditions in colder months. Statistically speaking, the state of Alabama has experienced an increase in tornado activity in the last 20 years. Lee County is all too familiar with the devastating tornadoes on March 3, 2019, that claimed 23 lives and left miles of destruction and debris in the aftermath. We must always remain weather aware as residents of Alabama. Preparedness is a 24/7/365 personal responsibility and you must prepare yourself and your family for the reality of facing severe weather conditions at some point. Preparing for severe weather long before it takes place can bring you peace of mind and save you a great deal of stress. When thinking about how to prepare for severe weather think about your home and surroundings. Keeping trees and branches trimmed could protect your home from damage. When the forecast indicates that severe weather is a possibility, secure loose objects in your yard, porch and deck including trampolines, outside toys, patio furniture, grills and plants. Putting these items away before a severe weather event can prevent damage and/or loss of these items. Even high winds can create issues with outside items being relocated or worse cause an injury or damage. Your severe weather preparation plan should also include multiple ways to receive weather notifications. Please do not rely on the Outdoor Warning sirens that are placed outside in various locations in the county. These are intended to alert citizens who are outside so they will go inside out of harm’s way and follow their severe weather plan. If you are one of those who will read this and say, “I hear them inside my home when they are tested”, please understand that when the winds are high, and the storm system is strong, you WILL NOT hear the sirens inside your home. Don’t risk your safety or that of your family members by relying on these as your primary source of severe weather notifications. A NOAA All Hazards radio is your best option for severe weather notifications. The radio and battery cost less than $40, can be purchased at your favorite retailer and the Lee County Emergency Management Agency will program your radio free of charge.

If you own a smartphone, the Lee County Emergency Management Agency also offers a free app for Apple or Android that can be downloaded from the app store. There is an option to register your storm shelter/safe room within the app and that information goes to the Lee County Emergency Management Agency as well. You can also download an app with your favorite news station. These tools will provide you with weather updates right in your hand with up-to-date information. Always be sure that you use trusted sources for this critical information. Secondly, you should be sure that you have a plan should a tornado watch, or warning, be issued and that your family knows what this plan is always. Does your home have an “above ground” or “below ground” shelter? Have you practiced getting into your shelter with your family? If you don’t have a shelter, do you go to a “safer location” should a tornado watch, be issued? Waiting until a tornado warning is issued is too late. It is no longer safe to travel at that time. If you feel that your home is the safest place for you to wait out the severe weather, then be sure you have the following items close by: closed toed shoes, bicycle helmets to protect your head from flying debris, flashlights with spare batteries, solar chargers for cell phones and electronic equipment, water and snacks, battery-operated lamps, pillows and blankets. Your safe place can be in your home, whether that is your shelter, basement or lowest level, a central location of your home away from windows. Another thing to consider is a way for your family members to check in with each other should you be separated when the severe weather makes impact: using a friend who lives out of state or a family member for each one of you to call works very well. If each family member knows to do this and has the contact number stored in their phone, then as the calls are made the contact person can then relay that information to everyone. This offers quick accountability for everyone who resides in your home and additional peace of mind should your family become separated and need to let everyone know that “all is well” until you can be reunified after the threat of severe weather has passed. If you need assistance programming your radios or have preparation questions, please contact the Lee County Emergency Management Agency (334) 749-8161 and if you use social media please follow the agency on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Rev Up The Trucks Rev Up the Fun Story By Natalie Salvatore Photos By Ed Sikora


ood Truck Friday is an example of how success can come from just one idea. Every first and third Friday of the month, the Opelika Chamber of Commerce brings the community together through its new event, Food Truck Fridays, offering great food and a great time. The inspiration behind Food Truck Friday came from President and CEO of the Chamber Ali Rauch. She said she has enjoyed seeing people out and about in downtown Opelika since the events started in February. Food Truck Friday was born after Rauch said she noticed the long wait times at local restaurants in the downtown area and understood the frustrations people felt. With limited staffing and some restaurants closed, businesses took a hit, particularly on 1st Avenue and North Railroad. Rauch wanted to give locals a chance to enjoy dinner during weekends in downtown and remind them what’s special, so special about historic downtown Opelika. “After a business came to me and said, ‘I’d really like your help getting a food truck in front of my shop,’ I took it a step further and said, ‘What if we make it an entire event — a regular thing,’” Rauch said. She, along with other chamber members, made this event a reality. Not only do different food trucks participate in


this event, but catering companies and brick-and-mortar stores also partake in the festivities. Many participants of Food Truck Friday are chamber members themselves. “We strengthen our community as the champion for business, and we regularly celebrate and serve our members by building awareness as we drive traffic to our many businesses and advocate for them when needed,” Rauch said. “We hoped that this would get people back into downtown, and they would be reminded that Opelika is Auburn’s hip older sister.” Rauch described the energy in the streets of downtown on these special Friday evenings. The event welcomes families and friends to stop by and experience everything downtown Opelika has to offer. The chamber uses the diverse community’s pride for Opelika as the driving force behind making this event that much better. Not only can the locals enjoy different food options on the go from the different food trucks, but people can also walk around the streets and enjoy drinks, shopping and the overall atmosphere. “If you walk around on any first and third Friday, you just feel it,” Rauch said. “People are excited to be out, as they’re willing to wait in line for a long time to try some food.”


Food Truck Friday has brightened up the scene in downtown Opelika and has gone the extra mile to turn the entertainment scene around. As the weather warms up, Rauch expects the crowds to continue to grow. The crowds even persevered through the cold weather back in February to attend. “We’re shining a spotlight on some new and amazing foodies who are showcasing their specialties,” Rauch said. “We’ve got an authentic, Spanish food truck, Las Latinas; a Latin-American food truck called Bodega; gourmet hot dogs at Franky June’s Weeny Wagon; award-winning barbeque at Boar’s Breath, Bill & Robbie’s Excellent BBQ Adventure and Butcher Paper BBQ; German food at German Food & Fine Gifts; and young entrepreneurs at Deljen’s, a shaved ice business started by 12-year-old Della, among others.” Since the event’s start, Rauch explained how not only are the food trucks and bars involved in the event succeeding, but many local businesses are also thriving as a result of a positive chain reaction. “The restaurants along South Railroad and Seventh and Eighth streets have all been very busy, most sharing double-digit increases in sales volume over prior years,” she said. “We have gotten requests from Boonie Hat

Coffee, Fringe Boutique, Tart and Tartan, Z&Z Cigar, the Museum of East Alabama and Rock ‘N Roll Pinball, as they all want to be in on this event and participate because they are loving the people that are coming down to enjoy it.” Moreover, Rauch said one of the local Opelika bars has had its biggest sales nights since its annual Burger Wars event that normally draws in most business. “If we can create nights like that twice a month, think about the actual sales impact that has to help our businesses be more successful,” she said. The pandemic has not been able to touch this event. In fact, Rauch seems to think it has strengthened Food Truck Friday. Using staff shortages in different restaurants as its motivation, the event utilizes its strength of encompassing larger crowds through a wide variety of food and entertainment accommodations. Offering food options outside via trucks can bring peace of mind to customers who may be wary of eating in packed restaurants. Also, Rauch explained how the event has also attracted crowds because people are antsy to catch up with family and friends. “That’s what I see when I’m there — people seeing each other and hugging each other because it’s been too long,”



she said. “This gives them an avenue to hang out again.” Rauch said she is truly astonished by how lively the entire downtown scene is now on Friday nights. She described seeing people’s faces light up when they walk along the streets and experience the magic for themselves. Rauch said she recently received a phone call from a friend whose father once served on city council, who was almost in tears with joy because he had always hoped that downtown would one day be as bustling as Food Truck Friday has helped it become. “Some of our food truck partners have grown significantly faster than expected because of the avenue we’ve created to help them find raving fans, and that makes my heart happy,” Rauch said. “Sarah with Mama Mocha’s recently had twins and has had limited hours where she’s open to make drinks for her fans. She opened for Food Truck Friday and has had record-breaking sales, even pre-pandemic.” Rauch presented a sales analysis report for February and March to the city council in May, and it resulted in good news for supporters of Food Truck Friday. The event will likely remain a staple in downtown Opelika. Positivity and growth were major themes that came out of Rauch’s report on the trial run at Opelika City Council’s May 17 meeting. “I’m pleased to share that of all the downtown businesses, there were no participating businesses who experienced any negative impact from Food Truck Fridays,” she said. Businesses experienced anywhere from 25 to 185%



growth, thanks to the increase in foot traffic and sales during the event. One business even saw an “astronomical” 700 to 1,000%. Rauch submitted a formal request to the council to continue holding the event with specific plans and suggestions to make it beneficial to all patrons and businesses. Recently, they have added more lighting, trash cans and live music as Food Truck Friday is taking over First Avenue to accommodate the crowds and provide more space. Also in the works is a goal to continue adding more seating to provide various spaces for customers to sit down and enjoy their meal, Rauch said. Rauch expressed her gratitude for all the businesses that have given her positive feedback and appreciation. She also attributes her success to the other chamber members, who all work hard with her on Friday nights and Saturday mornings. “To know that it’s helped so many businesses and that the citizens are loving it — I’m thrilled,” she said. “I couldn’t do it without my rockstar team who embraced the crazy idea and went with it.” Rauch said they are interested in booking more musicians for Friday nights and anyone interested can email her at Food Truck Fridays also needs volunteers. Anyone interested can contact Ashley Colquitt at ashley@ Also, Rauch encourages nonprofits or other organizations to contact her if they would like to assemble and disassemble tables and chairs in exchange for promotion of their causes.

Businesses participating in Food Truck Friday are licensed and legitimate businesses through the city that pay sales tax and obtain health permits, validating their presence in the community just as Opelika’s stand-alone restaurants have. Rauch asks interested caterers or food trucks to visit the above website or to email catherine@ for all the details concerning participation and the application process.



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