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2 | August 2021

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2021 Football Schedules

SOUTHERN LEE HIGH SCHOOL

LEE COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL Aug. 20 Aug. 27 Sept. 3 Sept. 10 Sept. 17 Sept 24 Oct. 1 Oct. 8 Oct. 15 Oct. 22 Oct. 29

Yellow Jackets

@ Northwood GLENN @ South Granville @ Fuquay-Varina UNION PINES HOKE COUNTY Bye Week @ Pinecrest @ Richmond County SCOTLAND COUNTY @ Southern Lee

Aug. 20 Aug. 27 Sept. 3 Sept. 10 Sept. 17 Sept 24 Oct. 1 Oct. 8 Oct. 15 Oct. 22 Oct. 29

Cavaliers

@ Westover GREEN HOPE @ South Johnston FAIRMONT @ Richmond County SCOTLAND COUNTY @ Pinecrest HOKE COUNTY Bye Week @ Union Pines LEE COUNTY

Home Games in ALL CAPS


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The RantMonthly

The Rant Monthly | 3

September 2021 | Sanford, North Carolina A product of LPH Media, LLC Vol. 3 | Issue 9 | No. 30

Editorial Gordon Anderson | gordon@rantnc.com Billy Liggett | billy@rantnc.com Jonathan Owens | jonathan@rantnc.com Advertising Brandon Allred | brandon@rantnc.com (919) 605-1479 Contributors Ben Brown, Charles Petty and Richard Sullins Editorial Board Charles the Arbor Day Scorpion, Jim Bunny, The Fake Bob Brown, Marmaduke Murphy, Vince Gill, Bad Chadams, Margaret and Teenage Caleb

Find Us Online: www.rantnc.com Facebook: facebook.com/therant905 Twitter: twitter.com/therant905 Podcast: rantnc.podbean.com

ABOUT THE COVER

The Rant Monthly SEPTEMBER 2021

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Carolina Indie Fest comes to downtown Sanford Sept. 18-19 after months of planning. Hosted by Indie On Air, the Sanford Tourism Authority and Hugger Mugger Brewing, Indie Fest will feature 47 performances on three stages over a two-day period. This edition of The Rant Monthly is a promotion of the event with profiles of several bands who will perform and a story on how it all came together. Grab your masks and join us for Indie Fest!

The Rant Monthly is located in beautiful Sanford, North Carolina. Please address all correspondence to LPH Media LLC, 3096 South Horner Boulevard #126, Sanford, NC, 27332. Editorial email: gordon@rantnc.com or billy@rantnc.com. Advertising: brandon@rantnc.com. The Rant Monthly is published monthly (obvs). The Rant Monthly is wholly owned and operated by LPH Media LLC, a North Carolina corporation. Submissions of all kinds are welcome. This publication is free — one per reader, please. Removal of this newspaper from any distribution point for purposes other than reading it constitutes theft, and violators are subject to public flogging and ridicule. Printed by Restoration News Media LLC in Raleigh, NC. Copyright 2021, LPH Media LLC, all rights reserved.

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4 | August 2021

SEPTEMBER 11, 2021 20TH ANNIVERSARY The country will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks this month, and The Rant would like to publish your thoughts and memories of a day considered one of the most tragic in U.S. history.

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PAGE FOUR INDUSTRY IN SANFORD

From where you were to how it changed your life, we’d like to put together a package that will be published on the anniversary. Email Billy Liggett at billy@rantnc.com or visit our website to access the form to send your memories.

DID YOU KNOW? Cleanup at Ground Zero in New York City officially ended in May 2002. It took 3.1 million hours of labor to clean up 1.8 million tons of debris. The total cost of cleanup was $750 million.

RIP, ED ASNER Ed Asner, beloved actor best known for his role as Lou Grant in The Mary Tyler Moore Show and most recently for roles in Up and Elf, died on Aug. 29, at the age of 91. Asner was scheduled to perform his A Man and His Prostate show at Temple Theatre in Sanford on Sept. 14. The popular show provided both a light and serious look at his battle with prostate cancer.

The past two years have been filled with announcements of new industries and new businesses in Sanford and Lee County, and one of the biggest additions was Bharat Forge in 2020. When the project was announced the previous year, the India-based company said it would employ 460 people at an average wage of more than $47,000. Above, employees Seven Ragle and Prince Gyasi-Boakye work the forging line in the warehouse located off of Colon Road north of Sanford. Photo by Ben Brown.

FOUR FAST FOOD CHICKEN SANDWICHES The burger wars defined the fast food industry in the 1980s, and 40 years later, we’re living our best lives in the middle of the fast food chicken sandwich wars. Fortunately for our readers, we’ve tried them all. Here’s our Top 4 (in no order):

POPEYES

BOJANGLES

ZAXBY’S

CHICK-FIL-A

Not the oldest, but certainly the one that launched a war

New to the game and just as good, if not better

Another great sandwich, made better by the sauce

The standard bearer for fast food chicken sandwiches


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The Rant Monthly | 5

Your health means everything. And that means it’s time to schedule those doctor visits that you’ve been putting off, from wellness visits to sick care. So call your healthcare provider and make an appointment. If you don’t have a primary care provider, we’ll help you find one. Don’t make your health wait. Make that appointment. And get the care you need now.

Online scheduling available at CentralCarolinaHosp.com To find a healthcare provider, call 800.483.6385


6 | August 2021

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OB/GYN Care for Every Stage of Life Now Accepting New Patients Our board certified OB/GYN specialists are trained in infertility, continence, prenatal care, hormone therapy, minimally invasive surgery and much more. We proudly offer a wide variety of treatments and options to meet the unique needs of our patients in every stage of their life. To make an appointment, call (919) 895-6340. Proudly Serving Lee County for 15 years


The Rant Monthly | 7

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www.FirstHealth.org/obgyn

923-90-21


8 | August 2021

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THE LEAD HEALTH CARE IN LEE COUNTY

CENTRAL CAROLINA HOSPITAL NAMES CEO Central Carolina Hospital named Chris Fensterle as the organization’s new chief executive officer effective. The move was made effective on Aug. 30. Fensterle, who replaces outgoing CEO Spencer Thomas, has held leadership positions at Frye Regional Medical Center, a Duke LifePoint Hospital in Hickory, where he most recently served as interim CEO and chief operations officer. “Central Carolina Hospital and the communities it serves are in capable hands with Chris,” said Jamie Carter, division president for LifePoint Health. “He is a known leader within the Duke LifePoint network, and brings a remarkable breadth of operational, leadership and patient-focused experience as well as dedication to quality care. We look forward to working with him to grow CCH and broaden its impact on the health and well-being of its region.” Fensterle became Frye Regional’s COO in 2016, before moving into the interim CEO and COO role in 2019. He was previously an administrator with Manatee Memorial Healthcare System in Florida and began his career as a behavioral healthcare provider before transitioning into business development and hospital administration. “We are fortunate to continue our mission of making communities healthier with such a noted leader as Chris at the helm,” said Tom Snell, CCH’s board chair. “I have no doubt Chris will lead CCH with the same level of excellence he has brought to his past endeavors. We are delighted to welcome him to our community.”

FirstHealth of the Carolinas will take over emergency medical transportation services for the county beginning Oct. 1, following a vote in August by the Lee County Board of Commissioners. Photo: FirstHealth of the Carolinas

FIRSTHEALTH GETS EMS Central Carolina Hospital to step aside after holding county’s EMS services since 1990s By Richard Sullins Lee County commissioners voted 5-2 in August to select FirstHealth of the Carolinas to take over emergency medical transportation services for the county

effective Oct. 1, although discussions are currently underway that could allow Central Carolina Hospital to continue transporting non-emergency patients from their location to other facilities. Democratic Commissioners Mark Lovick, Robert Reives, Cameron Sharpe, and Republicans Arianna Lavallee and Dr. Andre Knecht voted in favor of the EMS Advisory Committee’s recommendation to award the franchise to FirstHealth. Opposing the measure were Board Chairman Kirk Smith and Commissioner Bill Carver, both Republicans. A crowd of about 125 people gathered at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center to

listen as the commissioners conducted the second of two public hearings on awarding the contract, which had been held since the 1990s by Central Carolina Hospital EMS. Twenty one persons spoke during the public hearing portion of the meeting that lasted for more than 90 minutes. Most of those addressing the commissioners spoke in favor of Central Carolina retaining the contract, which expires on September 30. Spencer Thomas, outgoing CEO at Central Carolina, talked of the differences between the sizes of the two organizations and their approaches to health care as being something of a David and Goliath comparison.


The Rant Monthly | 9

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“The closest and most appropriate hospital for every patient in Lee County, with rare exceptions, will be Central Carolina Hospital. Nothing here changes that. Our paramedics will ask patients where they want to go and, as long as that’s appropriate, that’s where they are taken.” — Dr. Matthew Harmony, Medical Director for FirstHealth EMS “We may not be able to offer the same level of technology that our competitor offers, but the stabilizing care that we do offer can many times mean the difference between life and death,” he said. Dr. Philip Brondon, a gastroenterologist affiliated with Central Carolina Hospital, told the commissioners that he felt “very fortunate to have a very high-quality EMS service at our disposal. Changing this service to an out-of-county provider could reduce the access of our citizens to quality care and drive them away from local providers.” Another speaker, Matthew Hemby of Lillington, expressed the views of some in the crowd when he said “it appears that FirstHealth is trying to monopolize this region and that can’t be good for this community.” Others had differing views. Former State Representative Leslie Cox argued in favor of accepting the Advisory Committee’s recommendation to award the contract to FirstHealth, saying that “it would be pretty foolish to go against the advice of these professionals.” Dr. Matthew Harmony of Sandhills Emergency Physicians and Medical Director for FirstHealth EMS sought to put the fears of some to rest. “The closest and most appropriate hospital for every patient in Lee County, with rare exceptions, will be Central Carolina Hospital. Nothing here changes that,” he said. “Our paramedics will ask patients where they want to go and, as long as that’s appropriate, that’s where they are taken.” Mickey Foster, CEO of FirstHealth of the Carolinas and a native of Lee County, said that his connection with the community is personal. “I will do nothing to harm Sanford and Lee County,” he said.

Lovick and Sharpe called the decision among the most difficult during their terms in office and a hard call to make. Carver, however, said he saw his role as not simply accepting the recommendation of the Advisory Committee. “This vote comes tonight from the commission, not the committee. We have to take personal responsibility for it,” he said. The commissioners are expected to review and approve the contract with FirstHealth on Sept. 8. The same EMS Advisory Board that recommended FirstHealth will now oversee its performance and report any concerns it has back to the commissioners. Although FirstHealth has said that it expects to make employment offers to many Central Carolina EMS workers, several have indicated that they will seek employment elsewhere or leave the field altogether. Meanwhile, city and county officials have been informed of discussions taking place between officials at FirstHealth and Central Carolina Hospital that would move hospital-to-hospital transports to CCH and reserve FirstHealth EMS crews solely for emergency runs. County Manager John Crumpton says that “the county has been asked by First Health to add to the EMS contract the ability to sub-contract facility transfers (not only hospitals, but non-emergency transports from nursing homes as well).” This addition means that if FirstHealth comes to an agreement with CCH or some other entity, they will simply notify the county of the arrangement. No agreement has been reached yet, although discussions are said to be continuing. o Richard Sullins covers local government for The Rant Monthly. Contact him at richard@rantnc.com.


10 | August 2021

FIRSTHEALTH OPENS THIRD LOCAL CARE CLINIC FirstHealth of the Carolinas opened its third convenient care clinic in Lee County at 3110 S. Horner Blvd on Aug. 16. “We are thrilled to further serve the Lee County community with a third convenient care clinic,” said Dan Barnes, D.O., president of the FirstHealth Physician Group. “Our Tramway and Beechtree Drive locations in Sanford have been well received, and we believe this new location will greatly benefit residents seeking care in a busy area of the county.” The new location, which is FirstHealth’s 10th overall convenient care clinic, is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily to serve adults and children with non emergency medical needs such as upper respiratory infection, strep, mild asthma, flu, urinary tract infections, and minor injuries such as cuts, burns and some broken bones. The clinic will also offer imaging services, immunizations, and sports physicals.

CCH REIMPLEMENTS ‘NO VISITOR’ POLICY Central Carolina Hospital in Sanford reimplemented a zero-visitor policy in August, citing “the rising number of COVID-19 cases and the increased rate of transmission in Lee County.” There are, however, exceptions including one well visitor that has been screened for patients in pediatrics and delivery, and well visitors for end of life care at the discretion of CCH care teams. Additional exceptions may be made on a case by case basis, according to the hospital. Additionally, outpatient patients will be allowed one well visitor — an exception that will allow the visitor to be screened alongside the patient prior to entering the clinic and accompany the patient to facilitate care for a procedure, treatment or same-day surgery.

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LOCAL COVID-19

CASES SKYROCKETING Lee County has seen a 2,000-percent spike in positive COVID-19 cases in last 2 months By Richard Sullins COVID-19 continues to tighten its grip on Lee County as the surge of the illness that began early in the summer has grown into a stronger wave that now threatens to upend the progress that vaccinations had been making late in the spring. Four more county residents have died from the illness since July, and the number of cases reported has become almost a vertical line, reaching 1,000 cases per 100,000 residents on Aug. 23. That number was 46.9 on June 21, just two months ago, representing an increase of 2032.2 percent. The number of confirmed cases since the outbreak began 18 months ago has now risen to 7,512 in the county, an increase of 916 cases in less than a month. The spike in cases has, so far, not resulted in a similar increase in vaccinations. By the end of August, 30,721 people age 12 and over received at least one dose of the vaccines, representing 61 percent of the eligible population. When looking at just the number of persons who are fully vaccinated, that number is 27,693, or 50 percent of those eligible to receive the shot. The 53 cases of COVID reported on Aug. 17 was the highest number since 55 cases were reported on Jan. 18. By the end of August, Lee County government had 18 employees who were out of

work and quarantining because of exposure to COVID. Commissioners asked County Manager John Crumpton on Aug. 16 to make a recommendation at their Sept. 6 meeting for providing special leave for county employees who may be forced to stay out of work because of the impact of COVID and who may have exhausted their sick and vacation leave balances. Sanford City Manager Hal Hegwer told The Rant that the greatest number that the City has had out of work due to the virus is much smaller, between one and four.

County if the surge isn’t brought under control soon.

90 percent of the cases reported in Lee County [are] coming from the sector of the population that is unvaccinated.

The county is looking to extend its weekly Thursday and Friday vaccination clinics at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center by an additional hour, beginning at 1 p.m. and going until 5:30, and potentially adding Tuesday as an additional vaccination day during the same hours. Cain reported that the $100 gift card incentive has been working somewhat and that the county will be extending it as long as funds are available for the program.

Crumpton said the absences were having an impact on the provision of some county services but did not elaborate on what they were or how significant the impacts are. He did say that he and Chairman Kirk Smith were planning a meeting with Sanford Mayor Chet Mann and Hegwer to explore what steps may be necessary in coming days to protect the public health if the outbreak continues to escalate. Raleigh, Durham, Charlotte and other North Carolina cities are now requiring everyone to wear masks indoors in public places regardless of vaccination status. Many restaurants in some of the state’s largest cities are now also requiring proof of vaccination status before patrons will be allowed inside, and the Durham Performing Arts Center and the Carolina Theater will be doing the same for their fall events. City and county leaders locally have hinted that similar measures could be on the way for Sanford and Lee

County Health Director Heath Cain briefed commissioners on Aug. 16 on the resurgence of the virus, with 90 percent of the cases reported in Lee County coming from the sector of the population that is unvaccinated. Cain reported that the sector of the population showing the highest infection rates were those between the ages of 25 to 49, the same slice of the public that has shown the lowest overall vaccination rates.

Meanwhile, the spread of COVID continues to be on the minds of city leaders as well. After a meeting on Aug. 17 that focused on growth in affordable housing and economic development, Mann said, “We are living in one of the greatest times that Sanford has ever seen. But COVID is threatening to take that away. We have to do the American thing to end this variant and end this pandemic.” As he has for months, Mann went on to urge those city residents who haven’t yet been vaccinated to consult with their physician and talk about what’s right for them and their families. “Call your damn doctor and talk to them. Get their advice. Otherwise, we’re going to have to do something here that no one wants to do. Get the facts from your doctor and do what’s right for you.”


The Rant Monthly | 11

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12 | August 2021 EDITORIAL

TRYING SOMETHING NEW, EN ESPAÑOL Per the most recent Census update, Lee County now has more than 62,000 people. We want to reach as many of them as we can. And while assimilation happens over time, we know there are a good number of Lee County’s growing Hispanic or Latino population who don’t speak or read English. That’s why beginning this month, we’ll begin publishing our e-edition translated entirely into Spanish. We’ve been told over and over again that people find our content timely, informative and useful — and we’d like to think that will be true regardless of whether English or Spanish is the language with which you’re most comfortable. In this edition alone, we have stories about who picks up the phone when you call 911, a major downtown music event, the annual Lee Regional Fair, and more. This is content you’ll find relevant, even necessary, no matter what language you speak. Thanks are due in particular to our translator, Kyra Rodriguez, who has taken on the daunting task of converting each month’s content from one language to another. Most of the contributors to this news product have little more Spanish than what we finished high school or college with, so we literally couldn’t do this without her help. And finally, it’s our hope that providing our content in Spanish will also help us to better develop relationships with our Spanish-speaking neighbors. We hope building these new relationships will allow us to better tell your stories. If you have one, please email gordon@rantnc.com or billy@rantnc.com. We look forward to hearing from you. The first Spanish language e-edition of The Rant Monthly will be available at www.issuu.com/rantncenespanol on Sept. 7.

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OPINION COLUMN | GORDON ANDERSON

Big shows of Sanford’s past

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bout 20 or so years ago, some friends of mine and I put together a rock show at a now-defunct club in Jonesboro when we were home from college one summer. That club, the name of which I can no longer recall, had once been a venue called Studebaker’s. Acts who had performed at Studebaker’s over the years, we were told, included early rock pioneer Chubby Checker and 1980s/90s heartthrobs The New Kids on the Block. So, yeah, we humorously reasoned. We could legitimately say we’d played the same stage as Chubby Checker! And NKOTB! Now we were getting somewhere. That band I was in at the time didn’t last, but every time I see Donnie Wahlberg on Blue Bloods, I think about how my feet probably once stood where his probably once danced. I bring this up because there apparently was a time, or times, when large-ish musical acts would find Sanford on their itinerary. I’ve heard about Joan Jett and the Blackhearts playing the very same Studebaker’s (I know a guy who ran into them at the old truck stop diner after the show). James Gang featuring Joe Walsh played at Lee Senior in 1974. Even an undergound northeast hardcore band called Snapcase (you probably haven’t heard of them, but they were a thing in their world) once set up a DIY gig at the National Guard armory on Nash Street. You don’t have to be into any or all of these artists to think that it was sort of weird that those shows ever happened here. There’s hope to believe shows like that can happen again. They already are, to a degree, with the upcoming Carolina Indie Fest. Near-

ly 50 acts spanning nearly as many genres or sub-genres are set to perform in downtown Sanford over Sept. 18- 19. And it’s free. We’ve spent the past couple months interviewing several of the performers on our podcast, and they’re a mix of up-and-coming talent as well as a few well-established acts you might not know but definitely should. Saturday’s headliner, for example, is Paleface, a formerly NYC-based singer-songwriter who now calls North Carolina home. The guy has released close to 20 full-length records since the early 90s, and collaborated with people like the Avett Brothers. He was “discovered,” so to speak, by the same guy who managed The Ramones and The Doors. He was roommates with Beck. So yeah. Pretty adjacent to plenty of rock and roll royalty, and a pretty damn good artist himself. And he’s playing here! And so are 40-some other artists, at least a handful of which you’re bound to enjoy, regardless of your music tastes. We’ve definitely enjoyed talking to them and playing some of their music on the show. There will also be food trucks, art vendors, you name it. And look, if you’re the type of person who likes live music and wants to have more opportunities to see artists you know and love performing where you live, you should support this event regardless. Because if it’s a success, Sanford can be the kind of place where that’s possible. I’ll finish by saying that two thirds of the acts are performing outdoors, and you can and should wear a mask when possible to promote safety. And there’s plenty of time between now and then to make all of this a non issue by getting or finishing your vaccination. Gordon Anderson is a Rant co-founder who once played the same stage The New Kids on the Block once played. Tell him who your favorite New Kid is by emailing billy@rantnc.com.

READER RESPONSE Wrong to shame those who don’t attend a concert Re: Billy Liggett’s August column, “Sanford’s apathy problem.” Every other column is about the importance of social distancing and the deaths brought by COVID-19. In the middle of the Delta surge — the same one y’all are reporting on — you’re going to chastise your readers for being too apathetic to attend concerts? Pick your lane and stay the f**k in it. Y’all are becoming a joke. Kimberly Fox Sanford

The reason attendance at Indie Fest could be low From Facebook: Whereas I’ll agree that Sanford appears to have a low turnout rate with certain events, I think that this year will not be an exception. However, unlike previous years, it’s not necessarily because people are uninformed or uninterested (although that may play a role too), but we’re still in a pandemic. “But we have vaccines” — well our vaccination rate in Lee county is unfortunately low. I’ll agree, we’re not great at showing up, but can we really fault the people for not showing up at a music fest during a pandemic in a town with low vaccination rates? With that being said, I personally would be inclined to attend, however (even though I’m fully vaxxed) I will be wearing my mask. Keisha Schmitt Sanford


The Rant Monthly | 13

rantnc.com A plea to Lee County residents: Do your part to save lives by getting the COVID-19 vaccine To the Editor: Over the past week, I have watched in disbelief as local cases of COVID-19 have climbed in our hospital and across our community once again. Our current COVID-19 situation is worse today than it was in January, and like many hospitals across the region, we are operating at the edge of our capacity. As you can imagine, this fourth wave is taking an extreme toll on our physicians, nurses and other frontline staff, especially since much of what we are facing today is preventable. We need your help, and we are asking you to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, we are treating approximately 20 patients who are positive for COVID-19 at our hospital, and as you can see on our website, the vast majority of these patients are unvaccinated. Our community’s vaccination rate is behind the rest of the state and is putting an extreme burden on our local healthcare system. Our facility is primarily caring for very sick COVID-19 patients, and in addition to managing the rapid increase of COVID-19 patients, we continue to care for the ongoing, non-COVID-19 healthcare needs of our community. I am concerned for my team and community because the current environment is unsustainable. If you have already been vaccinated, thank you for doing your part. Not only is the COVID-19 vaccine safe and effective at reducing the likelihood of contracting the virus, being hospitalized or dying, it has now received full approval from the Food & Drug Administration. With the FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine for individuals 16 years of age and older, we expect the approval of other vaccines will soon follow. If you are still on the fence about getting vaccinated, I encourage you to discuss your hesitation with your physician or another member of the medical community. Most physicians like myself are vaccinated because we know the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Each vaccine administered is a bed saved for someone having a heart attack, stroke or other medical emergency. We have

seen firsthand how vaccines protect against this virus which is why we encourage you to be a part of the solution. Additionally, we strongly encourage our community to take other precautions that we know are effective in slowing the spread of the virus, including wearing a mask, practicing social distancing and continuing proper hand hygiene. When ALL of these measures are consistently practiced, they will help lower the transmission rate and reduce the number of COVID-19 cases in our community. Even in the midst of this public health emergency, we strongly urge our community not to delay essential and emergency care. If you are experiencing an emergency, call 9-1-1 or head to the nearest ER. You may experience longer wait times, but you will be seen. If your condition is less severe and not life-threatening, please consider seeking care and treatment at an urgent care clinic or your primary care provider’s office so ER staff can focus on the most critical needs. Also, we remind you that our ER is not a public testing site for COVID-19. If you have been exposed to the virus, please consider alternative sites for COVID-19 testing like a local pharmacy, urgent care or primary care clinic to help us reserve hospital resources for our sickest patients. On behalf of our team of healthcare heroes at Central Carolina Hospital, I urge you to take action now and get vaccinated against COVID-19. We need you, just like you need us. Please visit MySpot.NC.gov to find a vaccine near you, and don’t let yourself or someone you love become the next victim of COVID-19.

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The Rant Monthly is published monthly by LPH Media LLC, 3096 South Horner Boulevard in Sanford, North Carolina. The Rant was founded as a weekly radio program in 2008 by Gordon Anderson, Billy Liggett and Jonathan Owens. After their program was unceremoniously banished from the airwaves by a petty local state representative, The Rant regrouped and became a web site specializing in local news in 2014. Today, The Rant Monthly has a circulation of 3,500 printed copies, and our website draws more than 1 million views yearly. Wear a mask and get the vaccine.

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14 | August 2021

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COVER STORY

SEPT. 18-19 | DOWNTOWN SANFORD

INDIE FEST TAKES THE STAGES

From alternative rock to bluegrass, country to funk — Carolina Indie Fest will feature 47 performances on three stages over two days in downtown Sanford By Gordon Anderson

T

he third weekend in September, for downtown Sanford anyway, will be all about live music music. That’s the weekend — Saturday, Sept. 18, and Sunday, Sept. 19, from “noon to moon” both days — that Hugger Mugger Brewing and the streets of downtown Sanford will play host to nearly 50 musical acts who will comprise the first ever Carolina Indie Fest, a free music festival with three stages boasting musicians from across the globe, performing styles ranging from country to “astral pop” to rock and beyond. “We’re in the home stretch for this thing,” said Jeff Popka, owner of Indie On Air Records, which along with Hugger Mugger and the Sanford Tourism Development Authority is putting on the festival. “Really at this point, it’s a lot of following through on the details and the logistics involved. But for the most part, we’re ready to roll.” The roster boasts a mix of young up-and-comers —

Michigan’s The Accidentals, for example, aren’t a household name yet, although they’ve been signed to Sony Masterworks since 2017 and have been named to a number of “must see” lists over the years — as well as headlining artists like Paleface, a long time singer-songwriter originally from New York City with nearly 20 albums under his belt and a lineage connecting him to famous acts like Beck, The Ramones and The Doors.

Carolina Indie Fest — the brainchild of Indie On Air Records, Hugger Mugger Brewing and the Sanford Tourism Authority, is set for Sept. 18-19.


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PALEFACE

SEPT 18 | MAIN STAGE “Paleface is a gem, a brilliant man... one of the greatest songwriters on Earth.” — The Avett Brothers

Local country act the Cliff Wheeler Band, which tours regionally and is signed to Indie On Air, will also perform (in fact, it was Wheeler who connected Popka and Emmert when the idea of a local festival was first discussed). The lineup has seen some shifts here and there, which Popka says is normal. “One thing that’s always fluid is the lineup, and that’s because of real life situations,” he said. “Someone quit, someone got sick, but we have a big list of contacts we’re working from so we’re always able to fill those slots.” Popka and Indie On Air have been putting on similar events around the country — events which have become annual happenings in places like Texas and Colorado and elsewhere — for several years, and organizers believer Sanford’s downtown makes it a perfect place for replicating the success of those events. “Indie On Air has been fantastic. They came in here last summer and immediately

“Indie On Air ... came in here last summer and immediately loved Sanford. They’ve delivered on everything they promised. I think they realize the potential we have in downtown Sanford. And the good thing about having them as a partner is they’re looking long-term.” — Wendy Bryan, Sanford Tourism Authority loved Sanford, and they’ve delivered on everything they promised,” said Wendy Bryan, director of the Sanford Tourism Development Authority. “I think (Popka and Indie On Air) realize the potential we have in downtown Sanford. And the good thing about having them as a partner is that they’re definitely looking long-term.” Both days of the festival will include three stages — a main stage on Wicker Street near Hugger Mugger, a beer garden stage in the Cole Street parking lot behind Hugger Mugger, and a third acoustic singer-song-

writer stage inside the brewery. There will also be “busker” stages set up throughout downtown for anyone who would like to perform a few songs. There will be at least 15 food trucks each day of the event, art vendors and more. Wicker Street will be closed from Horner Boulevard to Moore Street, and Steele Street will be closed from Carthage Street to Cole Street. Projected attendance is anyone’s guess, particularly for an inaugural event, although Indie On Air’s track record with events of this type tend to indicate

“We used to go to all the open mics together. Paleface taught me Daniel Johnston songs on the sidewalk and let me sleep on his couch. He’s a great songwriter, a generous friend, and a big influence on my early stuff.” — Beck “Melodic songs with a sunny vibe while maintaining an edge.” — The New Yorker ______________ Paleface was schooled musically by underground icon Daniel Johnston, and soon discovered at an NYC open mic, by Danny Fields (The Stooges, The Ramones, MC5), who managed him for eight years. He’s been called a major musical influence by a wide range of artists including Beck and The Avett Brothers. Additionally, Paleface is a visual artist, and his bright and bold music-lyric inspired paintings are collected by fans worldwide. palefaceonline.com


16 | August 2021

@therant905 between locals and out of town visitors, festival goers may easily be in the thousands over the two day stretch.

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“I’ve got 2,000 branded Solo cups for the day,” said Hugger Mugger’s Tim Emmert. “We know these festivals have worked well in the places that are used to them, but it’s going to be an all-new thing for Sanford. But there do seem to be a lot of people who know about it already.” Popka said that outreach is largely focused outside of Sanford — September will see a ramped up effort to promote to music fans in Raleigh, Fayetteville, Charlotte and elsewhere — a natural, given the tourism-focused element of the festival. But there’s plenty Sanford residents will find to enjoy about the event. “One thing we’re seeing is that women are really responding to our outreach,” Popka said. “And my history tells me that where women go, the men will go too.” But for Popka, who says he’s already thinking about the future, attendance isn’t the metric that will determine success, because he fully expects to continue holding Carolina Indie Fest annually going forward. “It’s the first year,” he said. “Because of circumstances — COVID has the whole supply chain messed up — the list of nuances of putting on a great event have been different. And year one is really about getting a framework on things. So success for me will be about the logistics, making sure we put on a great production, and when we’re done we can look at this as our road map and know what needs to be done to fine tune it.” Much of the outreach is via radio, but more modern outlets such as Spotify, YouTube and others specifically targeting music fans across the region will also play

a large role. “We already have some indicators — there’s already been a lot of engagement and sharing as far as social media, and we know our hotels are starting to fill up,” Bryan said. “It’s getting hard to get a room that weekend.” Popka acknowledges that you can’t talk about any kind of large scale event anymore without talking about the COVID-19 pandemic and the troubling Delta variant surge, but he’s also confident that the event can be enjoyed safely. “What we don’t want to do, especially in these circumstances, is pack people in, and honestly that’s probably going to be the norm going forward,” he said. “But I think we’ve got plenty of space. It’s a few city blocks, and the food will be away from the entertainment. It really will be spread out well.” Emmert concurred. “We want to be as safe as possible,” he said. “We want people to act safely, so wear a mask in groups, go get your vaccine. Even the first shot would be helpful.” For Popka, the opportunity to connect artists who have a passion for the music they write and perform, is the biggest driver of these events. “What I want most is for the people there to enjoy themselves and feel the passion from the artists. We just want to get that energy across,” he said. “Music is a unifier. When people are together listening to music, they’re hopefully not going to be arguing about politics or having any other type of conflict. And I think we could all use that right now.”

“Year one is really about getting a framework on things. So success for me will be about the logistics, making sure we put on a great production, and when we’re done we can look at this as our road map and know what needs to be done to fine tune it.” — Jeff Popka, owner of Indie On Air Records


The Rant Monthly | 17

INDIE FEST LINEUP

rantnc.com DAY 1 | MAIN STAGE • • • • • •

DAY 2 | MAIN STAGE

Addie Tonic Tough on Fridays Nitro Nitra Hope Darling The Accidentals Paleface

DAY 1 | BEER GARDEN • • • • • • • • • •

2Digh4 Amittai Blakk Ebb & Nova Genesis Z and The Black Mambas haha charade Carolina Reign As We Become Ghosts FLEMT Caroline Keller Band Sarah Faith

DAY 1 | HUGGER MUGGER • • • • • • •

Carrie Asher Alexandra Higgins Todd Greene Chad Cox Jackson Vari Dan Berry Cliff Wheeler (unplugged)

• • • • • •

The Loose Strings Band Rachel Messer Nashville Non-Prophets Cliff Wheeler Band The Gasoline Gypsies Willow Hill

DAY 2 | BEER GARDEN • • • • • • • • •

Skylar Love Emily Cole Stephen Hunley Saints of Gilbraltar WEEP The Mad Dabbers Alma Vertical Mudflower Hanging Cities

DAY 2 | HUGGER MUGGER • • • • • • • •

Marye Amanda Jackson Vari Chris Hendricks Emily Cole Jennie Angel Gilbert Neal Carrie Asher Addie Tonic (acoustic)

WILLOW HILL

SEPT 19 | MAIN STAGE Rolling Stone “Band to Watch”, and Nashville’s newest country sensation, Willow Hill, has quickly become one of the hottest groups on the rise. The charismatic husband and wife duo have developed a groundswell fanbase with their modern twist on a classic country sound: infusing quirky fun-loving energy, heartfelt storytelling,and a captivating live show that has made them a go-to for festivals.

Regularly touring both internationally and nationally up to 200 dates per year, Alexandra and CT Fields previously fronted the acclaimed rock group, Lovebettie. The group was voted in the top 3 out of 20,000 acts to perform at The Grammys and performed The Official Lady Gaga Afterparty for her Monsters Ball Tour. In the first year as Willow Hill, the group shared bills with multitudes of national acts including Miranda Lambert, Zac Brown, Aaron Lewis and many more in support of their debut album, Highway One. willowhillmusic.com

SATURDAY, OCT. 23RD 8:00AM - 12:00 PM Across from Yarborough’s Homemade Ice Cream

The SAGA-Chamber Children’s Business Fair inspires children to discover their inner entrepreneur. This one-day market gives children the opportunity to showcase their very own businesses, in conjunction with the Sanford Farmers’ Market.

You can view our jobs at Expresspros.com/sanfordnc

Stop by and meet with our recruiting specialist. More Info: www.ChildrenBusinessFair.org/Sanford-Chamber

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307 North Horner Blvd. Sanford (919) 775-1292


18 | August 2021

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NITRO NITRA

SEPT 18 | MAIN STAGE A self-styled “astral-pop” and “soul rock” artist from Delaware who has been singing her whole life, Nitro Nitra began a career in music in 2019 after having a “mystical, spiritual awakening” she says freed her from “repetitive loops of mental bondage.” Nitra’s goal as a musician is to create a shared experience by lifting her fans up to a place where they can open their minds to new levels of existence and awakenings of their own. Her voice has been compared to Amy Winehouse, Erykah Badu, Tina Turner and Diana Ross. The following is an excerpt from her appearance on the Friends of The Rant podcast in August: THE RANT: You’ve described your music as “astral pop” — tell us how you came up with that. NITRO NITRA: Astral pop is like soul rock — my first EP was like a soundtrack for visuals. Astral pop is a type of vibe — out of this world. Like most of the things I sing about, it may seem like it’s one thing on the surface, but I’m actually talking about something that’s out of this world or on a subliminal level. It’s not like any type of genre. It gets to a point where you can’t really box it. I’m a soulful singer, but now I’m getting into music where I get to rock out. It’s been my passion since the day I was born. THE RANT: How long have you been performing under this sort of iteration of your persona? NITRO NITRA: Nitra has been singing since I was born. Although it was my dream to be a singer, you can get distracted along the way, right? In 2018, I was like, just started having mystical types of experiences. I woke up one day and said, “This is not my life.” I was just going in this circle, this continuous loop, and then I had this dream. I was standing on this clock tower, and I was being told it’s time for me to go within and do some inner work, some subconscious reprogramming and live the life of my dreams. I started this whole inner healing, and Nitro Nitra became my divine counterpart. Then, bam, we have an album, I get a manager, we get a band and we have gigs. So it’s just moving ahead now. Hear the full interview at rantnc.com

HOPE DARLING

the Jack Daniels and iHeartRadio National Battle of the Bands.

Modern rock band Hope Darling creates music with beautifully passionate vocals, blissful melodies, and a brilliantly immersive full-band sound that entrances audiences.

The band has also performed at South By Southwest and at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino (both in 2019). At one point they opened up the 97X Next Big Thing Concert. Hope Darling had a song placed in Spike Lee’s “She Gotta Have It” series on Netflix. The band’s success also includes a nomination by Touchtunes as a national breakout band.

SEPT 18 | MAIN STAGE

SARAH FAITH

SEPT 18 | BEER GARDEN A Michigan-born Nashvillian, Sarah Faith is an artist-songwriter that builds her musical catalog and sound around her life’s experiences. As an Indie Alternative/Americana artist, Sarah has been strongly influenced by a diverse musical background including classic rock, alternative, and some country music. Her warm, soulful voice brings fans songs written about close-to-the-heart stories with a distinct kind of vulnerability and realness. Having dealt with depression and anxiety most of her life, Sarah aims to relate to her audience through her struggles. sarahfaithmusic.com

This year, Hope Darling released a fivesong EP, which they are supporting with live performances. This comes on the heels of having been a winning finalist in 2020 for

hopedarling.com


The Rant Monthly | 19

rantnc.com

WEEP

school, and as cool as that floral shirt.

SEPT 19 | BEER GARDEN The Weep sound described in one long run-on sentence: Mixing in all the stuff about music that’s really cool, and deleting all the really crappy parts, WEEP has created a sound that is as new as any idea executed well, and as fresh the memory of the first time you were laughed at for wearing that floral shirt to

Weep is an American rock band from New York City whose music combines elements of ethereal wave, gothic rock, shoegaze, post-punk and synthpop. They were formed in 2008 by singer and guitarist Eric “Doc” Hammer (formerly of Requiem in White and Mors Syphilitica, and writer and voice actor for the animated television series The Venture Bros.) theweep.bandcamp.com

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20 | August 2021

@therant905

ADDIE TONIC

SEPT 18 | MAIN STAGE SEPT 19 | HUGGER MUGGER Founding members Meghann5k and Matt Youngblood spent the last four years touring small venues under various names and with several lineup changes before deciding on “Addie Tonic” in 2020. After a series of singles released by Indie On Air Records, the band released their debut EP, “Crashin’ Cars & Fannin’ Flames” in 2020. Addie Tonic features frontwoman Meghann5k (vocals, guitar) and Matt Youngblood (lead Guitar, vocals) as a duo, plus they also perform as a fourpiece electric rock band. Their sound is somewhere between the melancholy dreaminess of Mazzy Star and the alternative rock style of Courtney Barnett. The following is an excerpt from their appearance on the Friends of The Rant podcast in August: THE RANT: Give us a brief synopsis of Addie Tonic, how you guys came together and what type of music you play. MEGHANN5K: Matt and I met about four and a half years ago and started playing together. We play kind of 90s-inspired alternative rock, mostly. Lately, we’ve been throwing in some covers, and it’s pretty fun. MATT: It’s funny, the first two years we played together, we mostly played original music. Over lockdown, we started doing a weekly Facebook stream to keep our brand alive. And we did this show called Barely Covered every Friday night where we would learn new covers. So we’ve integrated some things. We only play the songs we like, I guess. RANT: What are some of the covers? MEGHANN5K: I’m from Athens, Georgia originally, so we draw a lot from Athens. Vic Chestnutt, some Bloodkin, a little bit of Widespread Panic thrown in there. And then we also do some 90s covers — we’ve been doing the Cranberry song, “Linger.” MATT: Right now we’re doing the song “Seether” by Veruca Salt. We’re actually recording it to release as a single. We’ve been releasing singles every five weeks lately, growing our body of work and growing our fanbase. Hear the full interview at rantnc.com

LOOSE STRINGS BAND SEPT 19 | MAIN STAGE

The Loose Strings Band (LSB) is an all girls band from Galax, Virginia. The band has been together for 11 years, playing at bluegrass conventions, weddings, benefits, churches, reunions, festivals, and more. They are known in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and beyond for their tight vocal harmonies and sweet rhythms. The band has just completed a new album, As We Travel. The album is a unique

blend of old and new selections with a bluegrass twist. It has a different flavor from their first album, Journey with No End, which consisted of original songs mostly written by the band members. The Loose Strings Band has traveled throughout Southwest Virginia and beyond playing for many different types of shows, including performances at IBMA Momentum Awards, IBMA Bluegrass Ramble, Dollywood’s BBQ & Bluegrass, Bristol Rhythm & Roots, Merlefest, SPBGMA and The Song of the Mountains PBS show. theloosestringsband.com

HANGING CITIES

SEPT 19 | BEER GARDEN Hanging Cities is a natural musical progression from frontman Jason Paul Jeka’s solo project that was backed by founding members Tim Lorenz and Nick Hon. As the trio continued to work on new music, it was clear that they needed to make the union official and began performing as Hanging Cities at the 2019 Homegrown Music Fest in Lisle, Illinois. Hanging Cities brings both a nostalgic but modern approach to alternative rock. The now four-piece lineup continues to work on their upcoming debut album while also returning to the stage. facebook.com/hangingcities


rantnc.com

The Rant Monthly | 21


22 | August 2021

@therant905

THE ACCIDENTALS SEPT 18 | MAIN STAGE

“Among the most emotionally compelling songwriters of our time.” ~ NPR The Accidentals are a Michigan trio that blends indie folk, pop, bluegrass, rock and more. Long before glowing acclaim from ​ NPR ​and B ​ illboard​, packed shows, unforgettable festival appearances, millions of streams, and collaborations with everyone from BTS to Contemporary Youth Orchestra, the journey of The Accidentals commenced in a public high school classroom in Traverse City, MI. As the story goes, concertmaster​​violinist Savannah Buist, and cellist, Katie Larson, raised their hands at the request for volunteers to play a music boosters concert and wound up being musical soulmates The following is an excerpt from their appearance on the Friends of The Rant podcast in August: THE RANT: One of the things we noticed in the tracks we heard — there’s only three of you, but there’s a lot of instruments. How does it work? SAV BUIST: Kate and I play around. I want to say 10 or so instruments — anything with strings. Sometimes, I’ll write a song on a mandolin and then bring it to the table, and we’ll kind of arrange it as a three-piece. That’s the typical working process for a song. Then lately, we’ve been producing our own music and engineering the sessions that go into recording it. A lof of the songs on our next album are ones we recorded in quarantine. We’re really excited about this upcoming record. THE RANT: What are some of the influences you’re drawing from? SAV: There’s a lot of them. Lately, we’ve been doing a lot of female independent, indie-rock artists like Phoebe Bridgers, Kate Davis and Katy Kirby. KATIE LARSON: Right before the pandemic, we were doing a YouTube series of covers from our favorite female artists. We did like at least 20 different covers right before we started recording. And so I think that also helped influence a lot of the arrangements and the style — like Brandi Carlisle and Courtney Barnett. We’re listening to a lot of them. Hear the full interview at rantnc.com

NASHVILLE NON-PROFITS SEPT 19 | MAIN STAGE

What happens when you mix a little Outlaw Americana with the Ramones?

EMILY COLE

SEPT 19 | BEER GARDEN Emily Cole is a multi award-winning alternative pop singer/songwriter with music out on all platforms. She has been awarded Pop/Contemporary Vocalist of The Year 2019 by the Josie Music Awards; acknowledged as a Songwriter, performing for the Muscle Shoals Songwriters Festival in Alabama; and acknowledged as an Emerging Artist, performing three Showcases for the Mesa Music Festival, Arizona’s premier emerging artist festival. While her music is alternative pop, Cole goes acoustic for her live shows. She performs as a solo artist, a duo, and with her full band, accompanying herself with guitar, ukulele and keyboard. emilycoleofficial.com

Throw in two seasoned and talented vets from the wildly popular Saint Luke’s Drifters, a rhythm guitar animal from Government Cheese, drummer powerhouse from Vegas Cocks and The Woggles and you get Nashville Non-Profits. Drawing

from their tours coast to coast, they serve a blender full of loud rock & roll, country and punk. “Nashville Non-Prophets bring the refreshing sound of hard driving rock and roll…with a slight southern flavor. With their fast pace and growling guitar and vocals, they manage to evoke the good old days on the fringes of punk rock, without being a throwback.” — Gina Bacon WFMU nashvillenonprofits.com


rantnc.com

The Rant Monthly | 23


24 | August 2021

@therant905

TOUGH ON FRIDAYS SEPT 18 | MAIN STAGE

Momentum keeps flowing for grunge-alt-rockers Tough On Fridays. Over the past five years, the band has been turning heads and gaining throngs of fans for their ability to artfully smash together pop, indie, and grunge into their own brand of infectious, in-yourface rock ‘n roll. Well-seasoned performers throughout the Texas music circuit, Tough On Fridays has come to be known for their enthusiastic live shows. The following is an excerpt from their appearance on the Friends of The Rant podcast in July: THE RANT: We listened to two songs, and picked up one thing and the thing that jumped out was almost like a pop punk sound. That was very polished. So are you guys drawing from a variety of influences? Are you changing direction? CALEIGH: So I wrote Undone and probably listened to a lot of party scene [music]. My heart is definitely in pop punk. I love it so much. I grew up listening to Paramore, Blink 182 and a little bit of Nirvana, although that’s not really pop punk. But nowadays, I’m listening to a lot of Basement, and I’m going back and listening to some older stuff. And I’m really, I’ve also been listening to Brand New, and they’re really just shaping our band a lot. It’s given me a lot of inspiration. We’ve seen an evolution as we’ve gone through different players and things. And I think the next album is probably going to be even more different. I think we’ll just continue to see a good growth in that. THE RANT: When people come to Carolina Indie Fest here in Sanford, what can they expect? What kind of show do you guys do? CALEIGH: Very loud drums. Chris is an animal on the drums. But I think it’s very genuine. Like the just the exchanges between us onstage and with an audience. I think it feels very inclusive when we play. Like a personal tune. We’re all in it together. And I think you can feel that. A lot of people have been resonating with Cabin Fever. That was our latest release, because of this whole COVID thing. And it’s not even related to COVID, and least it wasn’t when we wrote it. Hear the full interview at rantnc.com

2DIGH4

SEPT 18 | BEER GARDEN 2Digh4 is a country/rock/pop band founded by brothers Landon and Aubrey Digh from Fuquay-Varina. Formed in 2014, 2Digh4 has played at multiple big events, including the Carolina Country Music Festival in Myrtle Beach in 2016 and the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR race

RACHEL MESSER SEPT 19 | MAIN STAGE

Rachel Messer, a singer-songwriter raised up a little holler in Fort Gay, West Virginia, draws her inspiration from the classic country (and even bluegrass) greats who paved the way before her. With performances all over the United States and fans across the world, Rachel has worked hard to spread her voice and love for storytelling. Released 2019, her EP “California Sunrise” captures authentic country music from a personal place. She has recently released her single, “Red Carpet Gal.” Messer, like Sanford native Britton Buchanan, was once a contestant on NBC’s “The Voice.” iamrachelmesser.com

at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Charlotte, in 2018. The brothers write original songs for the group. In 2019, 2Digh4 released its first single, “North Carolina.” It had its first radio debut on July 28, 2019 on 94.7 QDR and also on 98.5. In addition to their own songs, 2Digh4 entertains audiences with a variety of songs by other artists spanning from yesterday’s music to today’s. 2digh4.com


The Rant Monthly | 25

rantnc.com

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GASOLINE GYPSIES SEPT 19 | MAIN STAGE

As fresh sounding as they are retro, the Gasoline Gypsies evoke the spirit of rock and roll as it was originally intended. It’s music that helps us all forget our cares, free our souls and jam together. Their original songs feature unifying, foot-stomping anthems of life, that inspire their multi-generational audience to sing along. The music of the Gasoline Gypsies sounds like fine vintage southern rock,

• Daily specials

rolled around in the grand ol’ grit of the Motor City. It’s music that moves people, and connects them, all at the same time. In the past couple of years, the Gypsies have racked up five Detroit Music Awards in Rock and Americana and were deemed one of the “Three Best Unsigned Bands in the USA” by JBL. They also are now garnering regular radio airplay outside the Midwest, most notably in the Triangle markets of North and South Carolina, and now expanding west. thegasolinegypsies.com

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26 | August 2021

@therant905

CLIFF WHEELER BAND SEPT 18 | HUGGER MUGGER SEPT 19 | MAIN STAGE

The Cliff Wheeler Band came together in 2017 to record some tunes Cliff had written. Once the album “Wheeler” was complete, the band — featuring Cliff on guitar and vocals, his son Garret on bass and Johnny Hardy on drums — decided to stick together and do some live performances. Debuting in Nashville, Tennessee at The Local, the band’s live shows began garnering attention from music industry insiders and other artists. They soon began climbing the Indie charts in the U.S. and abroad. Based out of Lemon Springs, the Cliff Wheeler Band continues to tour and write, and they’ll play two sets (one unplugged) at the Carolina Indie Fest in downtown Sanford on Sept. 18-19. The following is an excerpt from Cliff’s appearance on the Friends of The Rant podcast in July:

MUDFLOWER

THE RANT: Tell us about your music. Where do you get your inspiration? What types of things do you draw from? I listened to your song, “Sober Again,” and that’s a really beautiful song. WHEELER: I write very real songs. Most of them are life experiences. Either that, or things I’ve witnessed up close. And that’s just sort of the way I’ve always been. I’ve written songs for pretty much every band I’ve been in — I’m going to date myself now — since back in the early 80s. But I’ve always just written sort of like in the movie, “Crossroads.” The young guitar player says you can’t write, sing or play the blues if you don’t live the blues. So I write from very real situations. I tend to write about the grittier side of life. For some reason, I’m really a very happy guy, but you might not know it from my music. I’ve got a pretty good life, and I love what I do. But when I start writing, that’s just the side that comes out. And maybe it’s a way just to get rid of that stuff. I typically will have an idea for a song — you mentioned “Sober Again” — and I keep little notes on my phone if I get an idea. And sometimes it’s just one word, or sometimes it’s multiple words or a couple of lines. Hear the full interview at rantnc.com

SEPT 19 | BEER GARDEN

CAROLINE KELLER BAND SEPT 18 | BEER GARDEN

Caroline Keller Band are storytellers at heart. Timeless melodies and thoughtful, reverent lyrics draws the listener in and transports them to another time and place making each performance more of an experience. Keller says their main goal with their songwriting is to be “authentic” — authentic to themselves and authentic to their audience. Strong songwriting and musical prowess brings the songs to life whether it is in a small, intimate venue or on one of the many larger stages that the band has performed on during its career. Keller was the 2019 Queen City Country Music Female Artist of the Year. carolinekellermusic.com

Close your eyes and burn down reality! Which is exactly what your ears will be doing as they take in the heady sounds of Chicago trio Mudflower. Their newly emerging sound of modern rock drumming, grunge-kissed guitar riffs, and sumptuously moody vocals create a unique blend of rhythm and blues influenced by

the likes of Junior Kimbrough, The Black Keys and Gary Clark Jr. Grammy Award-winning chief mastering engineer Ted Jensen with Sterling Sound in Nashville, will master the band’s first EP release “Sleep Tight.” Jensen has worked with an extensive collection of artists including Alice in Chains, Green Day, Norah Jones, The Police, Santana and The Rolling Stones. mudflowermusic.com


The Rant Monthly | 27

rantnc.com

Serving Lee County Since 1977

AMITTAI BLAKK

SEPT 18 | BEER GARDEN A unique synthesis of jazz, hip-hop, old school R&B, reggae and rock, Amittai Blakk conveys an unmistakable intensity and soulfulness that carries listeners to another place. Drawing from diverse influences, including Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Parliament Funkadelic and Rare Earth, Amittai Blakk has forged a sound uniquely their own, and one that defies genre — a sound that follows no traditional rules. Through collaborative

songcraft and seasoned, professional musicians, this six-piece, Charlotte-based band is already a “must-see” live act, built to blow out an audience, and poised to take college campuses and festivals by storm. The seven-song debut release, The Love We Share, is an explosive and dynamic tour de force, merging impressive and accomplished musicianship with powerhouse vocals to forge an immersive auditory experience. The band tackles such universal themes as love, addiction, eternity and equality. amittaiblakk.net

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28 | August 2021

@therant905

HAHA CHARADE

SEPT 18 | BEER GARDEN The haha charade story began in basements, living rooms, and garages. The band’s underground following led to their founding in September 2018. Hailing from Wilmington, Delaware, haha charade merges different genres to coin their unique style, which they attribute to a collaborative artistic approach to everything from songwriting to artwork and performance. The following is an excerpt from guitarist and vocalist Alex Wade’s appearance on the Friends of The Rant podcast in August: THE RANT: Describe your music and what people can expect out of your performance at Carolina Indie Fest. WADE: We’re a four-piece indie rock band, right out of Wilmington, Deleware. We’ve got kind of a surfy indie sound, just a summer kind of vibe — that’s the best way I can think to describe it. I think we have a pretty unique sound. We have a really fun live show. We really try to go wild out there on the stage. We always have a good time — we’re absolutely looking forward to it.

EBB & NOVA

SEPT 19 | BEER GARDEN

THE RANT: When we’re talking to musicians, we may reference bands that we might guess were influences at some point. We picked up some Red Hot Chili Peppers in the guitar and a little They Might Be Giants. There’s some kind of weirdo pop sound that’s very cool. WADE: I appreciate that. [Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist] John Frusciante is like one of my idols. I grew up listening to them. So spot on there. We all love them. That’s the kind of vibe we’re going for — funky, poppy sound and keeping the choruses and everything real anthem. You hit the nail right on the head. THE RANT: You said your shows have a lot of energy — what do you guys bring to the stage? WADE: You’ll hear mostly originals. We might throw in a couple of covers for this set, but yeah, we just dance and have a good time. Jump up and down. You might see me try to climb something. I don’t know. We’ll see. Hear the full interview at rantnc.com

CARRIE ASHER

SEPT 18 | HUGGER MUGGER SEPT 19 | HUGGER MUGGER Carrie Asher is your favorite feisty folkster from San Antonio, Texas. As a singer-songwriter, her music is a bunch of fun, hopeless romanticism filled with some sass and spunk. This last year, she was signed with Indie On Air Records & doing what she can to keep pushing forward. Asher has opened for some of the heaviest rock and punk bands and she always holds her own. She keeps her performances lively and always has the audience’s attention either with her powerful vocals or by injecting some short stories between songs — she’s certainly not shy. carrieasher.com

Ebb & Nova blends indie rock with Americana, forging their own brand of infectious melodies and eclectic songwriting. Since releasing their debut album in 2017, Ebb & Nova has opened for notable groups such as Good Charlotte, Gin Blossoms, Lewis Watson and O-Town. They cite their influences from artists such as Coheed and Cambria, Yo-Yo Ma, Stewart Copeland and Death Cab for Cutie. Vocalist Lauren Padgett’s inspiration to perform came from Don Edwards, the famous cowboy singer and guitarist, who is her grandfather. ebbandnova.com

SKYLAR LOVE

SEPT 19 | BEER GARDEN Skylar Love is an emerging artist that hails from Doylestown, Pennsylvania. You really can’t put a title to her style — it’s a mix of singer/songwriter meets indie pop rock with a whimsical dark twist. She is a unique talent with music that is energetic, compelling and passionate with the ability to speak to the heart with her expressive and moving lyrics. She is influenced by the vocal stylings of Edith Piaf to Billie Eilish. Skylar is creating her own style and reputation as a mesmerizing live performer, growing and learning every day. officialskylarlove.com


The Rant Monthly | 29

rantnc.com

CAROLINA REIGN SEPT 18 | BEER GARDEN

Charlotte-based Carolina Reign describes itself as simply a “bad ass rock band.” The band released a new album in 2021 and is currently touring the region to promote it. Lead singer Krystal Kodada was raised a pastor’s daughter and was brought up on only hymns, gospel and the oldies. Her ability to “belt it out” started in her early

20’s when she started mimicking Christina Aguilera, P!nk, Pat Benatar, Melissa Etheridge and Celine Dion, just to name a few. She managed to win second in the nation for a vocal competition out of Denver, Colorado and opened for Lita Ford and Firehouse as a result. “There is alot of soul and feeling in that voice,” one reviewer wrote. She’s joined on stage by bassist Jim Helsel, guitarist Kory Jones and drummer Mike Long. carolinareignrocks.com


30 | August 2021

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NEWS LEE REGIONAL FAIR

LEE REGIONAL FAIR WHAT TO KNOW DATES: Sept. 15-19 — Fairground gates open at 4:30 p.m. on Opening Day, Thursday and Friday, and at noon on Saturday and Sunday. ADMISSION: $5 (children under 36 inches get in free; seniors are free on opening day). Armbands for unlimited rides are $25 ($20 on Wednesday and Sunday). Mega armband passes for unlimited rides throughout the week are $60. RIDES: Big Rock Amusements, a family-owned and operated traveling amusement park, will provide the midway again this year. Look for at least eight large-scale rides, eight “major” rides and eight kiddy rides, in addition to numerous games of challenge; fair food and shaded seating throughout. ENTRY REGISTRATION: Online registration for exhibitions and contests can be found at sanfordlionsclub. com. Registration began Aug. 10 and runs through Sept. 8. There is no fee for entries, though you will be asked to “continue to payment” during the registration process.The Lee Regional Fair will again participate in the North Carolina State Fair “Best of Show” competition. One adult and one youth entry will be selected to be on display in the State Fair ‘s exhibit and will compete against other fairs in the state. EVENTS: Events during Fair Week include the agricultural exhibit hall, antique tractors and wheat threshing exhibit, the Broadway Lions Club golf ball drop, the canned food collection, the commercial exhibit hall, various cookoffs, Cooking with the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Dakota and Friends, drone races, the diaper derby, 4-H Latino dance performance, Jame Session at the Country Store, pageants, educational booths and much, much more.

FAIR ORGANIZERS HOPE TO REBOUND IN BIG WAY Lee County’s largest annual event has taken a hit two of the last three years from hurricanes, pandemic By Jonathan Owens It’s been very tough to be a Lee Regional Fair planner in the last four years. In 2018, Hurricane Florence passed through just as the annual event was getting underway and obliterated the planners’ schedule. Rides were closed, and the event was scaled back tremendously. Then after a successful fair in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 event entirely. This year, Lee County’s biggest party is scheduled to start on Sept. 15 and run through Sept. 19 at the Lee County Fairgrounds. “Last year, people were so upset that it was canceled and so were we,” said Susan Condlin, media coordinator for the fair. “It’s the biggest event in the county and everyone looks forward to it. People want to get out and have some fun.” Since 1937, the Lions Club has sponsored the fair on the club’s property on North 7th Street/Colon Road. All the proceeds from the Fair go to aid the club-sponsored projects, in particular assistance to the blind. There will be some changes, though, as

The Lee Regional Fair begins Sept. 15 at the Lee County Fairgrounds. The fair has been held on the Lions Club’s property since 1937. Photo: Facebook planners cope with the ongoing pandemic. For starters, the fair is a day shorter, starting on Wednesday this year rather than the traditional Tuesday opening. Condlin said the fair will follow N.C. Department of Health & Human Services guidelines and encourage the wearing of masks. Exhibit halls and indoor areas will not be as full this year to encourage social distancing. Big Rock Amusements will once again provide the Midway attractions and rides. Workers have strict protocols in place for

sanitizing, Condlin said. The fair has also incorporated some much-needed technological changes to allow for a better experience for fairgoers. No longer are ticket sales “cash only,” as credit and debit cards will be accepted at the gate and at the Lions Club food stand, the eatery of choice for most attendees. The entire exhibiting process is now online as well. Interested exhibitors can browse the catalog and find deadlines at sanfordlionsclub.com.


The Rant Monthly | 31

rantnc.com LEE COUNTY SCHOOLS

School year begins with mask arguments School board votes 5-2 to start school year with mask mandate, despite some GOP opposition By Richard Sullins As Lee County students went back to school in August, they did so under the same cloud that has darkened much of the nation as the controversy over the wearing of masks made its way into two meetings of the Board of Education held during the month. But the disagreements spilled over later into questions over the administration’s leadership in the filling of vacancies as the year was about to begin. A two-hour special called meeting of the school board was held on Aug. 2 as the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus caused infection rates to skyrocket across the county in July. Thirteen members of the public addressed the Board, almost all of them urging that masks be made optional for students and

teachers as the school year began.

Thesley Byrd of Sanford said, “One of the best decisions that I have heard recently from our governor was to move this down to our school boards, and I come before you today to say that I would like for you to delegate that decision down even one more level to where I think it really belongs, with the parents of these kids. God gave us guardianship over these kids.” Jennifer Spivey, also of Sanford, had a different opinion after her son’s teacher came down with COVID while he was attending summer school. “Today, I am happy to report that the teacher is back in the classroom, and my son did not contract COVID because everyone in his school was wearing a mask. Neither I, nor my husband, nor anyone else in my family, had to take off work to help my son quarantine for 14 days. I want my kids in school. If it means they are going to be wearing a mask, I want them in school.” A motion made by Sherry Lynn Womack and seconded by Pam Sutton to allow the school year to begin with masks being optional failed, with the remaining five members of

the board voting against it. A second motion to start the year with masks required for students, teachers, staff, and visitors passed on a 5-2 vote, with a caveat that the issue would be revisited when the Board held its regular meeting eight days later. By the time the second meeting was held, circumstances across North Carolina had begun to change rapidly. In counties where school boards had initially voted to begin the year with masks as an option, members in many counties found themselves having to change their minds as infection rates began to accelerate at an almost vertical pace.

But as the Lee County Board’s regular monthly meeting began on Aug. 10, its public comment period started with Jim Womack, Republican Party Chairman and husband of Board member Sherry Womack, implored the Board to reverse itself and make masks optional and start the year on what he called a “positive” note by allowing decisions to be made at the level of individual schools. Two other persons also spoke in favor of eliminating the mask mandate.

on COVID metrics from School Nurse Supervisor Mary Hawley Oates, who said it was clear that the situation within the county was only getting worse. The upswing in infections among students seen at the end of the school year in early June continued growing worse through the summer. A 12.7 percent positivity rate in tests on Aug. 10 grew to 15.59 percent by Aug. 18. And eight months after vaccines became available and even as the number of cases continues to surge, fewer than half of the county’s residents ages 12 and up who are eligible for the vaccine are fully immunized. Even though the motion adopting the mask mandate applies equally to staff and visitors, as well as to students and teachers, Board members Sutton, McCracken and Womack were often observed either removing their masks or not wearing them at all during the three meetings held during the month. o Richard Sullins covers local government for The Rant Monthly. Contact him at richard@rantnc.com.

But then the Board heard an updated report

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NATIONAL NIGHT OUT EVENT CANCELED The city of Sanford has canceled its 2021 National Night Out celebration “due to the high rate of community transmission of COVID-19 and low rates of vaccination,” according to a press release from the city. The annual event — which was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic — had been set to take place the first Tuesday in October. “Without the ability to predict that community transmission will decrease or that vaccination rates will increase, the only way to ensure the safety of both residents and first responders is by canceling the event,” the press release states. As of this writing, just 50 percent of Lee County residents had received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and just 45 percent were considered “fully vaccinated,” according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services’ COVID dashboard.

BROADWAY MANAGER STEPPING DOWN Broadway Town Manager Eddie Thomas that he is stepping down from the role at the town board’s meeting held in August. According to a press release issued by Broadway Mayor Donald Andrews, Thomas has accepted a full time position as pastor of Juniper Springs Baptist Church, but will stay with the town until a new manager can be hired. Thomas became town manager in April 2020, and was “instrumental in leading the town through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to Andrews. The Town Board will begin the process of searching for a new manager.

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LOCAL BROADWAY

TOWN TO OPEN CAPSULE In October, town will unearth time capsule buried in 1970 to celebrate centennial By Richard Sullins Geraldo Rivera won’t be there in hopes of finding some of Al Capone’s secrets from the 1920’s, but there should be lots of excitement in Broadway this fall as a time capsule buried inside the town and containing memoirs of the early 1970’s will be dug up and opened. At their meeting on Aug. 23, Mayor Donald Andrews and the Town Commission agreed that the capsule will be excavated on Saturday, Oct. 16, at 11 a.m. and opened to examine its contents, 151 years after the town’s founding. The container was buried within the perimeter of the four legs of the town’s water tower on Oct. 7, 1970 and was originally set to have been opened 50 years later, shortly after new Town Manager Eddie Thomas started work in 2020. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, town leaders decided to delay the opening until conditions were deemed safe enough to hold the ceremony.

of a book published in 1970 as part of the centennial celebration and entitled “Broadway, North Carolina”, the Fall Edition of McCall’s Pattern Book, favorite recipes of the time collected from the wives of the nation’s governors, 1970 Census reports from Broadway and Lee County, a local newspaper, articles by five local ministers and several children from Broadway Elementary School, a report card from the school, and even a picture of a canceled check. A newspaper was also placed in the container, but accounts differ on what edition it actually was.

There was an incident some years ago when an individual shot into the tank with a firearm and an unknown amount of water spilled onto the ground beneath into the area where the capsule is buried.

A preliminary drilling took place earlier this summer to locate the capsule and Thomas expressed his confidence to the board that it had, in fact, been located just beneath the surface where old news accounts indicated that it had been buried.

According to these same accounts, the original plan in 1970 was that the capsule be unearthed and opened in 2020, its contents examined, and then reburied for another 50-year period. The intent seems to have been for the container to have been buried for the entire length of the town’s second century, except for an opening and reinterment at the 50-year mark. It was hoped that many of the town’s children living in 1970 would still be alive in 2020 and that an opening and then reburial of the container would help spur interest in the town’s history for years to come.

Newspaper accounts from the period indicate that the capsule contains a copy

Thomas told the board that there was an incident some years ago when an in-

dividual shot into the tank with a firearm and an unknown amount of water spilled onto the ground beneath into the area where the capsule is buried. Thomas said that the uncertainty of knowing whether any damage was done to the contents just adds to the suspense that will end when the container is opened on Saturday, Oct. 16. RANDOLPH: TOWN A FINALIST FOR LIFE SCIENCES PROJECT In his first in-person economic development update since the COVID pandemic began in early 2020, Sanford Area Growth Alliance CEO Jimmy Randolph told the Town Board there had been a lull in economic development activities between March and May of this year as companies paused expansion efforts in favor of protecting their employees through the vaccine. But in the 90 days since then, SAGA has worked 30 different economic development projects with the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina on behalf of Lee County. Sixty percent of those projects are in the life sciences field, an arena which has really come alive since the Pfizer expansion and the additions of two other companies that manufacture products in the field. Randolph reported that the county is running out of room in the Central Carolina Enterprise Park and developers are looking at other properties with sufficient available acreage and all the needed utilities already in place. Broadway is a finalist for one such project that grew out of a life sciences


The Rant Monthly | 33

rantnc.com initiative at NC State University where greenhouse space and acreage to farm were the prime components. Through the Real Investment in Sanford Entrepreneurs (RISE) program at Central Carolina Community College, entrepreneurs and existing business owners are introduced through an 8-class program to the concepts and practices that will give interested individuals the tools necessary for business success. For the next cycle of the RISE Program, one graduate from the Broadway area of the county will be eligible for up to a $5,000 grant to help cover rent for up to a year in a vacant storefront space in the town’s historic downtown area. TOWN RECEIVES CENSUS DATA Mayor Donald Andrews reported that the town has received its results from the 2020 Census. Based on the countywide response rate of about 70 percent, Broadway had 1,267 people living within the corporate limits in 2020, an increase of 38 persons from 2010. The number of houses

increased by 25 during the decade. In the same way that Sanford Mayor Chet Mann thought that the county seat’s numbers would have been higher, Andrews had believed that Broadway’s residents would have numbered closer to 1,300. Census participation is generally thought to have been lower in 2020 because of the COVID pandemic and politicization of issues surrounding it at the national level. Census population counts are important because they are used to determine the number of representatives that each state may have in Congress for the next 10 years, how legislators in the North Carolina General Assembly are apportioned, and how federal and state dollars for social programs, housing, schools, and roads are allocated. o Richard Sullins covers local government for The Rant Monthly. Contact him at richard@rantnc.com.

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34 | August 2021

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LEE COUNTY SCHOOLS

Board members at odds over virtual teaching deal Sudden vacancies at three schools led to district’s approval of virtual teaching partner By Richard Sullins The Lee County School Board met for a third time during the month on Aug. 18 to consider approval of a contract to provide live streaming instruction for six classes at

three Lee County schools. In what should have been a short meeting, members Pam Sutton and Sherry Lynn Womack called into question Superintendent Andy Bryan’s recommendation of a contract to Elevate K-12 just as schools were about to begin. Because of several vacancies in math and science positions, including two that came just days before the beginning of the school year, the school system was left with unfilled posts in two math positions at Lee County High School, two science positions at SanLee Middle School and one math and one science position at East Lee Middle School.

Sutton and Womack protested that they had not been given an adequate notice of the vacancies that created the need for the contract. But Assistant Superintendent Chris Dossenbach explained to the Board that it was a much better choice to put a certified teacher in the classroom through distance education than to fill the positions for an unknown length of time with substitutes. Shortages of qualified math and science teachers have been documented since at least the 1960s in the United States. North Carolina’s public universities have been producing declining numbers of new teachers for the past decade, while the number of vacancies due to retirements and decisions to leave the profession has continued to accelerate. In one of their first acts after taking power over the state legislature in Raleigh, GOP leaders eliminated funding for the Teaching Fellows program, a teacher preparation and scholarship program that recruited students

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into teaching and supported 8,523 of them through their college graduation and employment in each of the state’s 100 counties. Sutton and Womack hurled thinly veiled barbs at Bryan, suggesting that they had been

The school system was left with unfilled posts in two math positions at Lee County High School, two science positions at SanLee Middle and a math and science position at East Lee Middle. blindsided by the six vacancies at the last minute and that the Board was being forced to sign the contract because of what Sutton called “poor communication and planning on the administration’s part.” Bryan responded, “I can assure you, Mrs. Sutton and Mrs. Womack, that nobody was


The Rant Monthly | 35

rantnc.com keeping anything from anybody.” Board Chair Sandra Bowen pointed out, however, that Board members are provided a personnel agenda during the closed session at each of the monthly board meetings that contain all personnel information, including hires, resignations, terminations, change of assignments and leaves of absence. Board members are given the opportunity to ask questions during those sessions about that personnel report from the assistant superintendent for human resources, which attends the closed session with a list of all vacancies in the system. All vacancies within the school system are posted on the Lee County Schools’ webpage for anyone to view. Under terms of the contract, Lee County Schools will pay a minimum amount of $349,200 during the 2021-22 school year to Elevate K-12 for the salaries of the teachers who will provide the remote instruction, an amount that is roughly equivalent to what would have been required had the positions been filled locally and been paid with state-funded salaries and benefits. Elevate K-12 will provide a live instructor who will deliver instruction streamed daily into the teaching space. The school system is

responsible for providing computer laptops and teacher assistants located within the classroom. Bryan said that while having a teacher physically present in every school room remains the ideal, two recent experiences have shown that remote instruction can work: Lee County Schools presently have 242 students taking classes remotely already this year at Central Carolina Community College, and the experience gained through the necessity of moving all instruction online because of the COVID pandemic created a level of confidence in remote instruction that previously didn’t exist.

We have lots to be proud of in our community.

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With Sutton and Womack opposed, the remaining five members approved the contract and the Board’s third tense meeting within 16 days ended. With COVID causing tensions within the county to remain high, the next meeting scheduled for Sept. 14 could bring more of the same as the issue of masking may again be on the agenda. o Richard Sullins covers local government for The Rant Monthly. Contact him at richard@rantnc.com.

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36 | August 2021

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LOCAL SANFORD TOURISM AUTHORITY

COUNTY TO REOPEN SAN-LEE PARK BIKE TRAILS Lee County Government and Black Diamond Trail Designs will begin work on the San-Lee Park Gravity Trails in September, five months after the trails were closed after several injuries were reported due to unsafe conditions. Black Diamond began placing equipment on-site on Aug. 27 and will use the mountain bike parking lot as one of the staging areas for the company. Weather permitting, county officials are hopeful the trails will begin to reopen in October and work to be completed by Thanksgiving. According to a press release, the county has addressed the land use issues with the surrounding property owners and will make adjustments to comply with their concerns and requests. Changes to Gravity Park and single trails will need to be made to comply with the issues the property owners want to be addressed. Gravity Park will also have a dedicated return/emergency access trail that will not cross the downward trails. With the land use issues and dedicated return/emergency access, the number of downward trails will be reduced from six to five. The trails will be redesigned to progress from beginner- to expert-level runs. International Mountain Bike Association guidelines will be used for the reworking of the trails. Other changes are also coming to the bike and hiking trails in the park. Blue Ridge Trail designs will begin addressing risk management, hiking and single-track issues in the near future. Blue Ridge will be involved in the ongoing review of safety and maintenance on the trails as well.

Golf continues to be among the top draws for visitors in Sanford, with several high-quality courses in close proximity to the golfing mecca of Pinehurst.

TOURISM IS THRIVING Tourism Authority took big steps, despite the pandemic, in 2020 promoting the city By Charles Petty As economic development continues to boom locally — even in the midst of the COVID-19 Delta variant surge — Sanford and Lee County have seen an uptick in tourism and visitors arriving to take in the many cultural, recreational, historic and other significant sites the community has to offer.

The Sanford Tourism Development Authority helps to facilitate information to the public about local attractions and is responsible for the marketing publications and information regarding tourism as well as a bi annual visitor guide to the area. Wendy Bryan, the TDA’s executive director, has been with the organization since 2020. Having worked locally both in public relations and education, Bryan has a love of promoting Sanford and making sure the community is proudly represented, and she understands there is a culture of tourism in the community that attracts visitors from all over the country. “There is not one tourist profile that fits all,” she said. “We have many unique people who visit Lee County for a variety of tourism

reasons.” The TDA took a big step forward in August, as the organization held a ribbon cutting for a new permanent space — which includes a welcome center — at the old depot building in downtown Sanford’s Depot Park. The space will also be home to new offices for Downtown Sanford, Inc. Several local leaders and volunteers attended the event. Started in 2017, the TDA is overseen by a board that works to ensure tourism efforts are promoted inside and outside the community. The state tracks tourism dollars and along with the board helps to allocate funds for the authority. Events like the upcoming Carolina Indie


The Rant Monthly | 37

rantnc.com

Fest, shows at the Temple Theatre, golf outings in the spring and fall, a booming wedding venue industry (80 percent of weddings held locally in 2020 were from out of town), conventions and showcases at the Dennis A. Wicker Civic Center, and even visits from WRAL’s Tar Heel Traveler highlighting local attractions all combine to draw larger and larger numbers of visitors every year. “There is not one tourist profile that fits all,” Bryan said. “We have many unique people who visit Lee County for a variety of tourism reasons.” A new attraction that the tourism board has produced for the Fall season is Boo and Brew, a self-guided, interactive brewery and ghost tour that is told in multiple parts using a phone app called Otocast which leads visitors through downtown to restaurants and shops.

Roughly five thousand people went on the tour in 2020, so expectations are high for the 2021 iteration. “Data has shown us that people are looking for smaller towns to visit,” she said. “We have had positive publicity over the past year, and our public art displays and local businesses have also been amazing with putting out awareness on how great our community is to come tour.” There are several volunteer opportunities with the TDA (especially for high school students involved in Southern Lee High School’s Academy of Hospitality and Tourism). Potential volunteers can contact the authority office at (919) 718-4659, emailing info@ visitsanfordnc.com or visiting http://www. visitsanfordnc.com.

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PARLOR OWNER CHARGED WITH PROSTITUTION A multi-month investigation by the Sanford Police Department resulted in the August arrest of a business owner on prostitution charges. Mingqiu Du Aleksa, 45, of Windmere Drive in Sanford is the owner of Healthy Feet, a massage parlor at 340 Wilson Road in Sanford. She was charged by narcotics agents with the Sanford Police Department on Aug. 24, with a felony count of promoting prostitution by providing an establishment, and misdemeanor counts of soliciting prostitution, aiding and abetting prostitution, and practicing massage therapy without a license. Major Vinnie Frazer of the Sanford Police Department said the investigation began in June after the department began receiving complaints. The State Bureau of Investigation was also involved. “People called us and told us illegal prostitution was going on there,” he said. Healthy Feet has been open since September of 2020, according to online records. A one-star Yelp review published in April suggested the possibility of prostitution at the business: “First thing they asked was if I was married. What a great place hahaha I’m sure they have a ‘special’,” a user wrote at the time. Frazer said the business remains under investigation and further arrests are possible. Although the investigation was conducted by the department’s narcotics division, Frazer said there was no suspected drug activity in the case. The SPD narcotics division also investigates vice issues like prostitution and illegal gambling.

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LOCAL CITY OF SANFORD

REDISTRICTING LOOMS

City plans hearing on redistricting five wards to match growth By Richard Sullins The Sanford City Council will hold a public hearing on Sept. 7, on three possible versions of a redistricting of the city’s five wards made necessary by shifts in population since the last Census a decade ago. The city received its official Census numbers in late August, indicating that 30,239 people lived in the city in 2020. Dividing that number by five (the number of wards) provides an ideal number of 6,052.2 persons per ward. By comparing that figure to the actual number of persons counted in each ward during the Census, city officials can determine options for adjusting the wards to maintain the tenet of one person, one vote among the city’s population and its council membership. City and county GIS Strategic Services Director Don Kovasckitz presented the council with three options for a realignment of the voting districts that would bring the populations in each of the five wards back into balance for the next 10 years. Kovasckitz told the council at a workshop on Aug. 24 that while hundreds of working plans could be drawn with each having minor variations, there were essentially three models for consideration. Plan A is like the current ward plan, drawing the political boundaries along the natural ones of major highways and roads. Plans B and C leave Wards 1,2, and 4 essentially unchanged and shift the boundaries

instead in Wards 3 and 5. All three of the plans would ensure that the city will continue to have three districts where the majority of citizens are members of minority groups. While Plan C is more disruptive as to where the current political boundaries would be located, it is also more concise and compact. Cities and counties normally receive Census data in the April following the year in which the information was collected. But because of the COVID pandemic and the politicization that surrounded the Census during a very contentious election year, collecting the data was delayed by months. In July, the city council received a briefing from its attorney, Susan Patterson, that the General Assembly in Raleigh had adopted legislation moving the date of the election for officials in Sanford and 34 other North Carolina cities that make use of population-based districts to apportion representation on city councils. The election date was moved from Nov. 2 of this year to April 26, 2022, to allow those cities ample time to redraw their district maps and allow candidates sufficient time to run their campaigns for office. Sanford and the other 34 cities must have their new maps approved and in place by Nov. 17 if filing for public office is to begin on Dec. 6 and end Dec. 17. However, if the city is unable to make that deadline, it can get an extension to complete the process by Dec. 17, with a much smaller filing window that would open at noon on Jan. 3 and close at noon on Jan. 7. As a result of the change, the terms of City Council members Sam Gaskins (Ward 1), James Williams (Ward 3), Chas Post (at-large), and Mayor Chet Mann will now

expire at the time of the election in 2022 instead of December 2021. ECONOMIC GROWTH LOOKS TO CONTINUE Jimmy Randolph, CEO of the Sanford Area Growth Alliance, told the council in August that after a lull from March through May when many companies were looking inward to protect their employees by making sure that the COVID vaccines were made available to them, the number of companies considering the Sanford area has once again shifted into high gear. SAGA has worked with 63 potential economic development projects since January, with 28 of them coming since June and 14 happening in July alone. These projects have centered in manufacturing, particularly in life sciences, food, and agricultural sciences. Speed-to-market remains a big factor for many of these companies. Randolph said that 13 of the 28 projects that have been worked since June were looking for existing buildings, rather than doing their own new construction. SAGA’s decision to erect shell buildings at the site of the Central Carolina Enterprise Park continues to be a major reason behind the success story. “Their interests in our inventory of existing buildings includes minimum ceiling heights, the presence of fire suppression systems, existing utility services, and other categories of things that they don’t want to have to spend time creating themselves. If those things are not up to current standards, you can find yourself eliminated from consideration quickly. That’s why we’ve been able to sell our shell buildings so easily at CCEP, but we are starting to run out of room there,” Randolph told the council.


The Rant Monthly | 39

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40 | August 2021

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Profile for The Rant

The Rant Monthly | September 2021  

The September 2021 edition of The Rant Monthly, a product of LPH Media LLC in Sanford, North Carolina.

The Rant Monthly | September 2021  

The September 2021 edition of The Rant Monthly, a product of LPH Media LLC in Sanford, North Carolina.

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