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With this theme,

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The reception, the destination, the gowns — we’ve got it all

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editor’s letter

Publisher James W. Rainey Editor-in-chief Becky Hopf Design Editor Lindi Daywalt-Feazel Photographers Gary Cosby Jr. Erin Nelson Jake Arthur Copy Editors Amy Robinson Kelcey Sexton Edwin Stanton Reid Bolling Operations Director Paul Hass Advertising Director Beau Laird Prepress Manager Chuck Jones Published by The Tuscaloosa News 315 28th Avenue Tuscaloosa, AL 35401 Executive Editor Michael James Controller Steve Hopper Magazine (205) 722-0232 To advertise (205) 722-0173 To subscribe (205) 722-0102


e had two family weddings last summer, both very different, both utterly charming. One, in June, was held outdoors on a mountaintop. The other, in December, was held inside a church at a beach town. Until now, I’d never thought of the irony of those sites for those months, but that has all to do with how perfect both weddings were. Perfect because each fit each couple. My nephews and their brides selected sites and styles that were not only true to their own personalities but also were considerate of what the people they loved most in the world — their families and friends — would enjoy. Which brings us to our featured wedding in this issue, that of Ginger Gilmore and David Childress. They orchestrated, also to perfection, the near impossible: They infused their great senses of humor and fun with themes that fit their careers and interests — football, horses and insects — draped themselves and their bridal party in sophisticated attire, and placed it all in a grand and elegant setting in a mansion in downtown Tuscaloosa. And they were keen on — and successful in — making it an unforgettable wedding weekend for their families and guests. Part of the unforgettable at any wedding is the bride’s gown. In this issue, thanks to Betty Quarles and her bridal boutique, Lady In Lace, we’re featuring swoonworthy wedding dresses on our cover and in our fashion spread, gowns that are, indeed, unforgettable in all the best ways. Fast food is something we normally would not feature in our magazine, but here we make an exception. It’s hard to find a more inspiring success story than that of Rod Wilkin. A former University of Alabama football player, late at night, after the lights went out at Bryant Hall, then the athletic dorm, he would share his dream with his teammates of one day opening a Mexican restaurant. Did he ever. Taco Casa has been going strong since 1974. A Tuscaloosa treasure, it’s the first stop many make when they visit

from out of town. Actress Sela Ward discovered Taco Casa when she was a cheerleader and student at Alabama. To this day, she has Taco Casa food shipped to her. Our “Six Intriguing People” list includes several “Wonder Women”: LeAnn Sanders Shelton, who lost an arm in a childhood accident but went on to become a college softball player and is now coaching a girl who is facing a similar situation; Andrea Edmonds, the mother of a daughter with Down syndrome who saw a need for stylish children’s clothing that fit girls in nontraditional sizes, and created just such a clothing line; and then there’s Marie Fikes Carastro, who, at 89, is still working full time and who played football for Alabama in the Honey Bowl at Bryant-Denny Stadium when she was a UA student. We show off a dream of a playhouse; introduce you to Evette Clark and Gene Stevenson, the clever and amazing bakers at Brummi’s Yummies; take you on a paddleboard ride; try our hand at escaping at Breakout Tuscaloosa; and show you ways to make your exterior or interior more beautiful with container gardening. Happy summer!

Becky Hopf, editor Reach Becky Hopf at

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!


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VOLUME 16, NO. 2





“Under the biggest cactus in town,” Taco Casa has been flavoring Tuscaloosa since 1974.


Summer means milkshakes, and we’ve got five that will make your taste buds dance with delight.

Places to go, things to see and do.


The latest in local food, trends, recipes and epicurean events.


Grab a paddle and a board and hit the water for straight-up fun.


Barbie’s not the only one with a dream house. Twin sisters now have a pink palace of their own.


It’s bows for your beaus — feather bow ties for the fashionably great.



LeNá Powe McDonald, left, in a lace-fitted sheath gown, and Emily Summerville, in an ivory shantung ball gown, are photographed on the portico of the University Club in downtown Tuscaloosa. With this theme,


95 om $3.



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I theed


Photo by: Gary Cosby Jr. See story: Page 36

tion, destina l n, the got it al ceptio The re ns — we’ve w go the

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Ginger Gilmore and David Childress share their cleverly themed wedding.


Destination weddings can be fun for all — and Georgia’s Tybee Island hits just the spot.



Breakout Tuscaloosa is a mysterysolving adventure that brings out the Sherlock Holmes in its players.

FASHION It’s wedding season, and we’ve got the gowns. Page 36


Container gardening is perfect for all manner of homes, big and small.


Meet six folks who are making a difference in our community.


The best bashes, parties and charity events of the season.


A snapshot that captures life in West Alabama.





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TACO THE TOWN Taco Casa Taco Burger, Chimalupa and Burrito.

After 44 years, Taco Casa is still tops in Tuscaloosa


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BY DONNA CORNELIUS PHOTOS BY GARY COSBY JR. AND ERIN NELSON wo years ago, Page Harris Wright returned to Tuscaloosa for the first time in more than a dozen years. The University of Alabama graduate, who now lives in Orlando, Florida, was back in T-town for a sorority reunion — and a taste that took her back to her college days. A friend offered to treat her to lunch at any restaurant in town. She chose Taco Casa.

From left, Shannon Formby, Rod Wilkin II, Rod Wilkin, Brett Wilkin and Ben Wilkin at the Northport location of Taco Casa on McFarland Boulevard.

“It conjured up so many great memories,” Wright said. “I was an out-of-state student when I was at Alabama, and I didn’t have a car. So if someone said they were going to Taco Casa, I was always the first one to say, ‘I’m in!’ ” During her recent visit to the Mexican fast-food restaurant, she ordered two dishes she’d loved as a student: tacos and frijoles. “They tasted exactly the same,” she said. Taco Casa had been in existence for about a year when Wright started her freshman year at UA. Rod Wilkin

opened his first store in 1974 on 10th Avenue. “When we started, we had no idea where we were going,” Wilkin said. The story of how one man’s dream turned into a business with a multitude of devoted customers started in Wilkin’s hometown of Wichita, Kansas. He was an athletic teenager who became a junior college All-American in football. When Crimson Tide coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant called and offered him a football scholarship, Wilkin headed south. >>


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“Back then, all the football players lived at the athletic dorm, Bryant Hall,” he said. “We had to be in bed at 10 p.m. We’d talk about what we were going to do later in life. I said, ‘I’m going to start a Mexican restaurant.’ ” After college, Wilkin stayed in Tuscaloosa to work at Joe Namath’s Bachelors III restaurant and to marry Susan Strong, a Northport girl who was an Alpha Chi Omega and Corolla Beauty at UA. After they married, the couple moved to Wichita for a few years. But Wilkin was still determined to bring Mexican fast food to Tuscaloosa, and he and Susan returned on July 4, 1973. Wilkin first approached a banker friend, Sam Faucett, about financing for the new venture. “Sam turned me down because he didn’t like Mexican food,” Wilkin said. “I ended up officiating football games with Ed King, a loan officer at City National Bank. Ed said to come see him and he’d make me a loan.” Wilkin said he chose to open his first Taco Casa on 10th Avenue because of the large number of student apartments in the area.

“I had the building built, and my parents and grandmother came to visit,” he said. “I still didn’t have recipes finished. My mom said, ‘Let’s start working on this.’ She and I did the cooking, and my dad and wife were the tasters. If their ears turned red and they started sweating, we knew the sauce was too hot.” On the original menu — and still there today — were tacos, burritos, enchiladas and Sanchos, which, as the menu says, “look like a burrito but taste like a big soft taco.” Tacos were 30 cents. All the food was made with beef; Taco Casa didn’t start serving chicken dishes until years later. “We also had what was known as the ‘coldest beer in town,’ ” Wilkin said. “It was served in frosted mugs. After a while, the Lord told me to stop serving beer, so I did.” He spent long hours getting his fledgling restaurant off the ground. “Once we opened, I worked 100 to 120 hours a week for seven months,” Wilkin said. “We had two small children at the time and only one car.”

Taco Casa Burrito.


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Taco Casa Messe Nachos.

Wilkin said he later found out, statistically speaking, his new restaurant had only a 3 percent chance of succeeding. He beat those odds — but faced even greater ones less than a year and a half after his first restaurant opened. “My mom was here for Christmas and noticed a mole on my back,” Wilkin said. “She was worried and asked me to have it looked at. I went to a new doctor in town — Dr. Robert Bentley.” Bentley, who later became Alabama’s governor, sent Wilkin to a surgeon, Dr. John Whitley. After tests were done, Whitley had devastating news for his 27-year-old patient. “He said, ‘Rod, you have a melanoma,’ ” Wilkin said. “He said melanoma has five stages, and I was at stage 4. He said, ‘You’ve got about 30 days to live.’ I asked, ‘What do I do?’ He said, ‘Get on your knees and pray. That’s your only hope.’ ” Wilkin said he wasn’t sure exactly how to go about praying to be healed. But he got out his Bible and prayed anyway. “I had surgery scheduled at UAB (Hospital) to remove lymph nodes that the doctors thought were affected,” he said. “On Wednesday night before the surgery, I was sound asleep and was awakened at 3 a.m. I had hot and cold flashes for three minutes. Then I had peace, and I went back to sleep.” Wilkin believed he had been healed, but his doctor insisted on operating anyway. Wilkin gave in. “They came in after the surgery and said all 56 lymph nodes were clear,” he said. “In January of this year, I celebrated 42 years of being told I had 30 days to live.” Wilkin said the experience changed his life and led him and his wife to start a healing ministry called Tuscaloosa Fellowship Ministries. “We pray with people to get healed,” he said. “People have come from all over — as far away as Norway. We invite people to come and have seen hundreds of them healed. It’s not us. It’s God showing up. It’s Jesus showing up.”


Taco Casa Taco Burger.

Wilkin said when each of his four children reached age 10, he’d have them come in and work at Taco Casa for a few hours each day in the summer. Now, four of his family members are part of the business. His oldest son, Rod Wilkin II, joined the company in 1998 and is vice president of operations. Son Brett Wilkin is vice president of personnel, and Ben Wilkin, the youngest son, is vice president of marketing. Shannon Formby, who’s married to Wilkin’s daughter, Melanie, joined the company, too. There are now seven Taco Casa restaurants — six in Tuscaloosa and one in Homewood. “We’ve been very innovative,” Wilkin said. “We made the food when it was ordered, not before. We were the first around here, that I know of, to have canopies over our drive-through windows.” A few changes to the menu didn’t last, including a yogurt bar, Pepsi and Mountain Dew freezes and Otis Spunkmeyer cookies. But the successes far outnumber the failures. >>

MIDDLE: From left, Kaye Gaither, Annette Cotton, Peggy Hall (foreground), Johnny Walker, Pam Wheat, owner Rod Wilkin and Stephanie Gray are Taco Casa store managers.


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Taco Casa Chimalupa and soda.

“We use the best food we can,” Wilkin said. “We use Wisconsin cheddar cheese and buy about 960 blocks, each weighing 40 pounds, every three to four months. We go through 30,000 to 35,000 pounds of beef each month. We’re the largest Pepsi dealer in West Alabama.” Last October, Ben Wilkin came up with the idea of offering 99-cent tacos to celebrate National Taco Day. “We put it on our website and ran ads the day before, and every store had wrap-around lines,” Rod Wilkin said. “We sold 41,000 tacos that day.”

SURVIVING THE STORM Annette Cotton, manager of Taco Casa’s 15th Street store, will celebrate her 38th year with the company this summer. “I’m from Tuscaloosa and came to work at Taco Casa when I was 18,” Cotton said. “I started as a cashier and working on the line and then got into management. The owners are good people. I love what I’m doing.” Cotton and her night crew were on duty on April 27, 2011, when a violent tornado hit Tuscaloosa. The 15th Street store was directly in the storm’s path. “We all went to the storage room,” she said. “It was so secure that nothing fell off the shelves or even moved. Everyone was safe. We lost our building — but we got it back.” Wilkin said the store was the first business on 15th Street to reopen after the tornado. “We reopened on Oct. 17, 2011,” he said. “They didn’t even have the streetlights back up yet.” Wilkin had to overcome an unexpected obstacle when the store reopened. The company’s trademark sign, a large cactus, didn’t meet the size restrictions of new city regulations that went into effect after the tornado. “We had to spend about $100,000 to get our cactus sign back because it was too tall to comply,” he said. “But we did it. It was our image.”

CROSS-COUNTRY CUSTOMERS Recently, the company started offering online delivery of its burritos. “We’ve sent burritos to places like Texas, California, and Anchorage, Alaska,” Wilkin said. He said actress Sela Ward, a UA graduate and former Crimson Tide cheerleader, was one of the first to request long-distance Taco Casa delivery. “She would order them, and we’d send them to Hollywood,” Wilkin said. “Or if she was at her farm in Meridian, Mississippi, she’d send someone to meet us halfway.” Cotton said she sees customer loyalty firsthand. “Some people come in three or four times a week,” she said. “One customer comes in every day Monday through Friday. He says he has to eat with his family on weekends.” And there are plenty of ardent fans of Taco Casa’s sweet iced tea and finely crushed ice. “One lady always orders ‘a little tea and a lot of ice,’ ” Cotton said. Page Wright said her husband often tells her, “You’d be in heaven if Taco Casa were to open in Orlando.” That might not be too far-fetched a dream. Wilkin said although the company isn’t franchised, he’s had lots of inquiries from people who want to see Taco Casas in places as far away as La Paz, Bolivia, and even Spain. “We’re going to start working on expanding,” he said. Like Cotton, Wilkin loves to see familiar faces in his restaurants. “I see people who have been eating with us for 30 or 40 years,” he said. “I’ll ask them how the food is, and they’ll say ‘exactly the same.’ We haven’t changed a thing — just the prices.”


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Celebrate summer with these cool, quick and easy treats 14

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BY DONNA CORNELIUS • PHOTOS BY GARY COSBY JR. rosty and fun, milkshakes are the perfect hot-weather treat. Basic shakes are easy to make, and giving them a little extra oomph isn’t hard. You’ll need a blender, of course. And if you want your shakes to look really tempting, buy some soda fountainstyle glasses. The ones we used came from Crate & Barrel. You also can use Mason jars. One note: I always like to make my own whipped cream, but I put my scruples aside for these shakes and used whipped cream in a spray can. It’s a little firmer and doesn’t melt as quickly as the homemade version. A few more tips: Set out your ice cream about 10 minutes before you’re ready to make your shakes. You want the ice cream softened

— but not runny. Pop your glasses in the freezer before filling them. If you want to whip up your own creations, a good rule of thumb is to combine three scoops (scoops are about ½ cup) of ice cream with about 2 ounces of milk. Have on hand extras like fresh berries, candy sprinkles, sanding sugar and colorful straws (ours came from that well-known designer kitchen supply store, Walmart). We had a ball making these shakes — and then drinking them once photos had been taken. I was surprised to discover the strawberry shake was my favorite because chocolate is almost always my flavor of choice when it comes to sweet stuff. Serve any of these treats at your next summer get-together — and get ready to shake up your party.

PERFECT PEANUT BUTTER Makes 2 large shakes • Here’s a shake that should appeal to all ages. If you’re feeling creative, put a chow mein noodle “nest” on top. If that’s too much trouble, stick in a pretzel twist.


INGREDIENTS: • 2 cups vanilla ice cream • ¼ cup whole milk • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter • Whipped cream INSTRUCTIONS: Place ice cream, milk and peanut butter in a blender. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Pour into glasses and top with whipped cream.

FOR THE CHOW MEIN NOODLE “NESTS” INGREDIENTS: • 1 (12-ounce) package butterscotch chips • 1 (12-ounce) package white chocolate chips • 1 (12-ounce) package chow mein noodles • Reese’s Pieces

INSTRUCTIONS: Put the butterscotch and white chocolate chips in a glass bowl and melt in the microwave for about 2 minutes. Once the chips are melted, stir chips until smooth and gently fold in the chow mein noodles. On a piece of wax paper, take a small scoop of the chow mein noodle mixture and form a small nest with your hands. (You can make about 24 nests with this recipe.) Let them set up at room temperature for about 30 minutes. Fill the nests with a few Reese’s Pieces and place on top of the whipped cream. COOK’S NOTE: Forming the nests with your hands can be a sticky business. I sprayed a muffin tin with a little cooking spray, pressed the chow mein noodle mixture into the cups and used a spoon to gently hollow out the centers. Gently pop the nests out and place them on wax paper to let them firm up.

CLASSIC CHOCOLATE Makes 2 shakes • To paraphrase the old saying, “Nine out of 10 people like chocolate milkshakes. The 10th person always lies.” Give this basic shake pizazz by rimming the glass with chocolate frosting and sprinkles. INGREDIENTS: • ¾ cup whole milk • ¼ cup chocolate syrup • 3 scoops (about 1½ cups) of chocolate ice cream • Chocolate frosting (store-bought is fine) • Multicolored candy sprinkles

INSTRUCTIONS: Blend the milk and chocolate syrup for a few seconds. Add the ice cream and blend again until smooth. Coat the rim of the glass with chocolate frosting. Pour sprinkles into a small bowl and roll the rim in the sprinkles. Carefully pour the shake into the glass and top with whipped cream.


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SCRUMPTIOUS STRAWBERRY Makes 2 large shakes or 4 small shakes • We fancied this up for kids by sprinkling pastel-colored sanding sugar over the whipped cream topping and then popping in a unicorn cupcake topper. For adults, plop a fresh strawberry on top. This recipe is adapted from, which advises using good-quality strawberry ice cream, such as Breyers. INGREDIENTS: • ½ pound fresh strawberries, plus more if you want to use them for garnish • 2 tablespoons white sugar • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract • ¾ to 1 cup whole milk • 1 tablespoon malted milk powder or regular milk powder (optional) • 1 pint strawberry ice cream • Whipped cream INSTRUCTIONS: Hull the strawberries and slice them. Sprinkle the sugar over them and stir in the vanilla extract. Put the strawberries in the freezer for about an hour. Put two pint glasses (or four smaller glasses) in the freezer to chill. When the strawberries have frozen solid, put

them in the blender with ¾ cup milk. Scrape in all the syrupy juice from the bottom of the bowl. Blend until the strawberries are pulverized. If you’re using the malted milk powder or regular milk powder, add it to the strawberry mixture and blend. You don’t have to use the powder, but either will make your shake richer and creamier. Remove the blender jar from the base. Add the ice cream, stirring it into the milk and strawberries by hand. Put the jar back on the base, turn on your blender and blend the mixture thoroughly. You can add up to ¼ cup milk if your mixture is too thick. Pour the milkshake out into the chilled glasses. Top with whipped cream. Add the garnishes you want.


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Makes 2 shakes • The cream cheese gives this shake a tangy taste — and makes it a little decadent, too. INGREDIENTS: • 3 scoops (about 1½ cups) cookies and cream ice cream • About 1 tablespoon of whole milk • 3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened • About ½ cup crushed Oreos

• Whipped cream • Mini Oreos (for toppings) INSTRUCTIONS: Blend first 4 ingredients. Pour into glass. Top with whipped cream and mini Oreos.


Makes 2 shakes • As you might guess from the name, this one’s for adults only. It’s perfect for patriotic holidays like July Fourth — but it’s fun and refreshing anytime. The recipe is adapted from INGREDIENTS: • 6 scoops (about 3 cups) vanilla ice cream • 3 tablespoons whole milk, divided • 1 ounce blue Curaçao • 1 ounce vodka • 3 scoops (about 1½ cups) raspberry sorbet • 1 ounce raspberry vodka • Whipped cream • Garnish options: fresh strawberries and blackberries or red, white and blue candy sprinkles

INSTRUCTIONS: In a blender, combine 3 scoops vanilla ice cream, 1 tablespoon milk and 1 ounce Curaçao. Blend until creamy and pour into two glasses. Freeze about 30 minutes. Rinse blender and add 3 scoops vanilla ice cream, 1 tablespoon milk and 1 ounce vodka. Blend until combined, then pour into glasses on top of blue layer and freeze about 30 minutes. Rinse blender and add 3 scoops raspberry sorbet, 1 tablespoon milk and 1 ounce raspberry vodka. Blend until combined, then pour onto white layer. Top each shake with whipped cream and fresh berries or sprinkles.


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Things to do, places to go, people to see this


“Pump Boys and Dinettes”

June 1-29 (no Monday shows) • 8 p.m. • George C. Meyer Performing Arts Center • Gulf Shores

SummerTide Theatre, the University of Alabama’s theater company, is celebrating the 15th season of bringing its productions to Gulf Shores with the revival of its first production there. Performances run Tuesdays through Sundays. (The theater goes dark on Mondays.) Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for ages 12 and under and may be purchased online at or by calling 251-968-6721.

Druid City Songwriters Festival June 21-24

Hosted by venues around town, including Rhythm & Brews, Band of Brothers Brewing Co., Copper Top, Green Bar, Black Warrior Brewing Co., Billy’s Sports Grill and Hotel Indigo, it’s an event that showcases music, particularly songwriters. This is the first year for the festival. Special guests include Steve Leslie and Tommy Barnes. The festival includes a songwriting seminar. For ticket information and more details, visit the Druid City Songwriters Festival on Facebook or at Alvin Garrett

Live at the Plaza Summer Concert Series Fridays, 6 p.m. • Government Plaza

Bring your lawn chairs, blankets and favorite people and enjoy the show. And, the second-best part — aside from being with people you like — is it’s free.

“Romeo and Juliet”

June 27-30 • 8 p.m. performance • Music begins at 7:30 p.m. • The Park at Manderson Landing • (Allen Bales Theatre at University of Alabama if it’s raining)

It’s summer season No. 16 for The Rude Mechanicals, and this year’s performance is the ultimate in classic romantic tragedy. The play is for all ages — literally and figuratively — and costs absolutely nothing to attend. Bring a chair or blanket for seating. For more information, call Mark Hughes Cobb at 205-310-5257.


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Tedeschi Trucks Band Wheels of Soul 2018 Featuring Drive-By Truckers and Marcus King Band June 30 • 6:30 p.m. • Tuscaloosa Amphitheater

The Drive-By Truckers bring their alternativecountry Southern rock to Tuscaloosa. Several of the band’s members are from Alabama. Marcus King has described his music as “soul-influenced psychedelic Southern rock.” Limited Gold Circle tickets are $94. Reserved seats are $70, $50, $30 and $15. Buy them online through the link at The amphitheater’s box office hours are daily, 10 a.m.5 p.m., Monday through Friday and on all event days. For more information, call 205-248-5280.

“Once Upon a Mattress”

July 13-22 • July 13, 14, 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m. • July 15, 18, 21, 22 at 2 p.m. • Bean-Brown Theatre at Shelton State

It is billed as “fun for the whole family,” and it is Theatre Tuscaloosa’s musical production of the retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Princess and the Pea.” For tickets, visit the box office, Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and from 9 a.m.-noon on Fridays. Tickets are also sold online at Call 205-391-2277 for more information.

Jason Aldean With Special Guests Luke Combs and Lauren Alaina

July 25 • 7:30 p.m. • Tuscaloosa Amphitheater

Country comes to Tuscaloosa, and what a visit it will be between the three acts headed this way. Jason Aldean has 19 No. 1 hits to his credit. “American Idol” viewers may remember Lauren Alaina as the runner-up from the 10th season of the show. Ticket information is available online through the link at The amphitheater’s box office hours are daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday and on all event days. For more information, call 205-248-5280.

Def Leppard & Journey

Aug. 20 • 7 p.m. • BJCC Legacy Arena • Birmingham

Ronnie Milsap

Aug. 24 • 7:30 p.m. • BJCC Concert Hall • Birmingham

You won’t want to have missed this for the world … Tickets are $56.75 and $76.76 and may be purchased through or by phone at 800-745-3000.

Graffiti U World Tour Starring Keith Urban With Special Guest Kelsea Ballerini Aug. 26 • Tuscaloosa Amphitheater

Wow. Just wow. Talk about a double-dose of star power. Keith Urban brings his Grammy Awardwinning talent — he’s had 21 songs spin into No. 1 hits — to Tuscaloosa. His touring partner, Kelsea Ballerini, hit No. 1 with her songs “Peter Pan,” “Love Me Like You Mean It,” “Dibs” and “Legends.” Rush to buy tickets to see, and hear, this dynamic, headlining duo. Ticket information is available online through the link at The amphitheater’s box office hours are daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday and on all event days. For more information, call 205-248-5280.

Keith Urban

Lynyrd Skynyrd With Special Guest Blackberry Smoke Aug. 31 • 6 p.m. • Oak Mountain Amphitheatre • Pelham

Lynyrd Skynyrd, otherwise known as Southern Rock Royalty. The surviving band members have been touring for decades, bringing crowds to their feet with their biggest hits, “Free Bird” and, our state favorite, “Sweet Home Alabama.” Tickets are $49.50, $79.50, $99.50 and $129.50 and may be purchased through Ticketmaster at, by phone at 800-745-300. There are also VIP packages ranging from $325-$575 and collector tickets from $49-$145.

Pour some sugar on your besties and don’t stop believin’ you can go back in time. Two iconic bands from the ’70s and ’80s bring their rock anthems to Birmingham. Tickets are sold through


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FARMERS MARKETS Tuscaloosa River Market

Tuesdays, 3-6 p.m. • Saturdays, 7 a.m.-noon Website:

Northport Farmers Market

Wednesdays and Saturdays • 6 a.m.-noon • 4150 Fifth St. • Northport Website:

June 23 • Super Skate

MISCELLANEOUS 5th Street Vintage Market

June 3 • 10 a.m.-4 p.m. • 4150 Fifth St. • Northport

Need a camel saddle? One was sold for $20 here last summer. You never know what treasures you’ll find at this outdoor market — art, antiques, vinyl records, handmade crafts, jewelry, even food. It’s only open four times a year. Check out the website at

Birmingham Black Rodeo

June 23 • 7:30 p.m. • BJCC Legacy Arena • Birmingham

Professional cowboys invade Birmingham, amazing crowds with their skills in bronc riding, roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing and bull riding. Tickets are $35.25 for VIP and $19.25 for regular admission. For tickets, go to

Druid City Dames Roller Derby

Cheer on the local Druid City Dames as they take on Southern Harm Derby Dames. Tickets can be purchased at the door. (And, while you’re there, plan a skating outing of your own with your family and friends.)


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Celebration on the River July 4 • Tuscaloosa Amphitheater

Celebrate living in the Red, White and Blue with food, fun and a glorious Fourth of July fireworks display. Check or for time and other details.

KID STUFF Expedition Lanark Day Camp May 29-Aug. 3 • Millbrook

It’s the call of the wild — in the tamest of fashion. Kids, ages 5-15, learn all about nature, from an aquatic search for tadpoles, fish, frogs and such to casting molds from animal tracks to learning about the Alabama’s ecosystems AND being a part of animal presentations where a baby alligator, a gopher tortoise or even an eastern indigo snake may drop by with their handlers. Several sessions are offered all summer long. For more information, visit It’s sponsored by the Alabama Wildlife Federation at its education facility, the Alabama Nature Center.

PARA Outdoor Adventure Summer Camp June 4-Aug. 3 • 7:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. • Faucett Brothers Activity Center

Indoor rock wall climbing, hiking, fishing, swimming, canoeing, digging for worms or bugs — it’s an outdoor day camp for kids, ages 8-12, put on by Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority. Cost is $25 to register. For price of camp — there are weekly and monthly options — go to

I Dream Big Summer Academy Camp 2018 June 11-July 20 • Northington Elementary School

It’s the perfect storm: a camp that combines learning with fun. Kids, grades pre-K through eighth grade, take classes in math, reading and science, reviewing things they were taught the previous school year and previewing core curriculums for the next school year. Mixed in are electives, including art, dance, culinary, sports, music, percussion and public speaking. And, to remind them that summer is also for fun, the kids take field trips that are educational to museums but also to movies and bowling and other fun activities. There’s a $25 registration fee and $70 weekly fee, which includes breakfast and lunch each day. For more information, go online to or call 205-826-0638.


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For better or for wurst

’m a sucker for TV cooking competitions. I watch everything from mainstream stuff like Food Network’s “Chopped” to lesser-known broadcasts like “MasterChef UK: The Professionals.” Contestants on these shows have their share of triumphs and tragedies. And perhaps one of the worst in that second category involved an event even the most experienced cooks must have nightmares about screwing up: a wedding. The incident happened on my favorite cook-for-a-title TV show, “Top Chef,” and it featured one of my favorite somewhatof-a-celebrity chefs, Art Smith. The challenge was to create a dream wedding reception for a couple who’d had some ups and downs on their way to the altar. Smith, a dapper Southerner, immediately volunteered to make the most important thing: the wedding cake. Unfortunately, the top layer of his five-tiered creation started to slide. Smith’s fellow chefs gamely pitched in to help rescue the thing, but the cake looked more like a tower of terror than a lovely monument to marriage. I thought about this cake catastrophe because this issue of Tuscaloosa magazine focuses on weddings and because I focus on food pretty much all the time. I confess, when I’m invited to a wedding, my first thought is not “I’m so excited for the happy couple” but “What are we having to eat?” In the olden days, the food at many wedding receptions was pretty standard. You had the wedding cake — always frosted with white icing and topped with little plastic miniatures of a bride and groom. You might have a groom’s cake, which had to be chocolate and was hidden away on a small table in the corner like a dotty old uncle. Tiny bowls would hold those horrible pillow-shaped mints in pastel colors. You had nuts — Jordan almonds with a candy coating if the bride’s parents were feeling particularly flush. If the reception was in a church fellowship hall or parlor, you drank punch. This festive beverage was usually sickeningly sweet, in a color that matched the bridesmaids’ dresses, and containing not a drop of alcohol, which might have made the food a little easier to wash down. Fast-forward to modern times, when the wedding reception menu might rival that of a five-star restaurant. Guests can dine on creations like lamb lollipops, sushi, wild mushroom tartlets and artichoke puffs. One sample menu on — I kid you not — the “Real Simple” website included roasted new potatoes with dill cream and golden caviar. (I couldn’t help but wonder: If that’s a simple dish, what would qualify as fancy?) Stations, where guests can customize a dish, are wildly popular. I’ve been to weddings with mashed potato stations, grits stations and pasta stations.

I’m waiting for someone to have a bacon station, but that idea evidently has not caught on yet. Two of my most treasured marriageday memories involve two very different foods. The first was served at a wedding reception that took place in the South of France, where one might reasonably expect to get over-the-top eats. I camped out near my favorite table, which held those “stinky cheeses” for which France is famous. I’ve never met a cheese I didn’t like, but I fell passionately in love with these. The other dish that stands out was served at a reception at The Club in Birmingham. We’d been wined and dined in an elegant fashion — and then, about 11 p.m., waiters appeared bearing silver trays filled with Krystal hamburgers in the little cardboard cartons. It was a fun way to end the culinary part of the evening. Back to cooking shows: “Food Network Star” annually crowns a winner who is supposed to become the next big thing on the popular network. Like “American Idol,” sometimes this show produces its version of a Carrie Underwood; Guy Fieri leaps immediately to mind. Other times, the winner turns out to be a Nick Fradiani. (You’ve never heard of this singer? My point exactly.) Damaris Phillips, the “Food Network Star” champ in 2013, isn’t as popular as say, Bobby Flay, but she has been a TV regular with shows like “Southern at Heart.” Phillips and her husband threw a wedding reception for 235 people. Each place setting was different, the menu was all-vegetarian, and the bride and groom baked a 10-cake dessert buffet. As much as I like to cook — and eat — I can’t imagine adding the responsibility of making the reception food to all the other wedding stress. Of course, when I got married, I was so frazzled that I forgot to pack my honeymoon gear until two hours before the ceremony. But maybe I could have managed some Krystal burgers. And Jordan almonds.

Donna Cornelius is a Tuscaloosa writer whose motto is: So much food, so little time. Contact her to share recipes, restaurant news or anything food-related at Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @blonderavenous.


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rop into Brummi’s Yummies, and you’ll likely leave the bakery not just with delectable goodies in your hands but also with a grin on your face. Owners Evette Clark and Gene Stevenson take their baking seriously — and life, not so much. Clark said she has undergraduate and graduate degrees from Alcorn State University and “my baking doctorate from YouTube.” While she’s now an experienced hand at whipping up cakes and other confections, her first bakery in Hazlehurst, Mississippi, brought with it some stressful experiences. “My first wedding cake was a five-tier cake,” Clark said. “I probably shouldn’t have taken the order that soon after opening, but I did. I didn’t have any supports for the cake. I got somebody else to drive my Dodge Caliber, and I sat in the back, holding that cake between my legs. It was so scary.” She and Stevenson didn’t initially connect under the best of circumstances. They met when Stevenson’s sister-in-law, who also was Clark’s close friend, became critically ill after surgery and later passed away. Left behind was a sweet legacy: a new friendship. “Gene and I are now business partners and best friends,” Clark said. The two women teamed up and in March opened Brummi’s Yummies in Tuscaloosa. Customers visit the little shop on 14th Street to buy cupcakes,


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cheesecake (whole pies and slices) and other treats and also can order all kinds of cakes, chocolate-covered strawberries and specialty items. Neither woman started out in the food business. Clark was a teacher in Hazlehurst before changing careers. “I had taken my son, Jordan, to a bakery so he could pick out a cake for his birthday,” she said. “He chose one that was about $200, and I told him, ‘Mom can’t get that one.’ He looked so heartbroken. I went home and watched how to make a SpongeBob cake on YouTube. It became a hobby.” Eventually, Clark gathered her courage and about four years ago opened the first Brummi’s Yummies in Hazlehurst. “I guess I’m so determined — so headstrong — well, I’m so crazy that I jumped up, quit my job and opened my bakery,” she said. “If I’d been just a home baker no


one would have trusted me.” Stevenson was an engineer with Mississippi Power Co. and has the same position now with Alabama Power Co. That’s what brought her to Tuscaloosa. Clark was going through a divorce and started visiting her friend in T-town. They decided Clark’s baking chops and Stevenson’s business know-how — she has an MBA in addition to bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Mississippi State University — would be a good mix. “I asked Gene what she could bake, and she said, ‘Well, I make a mean poundcake,’ ” Clark said, laughing. “And she does make a really good poundcake.” Stevenson turned out to be a quick learner in the kitchen and comes in after her workday at Alabama Power Co. to help bake. She’s even developed a specialty — pecan pie bars. >>

FACING PAGE: Cupcakes are among the sweets the bakery offers. FROM TOP, THIS PAGE: Brownies, cheesecake and the co-owners, Gene Stevenson (left) and Evette Clark make visiting Brummi’s Yummies a real treat.


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“I learned to follow the right cake people on YouTube,” Stevenson joked. The two friends are proud of their new business. “I like the fact that we did it on our own,” Stevenson said. Clark’s father owned a popular restaurant in Hazlehurst and now cooks lunch at the Hazlehurst Brummi’s Yummies. “In Mississippi, I had a lot of people around to help,” Clark said. “My daddy was so surprised that we hadn’t already burned the building here down.” The bakery’s name comes from Clark’s married name, Brumfield. “I was teaching sixth-grade English, and my students had trouble with my last name,” she said. “They called me Mrs. Broomfield, Broomhilda — that kind of thing. Finally, one little girl said, ‘Can I call you Brummi?’ It stuck.” The Hazlehurst store has a thriving catering business. “In Mississippi, we’ll have two or three weddings a weekend,” Clark said. “We’ve had as many as four or five. That’s when my blood pressure gets high.” The partners hope the Tuscaloosa store also will become a go-to place for cakes. “Our main thing is cakes, especially wedding cakes,” Clark said. “Only about 25 percent of what we make are treats, like cupcakes.” The bakers said popular cake trends are rustic style, royal themes and geode cakes with edible crystal decorations. “We do cakes for birthdays, baby showers, gender reveal parties — whatever you want,” Clark said.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: The bakery offers eight cupcake flavors each day. • Customers can get their cakes and treats to go, or they can sit inside and enjoy the decor. • Co-owners Gene Stevenson and Evette Clark opted for a bright pink color scheme to go with their business. • Brummi’s Yummies is located at 2424 14th St. in Tuscaloosa.


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IF YOU GO: Brummi’s Yummies is at 2424 14th St. in Tuscaloosa. It’s open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, call 205-752-2253 or visit You also can follow the bakery on social media to find out about special offers, such as times when cupcakes will sell for $1 each.



July 3-4 • Grand Bay Summertime in Alabama is synonymous with ice-cold watermelon, and a South Alabama festival celebrates this Southern favorite. The event also has arts and crafts, rides and entertainment. Admission on July 4 is $5 per vehicle (so load up the whole family into one car) and includes all the watermelon you can eat. For more information, visit


July 4 • Henagar If you don’t want to head south for July Fourth, go north. More Independence Day fun is offered at this event that celebrates Sand Mountain’s diverse agricultural products, especially the humble potato. The festival starts at 10 a.m. and ends with a fireworks display that night. For more information, visit


July 4 • Homewood One of Birmingham’s oldest and biggest food festivals has a red, white and blue flavor. Some of the church’s best cooks make holiday favorites like pulled pork, ribs, sausage, chicken and hot dogs. For more information, visit


Brummi’s Yummies offers eight cupcake flavors each day. Always on the menu are red velvet, birthday cake, wedding cake and strawberry. Key lime has been a hit and may soon earn a spot in the starting lineup. “We alternate four other flavors — it’s bakers’ choice,” Clark said. “Gene likes to get a little wild with her flavors.” The cupcakes are topped with either a buttercream or cream cheese frosting. SUBMITTED PHOTO The women are expert cheesecake makers now but spent long hours developing their recipe. “Do you curse?” Clark said about the learning experience. “We found out that cheesecakes are big babies.” After her experience with the expensive cake her son wanted, Clark is priceconscious. “Not everyone can afford a ‘Cake Boss’ cake,” she said, referring to New Jersey baker Buddy Valastro from the high-profile TV reality show. “We try to keep things affordable. We can make almost anything within any price range and work with any budget.” Stevenson and Clark advise customers to send photos of the cake of their dreams instead of just describing it. “As it turns out, there are 100 shades of pink,” Clark said. The two friends are likely to leave you laughing — and satisfied. “We don’t cut New York-sized pieces of cakes and pies,” Clark said. “We cut grandma-sized pieces. And we don’t sell ‘needs.’ We sell ‘wants.’ ”

July 27 • Hartselle Professional and backyard barbecue teams from across the United States will converge on Hartselle to vie for prizes and recognition. The event is sanctioned by the Kansas City Barbeque Society and is a member of the Alabama Barbecue Association. There’s no admission fee. For more information, visit


Aug. 10-19 This 10-day event is held in Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and several other Alabama cities. You don’t need tickets or coupons; just visit participating restaurants and ask for their Restaurant Week specials. It’s a great way to try new places — or revisit favorite spots — for reduced prices. For more information and a list of cities and restaurants taking part in the event, visit For specific info about the Birmingham event, visit


Sept. 9 • Birmingham Comfort food is the star of this second annual fundraiser for Community Grief Support Service. The event from 1-4 p.m. at Brookwood Village includes tastes of mac-and-cheese creations from restaurants, caterers and food trucks. To buy tickets or for more information, visit


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balancing act

Paddleboarding is surfing — without the waves


t was almost two years ago that Todd Logan got hooked. His neighbor kept after him about joining her on the lake for some paddleboarding. Logan wasn’t too sure about the idea, but he was looking for something different to try. He was overweight and needed a way to get in shape — and running was not on his agenda. Finally he relented and went out on Lake Nicol with his neighbor for his first paddleboard experience. He didn’t need to be convinced to try it a second time. “She got me into it and I love it,” said Logan, 42, a project manager for Doug Hollyhand Realty in Tuscaloosa. “I’ve lost like 70 pounds doing this.” You probably have seen folks on paddleboards at Lake Nicol or on the Black Warrior River. It’s an activity that’s been growing in popularity in Tuscaloosa for several years, and paddleboarders like Logan hope it continues to thrive. Paddleboarding, in some form, has been around for quite some time — thousands of years, in fact. According to Stand Up Paddling Magazine, more than 3,000 years ago, Peruvian fishermen used paddleboards made of reeds called


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RECREATION From left, Andrea Hirst, Susie Poindexter, Jayson Woods and son Declan (also pictured at bottom left), Todd Logan, Mark Taylor and Angie Nicolletta paddleboard on Lake Nicol.

caballitos de totora because their stability made them like riding a horse. After a day of fishing, the Peruvians would use the paddleboard to surf the waves for fun. So what’s the big appeal? It’s basically surfing, just a lot less intense. Instead of a big adrenaline rush of riding a wave on the raging ocean, paddleboarding provides a simple, relaxing ride on a calm river or lake. Alexis France started surfing when she was just a kid and got into paddleboarding when she was in eighth grade. She says there is a rush with paddleboarding, just a different kind. “Paddleboarding is more like a calm adrenaline rush,” said France, a University of Alabama sophomore from Palm Beach, Florida, who is a surf and paddleboard instructor. “It’s more like a yoga practice. I love going out on the board when I’m having a really rough day and just paddling. It’s two different temperaments. Yin and yang. Just find your balance.” It’s the simplicity of paddleboarding that appeals to France. All you need is a board, a paddle and the right mental approach to enjoy a

day on the water. Instead of sitting on a mat indoors while slipping on a pair of headphones and listening to recorded sounds of nature, she prefers the serenity of a yoga session on a paddleboard in the middle of a lake surrounded by actual nature sounds. So where do you go to paddleboard in Tuscaloosa? Butch Gregory has that covered. Gregory, from Tuscaloosa, has owned Tuscaloosa Paddleboard for four years, and rents boards on Lake Nicol and the Black Warrior River. A self-described river rat, Gregory has done it all — fishing, kayaking, water skiing, surfing, you name it. He got the idea for paddleboard rentals while on a trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee. There were paddleboards for rent and his daughter wanted to try it. “We went down there and rented one, and of course she fell in love with it,” Gregory said. “After that, she kept after me to buy a board. I never did, but I got the idea, ‘Hey, if it worked in Chattanooga, why couldn’t it work here?’ With all the students (at the University of Alabama), it made sense — just to have something else to offer the city and utilize the river would be wonderful. >>

“Paddleboarding is more like a calm adrenaline rush.”


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“You can’t make a living off it. It’s something I enjoy doing. As long as I enjoy doing it, I will keep doing it.” For experienced paddleboarders like France, Logan and Gregory, cruising around on the water is no big deal. But for anyone thinking about attempting paddleboarding, one of the chief concerns is maintaining balance. France, who has taught paddleboard fitness and yoga for four years, and surf and paddleboard lessons for six years, has seen her fair share of people lose their balance and take a tumble into the water — novice and experienced paddleboarders. Her advice is simple. “A lot of people are nervous about falling off. I think the best thing to do is once you get on the board — fall off,” France said. “Because once you get that fear of falling out of the equation you are like, ‘All right, I got this.’ “You don’t have to be good at it. There really is no way to be bad. Paddleboarding is like riding a bike. Once you learn, you never forget. Everyone should try it once in your life because it’s a great experience, and it’s something so simple as a board and a paddle and you are on the water.” That first experience for Logan on the lake with his neighbor was a little awkward. “It wasn’t difficult at first. Maybe the first five minutes was a little strange,” said Logan, who is from Tuscaloosa. “You get kind of tense on it. People tend to get real rigid. The key is to relax. The worst thing that is going to happen is you fall in. If you swim, that shouldn’t be too big of a deal.” Logan has come a long way in nearly two years of paddleboarding. During the summer, he says, he tries to get in a paddleboard session three times a week. He tries to do a 3-mile paddle, which takes 30 to 40 minutes on average. He even does paddlefit — exercise routines on the board. “We will do some straight paddling. I make up my own stuff and do situps and pushups and squats and stuff like that on it,” Logan said. “It’s a paddlefit kind of a deal, and that makes it more interesting, especially in the summer when it’s like 900 degrees and you can get wet without falling in and get a nice cool workout.”

Todd Logan paddleboards on Lake Nicol.


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If you go

You can rent from Tuscaloosa Paddleboard at two locations, at the dock at Riverwalk Condominiums on the Black Warrior River or at Lake Nicol Park. Rental rates are $20 an hour for an individual board, $15 an hour for a group (minimum four boards), $100 an hour for a party (eightplus boards included) and a $60 daily rate. • Rentals at Lake Nicol Park are available Saturday (noon–6 p.m.) and Sunday (noon-6 p.m.), weather permitting. Weekday rentals (3-6 p.m.) are available at Black Warrior River by reservation only at the Tuscaloosa Riverwalk on the dock behind Another Broken Egg Cafe. • Call 205-394-4921 for questions and reservations. Visit for more information or check the business’ Facebook page. • For information on paddlefit and Angie Nicolletta, an avid paddleboard competitor, takes off from the bank as she paddleboards on Lake Nicol.

yoga classes with Alexis France, call 856-745-3203 or 205-394-4921.


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Kailey plays with dolls inside the playhouse.

OF THEIR OWN It’s twice the fun for twin sisters when it comes to their new playhouse

Kailey and Brinley sip lemonade at a picnic table outside their playhouse at their residence.


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FROM TOP: Kailey plays at the kitchen set inside the playhouse built for her and twin sister Brinley. • The decor includes the girls’ initials. • The pink theme is incorporated even in the flamingo doormat that welcomes visitors to the playhouse.

win sisters Kailey and Brinley refer to their new playhouse as their home. And that’s exactly what their parents hoped for when they had it built in the sweeping natural landscape of the family’s Northport backyard. “We wanted to make it nice because we wanted them to play in there for years to come,” their mother said. “I had a playhouse when I was growing up, and I played in it until I was around 11 years old. I cried when my dad eventually tore it down.” The playhouse is nestled in an area in the homeowners’ backyard where it is strategically shaded by trees. The Alabama sun, and heat, can be brutal. While the afternoon shade has kept the interior pleasant in the spring, plans are in the works for a mini split air conditioner to be installed by the time the heat of summer hits. Adding the air conditioner will not be an issue — the house is wired for electricity. Rectangular stepping stones form a path to the house, which is built in the Craftsman style, including a front porch, and, in miniature, would rival a lifesized home in quality and construction. The front of the 80-square-foot house is landscaped and flanked — at least for the summer — with plastic pink flamingos. The front entry Dutch door welcomes visitors and provides its own moments for play — and a breeze. There’s also a side door that opens to a custom sandbox just a couple of feet away. The windows, adorned with window boxes planted with real flowers, open vertically. >> 33

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FROM TOP: Kailey and Brinley love the loft, a last-minute addition. They use it for play, story time and naps. • There are two entrances. The side door leads to the girls’ sandbox. • The swan wall hanging is from Target.

“The girls love playing with the windows. They love opening them up,” said their mother. “They like to play with the food in their kitchen, then open the window and serve each other through the window.” The playhouse was built by a family friend and designed by the twins’ mother, who just happens to be a professional interior designer. Her touch is everywhere in the playhouse, and each effect comes to the delight of her 4-year-old daughters. “Anytime I add anything, they get excited. I get excited — probably more than they do. It’s been so much fun picking things out for it.” Most of the décor was purchased at Target and Hobby Lobby. An antique brass chandelier is from World Market. The window treatments are floor-length white sheers that softly blow with the breeze. Inside, centered over the front door, is a Pillowfort swan head wall art — it’s similar to a stuffed animal and projects from the wall. It’s accented with a pink tutu. Pink factors greatly into the color scheme. The interior walls are shiplap, painted white. The girls’ kitchen play set is pink. “I knew I wanted all white with a little pink and gray. I didn’t gather everything all at once. I’d pick things up as I saw them.” The decorator’s favorite feature in the playhouse is a loft with a detachable ladder. “We added it at the last minute,” she said. “We worried that the girls might be too small. We didn’t want them climbing up there by themselves. So we made the ladder detachable. They can’t go up there if we’re not close by. I’m so glad we added it. I even enjoy it. It’s my little getaway. While the girls are playing below or in the sandbox, I read or just watch them play. I love listening to them interact with each other. It’s so peaceful.” The moments she spends with her daughters in the playhouse bring back sweet memories of her own childhood. 34

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“Even before my husband and I had kids, I always knew that, when we did, I wanted our children to have a playhouse. Luckily, we had two little girls. We had the little (child-sized) furniture and we had a dollhouse in my playhouse growing up. It also had windows that opened. I wanted those elements in this one, and that’s just what we did.” The twins’ playhouse includes a tall, pink dollhouse that’s placed underneath the loft. There’s also a small round table set for tea parties and luncheons — served mostly with pretend food and tea — by the kitchen. In April, the girls celebrated their fourth birthday with a party centered around the playhouse. “Everybody wanted to see it. It was so much fun seeing the girls and their friends and how much fun they were having.” While there are no family moving plans anytime in the near — or even distant — future, the homeowners had the playhouse designed in such a way that, should they move while the girls are still young and enjoying it — they could relocate the playhouse to their new home. “I’m very pleased with how it turned out. Everything is how I envisioned it. I’m as excited as the girls. My friends and their kids can all come out and play and visit here,” she said. “We wanted it to be a little home for them, a happy house where they could play and use their imaginations. And they do just that. We spend most of our afternoons here, in the playhouse.” FROM TOP: Kailey, right, and twin sister Brinley play in their custom sandbox. • Kailey (shown) and her sister love to play with the windows, which open and close vertically.


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A perfect MATCH Before walking through life together, take the ďŹ rst steps in a breathtaking gown PHOTOS BY GARY COSBY JR.


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On Jessi: Gown by Cristiano Lucci • Off-the-shoulder, princess seams accent the pure elegance of the Ivory Mikado A-line gown, featuring covered buttons the length of the cathedral train.


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On Emily (left): Gown by Robert Bullock Bride • The ivory shantung ballgown features a V-neckline tapering into spaghetti straps to the full open back. The gathered waistline falls into a chapel-length train complete with covered buttons to the hem. The gown is accented by a detachable wide belt with attached large bow. On Jessi (right): Gown by Cristiano Lucci • Off-the-shoulder, princess seams accent the pure elegance of the Ivory Mikado A-line gown featuring covered buttons the length of the cathedral train.


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On LeNá: Gown by Allure Bridals • Café satin fit-and-flare gown features intricate silver embroidery and beading on a sheer illusion over a deep sweetheart bodice with sheer inserts on the sides extending over the back. Covered and jeweled buttons accent the back from the neckline to the hem of the train.


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On Jessi: Gown by Ashley and Justin • Sophisticated Art Deco-inspired gown features beaded spaghetti straps with a plunging neckline and a beaded waistline. The sequin lace draped fit-and-flare fit-and-flare skirt falls into a chapel train.


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On Emily: Gown by Justin Alexander • Crepe longsleeve fit-and-flare gown lined with jersey from top to bottom. An elaborately beaded motif on the sheer illusion back shows that the beauty is all in the details.


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On LeNรก: Gown by Allure Romance โ€ข Gorgeous Mikado ballgown bodice has a plunging sweetheart neckline. A pearl and crystal embroidered sheer back drops a cathedral train.


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On Jessi: Gown by Allure Romance • Ivory crepe and lace beautifully complement each other in this timeless sheath gown featuring lace cap sleeves and a lace appliquÊd illusion back with crepe-covered buttons.


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On LeNá (left): Gown by Stella York • Vintage-inspired beading covers the soft French lace of the bodice and delicate cap sleeves on this column-shaped tulle gown. The bodice features a scalloped-edge neckline extending over the shoulder to the low back featuring crystal buttons.

On Jessi (center): Gown by Robert Bullock Bride • Reembroidered Alençon lace fit-and-flare features a deep V-neckline with narrow straps over the shoulders to a plunging back with a chapel-length train.

On Emily (far right): Gown by Robert Bullock Bride • This gown features a bateau neckline and long sleeves of re-embroidered Alençon lace. Accenting the waistline is a narrow satin belt. The straight skirt falls into a chapel train.


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On LeNรก: Gown by Stella York โ€ข Vintage-inspired beading covers the soft French lace of the bodice and delicate cap sleeves on this column-shaped tulle gown. The bodice features a scallopededged neckline extending over the shoulder to the low back, featuring crystal buttons.


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Special thanks to Betty Quarles and the staff at Lady In Lace, which included, in helping with the photo shoot, Jessica Quarles, Pamela Hisey, Jasmine Aycock and Kellen Tucker. Fashion shoot styling also by Becky Hopf. Bouquets by Jackie Wuska. Photography assistant to Gary Cosby Jr. was Jake Arthur. Special thanks to the University Club for allowing Tuscaloosa magazine to use its exterior areas as the backdrop for the fashion shoot. All gowns supplied by Lady In Lace, a bridal boutique located in the Downtown Plaza Shopping Center, at 410 Queen City Ave., across the street from the University Club in Tuscaloosa. The telephone number is 205-349-5223. ON THE COVER: (Left): LeNá Powe McDonald is wearing a gown by Essense of Australia. The lace-fitted sheath gown features a V-neckline with fabric trim continuing through to the plunging V-back and sheer waistline; paired with a detachable tulle overskirt. • (Right): Emily Summerville is in a gown by Robert Bullock Bride. The ivory shantung ballgown features a V-neckline tapering into spaghetti straps to the full open back. The gathered waistline falls into a chapel-length train complete with covered buttons to the hem. The gown is accented by a detachable wide belt with attached large bow.


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On Emily: Gown by Robert Bullock Bride โ€ข This gown features a bateau neckline and long sleeves of re-embroidered Alenรงon lace. Accenting the waistline is a narrow satin belt. The straight skirt falls into a chapel train.


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BOWS — for your beaus

Brackish original feather bow ties make the groom, the groomsmen — or man who wants to step into any room with style — stand out. Brackish is based in Charleston, South Carolina, and the company creates a line of one-of-a-kind feather products that includes the bow ties, pins, pocket squares and cummerbunds. It also creates cufflinks and tuxedo studs. The feathers used are all-natural and sustainably sourced, and the ties are packaged in a hand-branded pine box. Lady In Lace carries a line of Brackish products in Tuscaloosa. The complete line can be found online at


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OUR MODELS Jessica Garcia

LeNรก Powe McDonald

Emily Front row, from left: Pamela Hisey, Kellen Tucker, Jasmine Aycock and Betty Quarles. Back row: LeNรก Powe McDonald, Jessi Garcia, Emily Summerville and Becky Hopf.



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I thee wed With this theme,


he goal was to put on a wedding and reception that was elegant but also winked at their sense of fun. At the center would be their faith. And they wanted their guests to leave feeling the same sort of joy that they felt in being able to gather the people they loved most in the world — their family and friends. Touchdown, Team Childress. On April 30, 2016, Ginger Gilmore and David Childress held an outdoor wedding at the Battle-Friedman House in downtown Tuscaloosa. Ginger is, officially titled, the director of behavioral medicine for the University of Alabama Athletics Department. More casually, she’s the redheaded athletic trainer Crimson Tide football fans spot on the field on fall Saturdays. She’s also an accomplished equestrian who owns and shows her Welsh pony in United States Dressage Federation-sanctioned events. David is a distinguished member of the President’s Club for Cook’s Pest Control and works with commercial accounts. And — he’s an Auburn fan. The two became engaged on July 2, 2015, he proposing on bended knee in front of DePalma’s Italian Cafe in downtown Tuscaloosa. When the couple began planning their wedding and reception, they wanted the display of their love to include their loves. After all, many of their guests — which included Alabama football coach Nick Saban and his wife, Terry — were gathering together from all those worlds.

“I’d told Coach Saban he could either come to my wedding or give me a big raise,” Ginger deadpanned. “He came to the wedding.” Among those they wanted to honor were family, including their grandmothers. They decided Ginger would wear her grandmother’s wedding band. “Unbeknownst, we got married on my grandparents’ anniversary. When I looked at her ring, it was inscribed ‘4-30-29,’ ” Ginger said. Alabama football references were many, but somehow, they managed to make it all very tasteful. Gary Cramer, Alabama’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes director, officiated the wedding. As a member of Alabama’s football staff, Ginger has received a national championship ring — in the form of a necklace — with each championship. Each of her bridesmaids wore one of those necklaces in the wedding. A stash of Mardi Gras-style beads with national championship logos were placed out as party favors. Ginger and David A play area for guests, young and Childress. old, included an area for cornhole games. Next to the games was the SidelinER medical training tent Ginger and staff use on the sidelines during football games. Flanking the tent was a life-size cutout of a photo of Ginger, taken at a game, carrying a tray of cups filled with water. One of her co-workers had it made as a joke at a birthday party for Ginger. There was also a life-size cutout of Saban. >>

FACING PAGE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: The beverage area was named in honor of Ginger’s pony, also named Killian’s Red. • The bride’s bouquet. • The groomsmen wore argyle socks flaunting their favorite college colors. • A dance floor was created for the couple and their guests.


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As for the all-important wedding cakes, Ginger once worked in athletics at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, the town where Julia Roberts, Dolly Parton and crew filmed “Steel Magnolias.” She thought it would be fun to have an armadillo-shaped red velvet cake, just like in the movie. She said her mom put the nix on that idea. They opted, instead, for a three-tiered, traditional cake by Sandy Kemp at Sweet Treats in Tuscaloosa. Sandy’s touch, in fact, was everywhere, including the groom’s cake. “I was talking to Sandy about what to put on the groom’s cake. I wanted something fun, and she said, ‘I can do a roach,’ And I said, if you can do it, do it,’ “ Ginger said. The bug would be a comic salute to David’s career in pest control. It was made of fresh Rice Krispies treats that Kemp makes and covered in chocolate. The cake itself was made of peanut butter and chocolate, and inside, it was orange and blue — David’s Auburn colors. Kemp went so far as to re-create David’s business ID badge, making it edible, too. “The first time I saw it, I was, just, ‘Wow.’ It was amazing. And then,

when we cut into it, it was orange and blue,” David said. “It was so good.” It was a late afternoon wedding, but the couple chose not to serve a meal. “We wanted to keep it simple and old-school. We didn’t want to have a sit-down dinner because we were trying to stick to a budget, and we wanted to be able to invite a lot of people,” Ginger said. Still, the food kept true to their backgrounds. Ginger is from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, so shrimp creole was among the offerings for guests. There were a couple of drink stations, one with strawberry lemonade, sweet tea and water. Another — and this is one of the places her equestrian background came in — was a bar area decorated with a Killian’s Red sign. Their pony’s name is Killian’s Red. There also was a signature wedding drink that they named Chilly-Gilly, a combination of her maiden name, Gilmore, and his last name, Childress. . Kemp created a snack area built like a pony stall. It was decorated with ribbons Ginger has won and was marked “Pony’s Feed Room.” Guests could place some of those treats in small “feed bags” provided. >>

ABOVE: The bride’s cake was red velvet. FACING PAGE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: If only bugs were this adorable. Ginger surprised David with this groom’s cake. Even his business ID tag is edible. • Guests could put together their own bags of pony treats from the Pony’s Feed Room station. • The horseshoe was a gift from Lynne Day at Pembroke Farms, where Ginger boards her horses. It is a symbol of health and happiness. • A painting the bride had leads guests to the bar area. • “At Last” was one of the wedding’s themes. It was also the song they danced to at the reception. • The bride’s father, Gary Taylor Gilmore, makes a toast to the couple.


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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Friends and family lit the way, and the path, to their departure. • Cornhole games were placed on the lawn and were a hit with kids and adults. The athletic training tent, used on the sidelines at Alabama football games, along with life-size cutouts of Ginger — made as a joke by one of her friends for a birthday party — and Alabama coach Nick Saban decorated the games’ spot. • Bryan Haskins from Crosspoint Church in Trussville provided the music. His sister, La Toya Haskins Cathey, sang.


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They kept most things local — Kemp as their caterer, University Printing for their invitations. Their rehearsal dinner was catered by Jim ’N Nick’s Community Bar-B-Q and held in the UA athletic training room. Their rings came from Reeds Jewelers. Handkerchiefs, carried by the bridesmaids and embroidered with their initials, came from University Mall. David’s and the groomsmen’s tuxedos were from Jos. A. Bank. Haleigh Hain at Lavish Hair Studio did the bridal party’s hair and makeup. Even Ginger’s dress came from Tuscaloosa. The morning of the wedding, the bride’s mother, Lynda Gilmore, and friends Carolyn Townes and Caroline Townes Falls hosted a brunch at Embassy Suites. “I was supposed to have this big ‘yes to the dress’ kind of day. I had a Saturday off, so I’d called my girlfriends from my prayer group to see if

anyone wanted to go look with me. I hadn’t planned it, but we went to Twice as Nice (a consignment shop), and I found two dresses I loved. Both fit. I’d found two dresses in 30 minutes. We were done before lunch.” They chose as their song, and printed on the napkins, “At Last.” “Because, well, it took a long time for me to get married,” Ginger joked. Joining them in their walk down the aisle were family members. “Her nephews were in the wedding, and they brought her to meet her dad to go down the aisle,” David said. “We wanted it to be about family, so every niece and nephew was involved.” So, too, was David’s son, Dylan Scott Childress. >>

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: The couple chose not to serve a sit-down meal in order to save costs and be able to include more of their friends and family. • After planning to spend an entire day trying on gowns at bridal shops, on a lark Ginger and her friends went to Twice as Nice, a consignment shop in Tuscaloosa, where she found her dream gown. • Wedding guests included Nick and Terry Saban. Ginger works with the Alabama football team. • Ginger had monogrammed handkerchiefs made for each of her bridesmaids to carry along with stargazer lilies. David gifted his groomsmen with footballs autographed by Nick Saban. • The bride and guests danced under the stars. • Along with their initials, the couple printed the words “At Last” on the napkins, their humorous nod to finally finding each other and marrying.


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The couple rode away in the back of their brand-new horse trailer.

The evening included dancing, and, when it came time to exit, the couple dashed through a lighted path made by the guests, who were holding sparklers. They jumped into their new horse trailer, and, as they tossed the national championship beads, drove away to Embassy Suites, where they would visit with family and friends for the next several hours. The next morning, they ate brunch at the hotel with their outof-town guests and members of the wedding party, then drove a short distance to join their out-of-town family members at a lake house. Afterward, the couple departed for a quick beach honeymoon in Pensacola, Florida. “I wanted a fun wedding, and we did it on a budget. The most fun was probably going back to the hotel and just visiting with everybody in the lobby,” Ginger said. “We wanted to spend as much time (as possible) with all the people who made an effort to come to our wedding,” David said. “It was pretty much perfect, all the way around,” Ginger said. “The best part of the wedding for me was knowing that day, in front of God and our family and friends, I was marrying the love of my life and that it was going to be forever,” David said. “It was the perfect day.”


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knot TYBEE Tying the



Just minutes from Savannah, no matter the season, the island makes an ideal spot for a destination wedding

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: The bride and her bridesmaids pose in front of a historic lighthouse on Tybee Island. • The newlyweds, Megan and Collin. • The Tybee Island Fishing Pier and Pavilion.

hen Megan and Collin began planning their December 2017 wedding, foremost on decisions was selecting the location. Both were relative newcomers to Tybee Island, Georgia, and, after considering their hometowns amongst other places to hold their wedding, in the end, they realized Tybee Island would be the perfect location not only for them but also for their guests. “Neither of us had lived there long, but we both had grown an attachment to it. We loved spending time on the beach there and liked how close it is to Savannah. We decided it would make a great backdrop for our wedding,” Megan said. “Tybee had my heart.” Tybee Island, in fact, has captured the hearts of not only seaside vacationers but also couples tying the knot. It is a prime destination wedding — and honeymoon — spot. Located 20 miles east of Savannah, the barrier island’s 5 miles of beaches offer a picturesque backdrop. Couples can hold the ceremony on the beach or in one of the many churches on the island. There are also popular venues like the nondenominational Tybee Island Wedding Chapel, which features a grand ballroom and a conference center that seats more than 300 guests. The facility includes a bridal suite for the bridal party to prepare for the wedding as well as a groom’s quarters. And, for those desiring a much smaller wedding, it offers a chapel elopement package where a couple can marry in the sanctuary and invite as many as 25 guests. >>


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Neither of us had lived there long, but we both had grown an attachment to it ... We decided it would make a great backdrop for our wedding. — MEGAN


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Because of Collin’s job in emergency management, the couple chose December for their Tybee Island wedding. The Georgia coast can be susceptible to hurricanes, and hurricane season would be over by December, making the chances of Collin being called away less likely. Holding a wedding in December on an island in Georgia may not sound ideal, but part of what makes Tybee Island an excellent destination wedding spot is that, even in the dead of winter, it retains its picturesque beauty. Lodging is not only still available but also, because it’s the off-season, many of the hotels and rentals offer discounted rates. Guests can always book rooms in any of the many hotels and lodging places in nearby Savannah and make the short drive, but Tybee has no shortage of places for the wedding party and guests to stay. There are hotels, vacation rentals, cottages, bed-and-breakfast inns and even camping areas. “Spring through fall are the peak seasons. By going in the off-season, it helped with our wedding package. There were more rentals available and at a less expensive price” said Megan. Because they were new to the area, Megan said one of the first places she went to research all the services they’d need was online at www. That site offers everything from a list of planning tools and guidelines for all things needed to be done to venues and vendors. It even

has written reviews from couples about those vendors and venues. “It was really helpful, especially because you could read the reviews written by previous brides,” Megan said. The Tybee visitors’ bureau’s website, www., also offers a special link of vendors and venues for destination weddings there. Because they lived in the area, Megan and Collin were able to meet in person with possible vendors for consultations. Planning from out of town doesn’t have that convenience without a special trip, but consultations are still just a phone call or video chat away. “You have to be careful. When you get to a venue to check it out, you need to make sure of exactly what is included in the price,” Megan said. This can include tables, chairs, audio equipment, use of bar areas and kitchens, cleanup and the like. Some venues require use of their photographers, caterers and florists. One of the perks of hosting a wedding on Tybee that Megan and Collin used is the availability of trolleys to shuttle the guests. The couple rented the trolleys to take the bridesmaids and the groomsmen to pose for pictures in front of Tybee Island Light and to take the guests from the hotel to the church and from the church to the reception. The couple held their reception at Grandview Event Center at Tybee Island and blocked rooms for the guests at Hotel Tybee and Tybee Vacation Rentals. They held a seated dinner on one floor at the Grandview, and guests went down one flight on a stairwell — or rode the elevator — to another floor for dancing and an open bar. They hired a band, Kenny on the Keys, which features Kenny Heard, through Crescent Moon Entertainment. It is a band they were familiar with from fraternity parties they’d attended. >>

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: The bride and groom and wedding party. • Part of the appeal of weddings on the island is the availability of trolleys to shuttle guests, including groomsmen headed to the church.• A place setting at the sit-down dinner. • The beach is a main draw. • The bride and her bridesmaids had their hair and makeup done together before the ceremony. • Hotel Tybee’s location overlooking the beach makes for a breathtaking venue. • A close-up of the wedding cake. • The bridesmaids carried roses.


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It’s a good place that works for a variety of generations as far as things to do. — COLLIN Megan and Collin were married in a church, so they didn’t have to worry about it, but if a couple is planning a beach wedding, no matter the season, that may require approval from the city of Tybee Island. That answer can be found on the city’s website, If the venue doesn’t require the couple to use its photographers, finding one is no problem. “There are so many weddings there. And it’s a really popular spot for people to elope, so there’s no shortage of photographers,” Megan said. “They even have photographers who specialize in indoor weddings and photographers who specialize in outdoor weddings. We wanted someone who would be able to do both.” They chose Danielle George Photography and were pleased with the results. Flowers were another thing. Florists are not readily available on Tybee. The couple found that a small florist next to the local IGA grocery store was the only place to get flowers on the island. But, that isn’t a problem, given the proximity to Savannah. They chose Colony Bay Florist in Savannah. “You have to bring someone in from Savannah, and you need to make sure they are willing to drive and that there’s not a travel fee. Some vendors will charge for parking and mileage,” Megan said. They held their rehearsal dinner, hosted by Collin’s parents, at Tybee Island Social Club. “I liked it because it had a cottage feel,” Collin said. “We wanted to serve local beer and a low country boil for atmosphere.” Food, in general, is no problem. Guests can eat at any of the island restaurants or in and along the way to Savannah. “There are a bunch of different types of restaurants and places to eat on Tybee. You can pretty much pick whatever type of food you want, even in December,” Collin said. “But our guests could also go

to Savannah if they wanted to eat at one of the restaurants there.” Savannah was where Megan’s bridal luncheon was held the day before their wedding. Her family friend hosted it in downtown Savannah at the historic Olde Pink House Restaurant. She was also able to hire someone to come on–site to do hair and makeup for the bridal party the afternoon of the wedding. “I think most hair and makeup artists now are used to being mobile. You do need to check first and clarify that they are willing to travel if they’re coming from Savannah and if there is a cost involved,” Megan said. Finding activities for guests to entertain themselves in between wedding events is no problem. There’s the beach. There’s the must-see Tybee Island Light, a lighthouse that was first opened in 1736. The Tybee Island Light Station includes a museum. There’s also Fort Pulaski on nearby Cockspur Island between Tybee and Savannah, the Atlantic Ocean, fishing piers, bike riding, shopping and all sorts of amusements. “It’s a good place that works for a variety of generations as far as things to do,” Collin said. “And for the groomsmen especially, there are all kinds of places to golf, bars and breweries.” And, for those items you realize you need on–site and can’t just run home to get? “With destination weddings, you don’t have the convenience you do if you are holding the wedding at home. You have to think of things beforehand — scissors, tape, pieces of paper,” Megan said. But, while planning a destination wedding to Tybee Island takes a bit of extra planning, Megan and Collin said it was the happily-ever-after event they were hoping to achieve. “I think everyone had a good time, and that’s what you want,” Megan said.

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: The Tybee Island Wedding Chapel hosts both big and small weddings. • The bride and bridesmaids rode a trolley to the the church. • Tybee Island has churches for most of the traditional denominations. • A hair and makeup artist was hired to help the bride and bridesmaids prepare. • A dinner was served at the Grandview after the ceremony. • Savannah is just minutes away and provided a backdrop for the couples’ engagement photos.


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CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Edwin Stanton works to open a combination lock in the “Who Done It?” room at Breakout Tuscaloosa. • Ben Jones, right, holds a sand timer in one hand and a digital timer in the other as he works with Drew Taylor, left, and Edwin Stanton to find clues. • Kelcey Sexton opens a lock on a clock.

group is led to a dimly lit room. There, the participants are given instructions and learn they must work together in order to leave. They will have only an hour to unlock the door that is about to close behind them. Solve the mystery, uncover the code, punch it into the lock on the door and break out. The task sounds simple … at first. Each person looks around and begins to realize the room is filled with locks and clues — some with letters, some with numbers, some obvious, others severely puzzling. Unlocking one item seems to bring up even more questions, which progresses to more clues. It’s hard to know where to begin. But that’s part of the fun. Breakout Tuscaloosa offers an escape game experience for groups of two or more. Guests can choose among three themed rooms, “Horror Hotel,” “Who Done It?” and “DeRailed.” A fourth themed room is planned to open sometime this summer. Two of the rooms hold as many as eight people while another holds 10. The themes of the rooms also change about every year or so, said Kim Parker, one of the owners of Breakout Tuscaloosa. “The deal is it’s challenging,” she says. “You have to think outside the box, you have to communicate with each other. You have to get every lock open. When you open that last lock in all of our rooms, you end up with that four-digit code. You use the four numbers and the pound sign to let yourself out of the room.” >>


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If you go

Alas, our crew of mystery solvers — Drew Taylor, Ben Jones, Kelcey Sexton, Elliot Stanton and Edwin Stanton — did not succeed in breaking out, but they did succeed in having a lot of fun.

This particular room’s walls are adorned with small mirrors, a giant wardrobe and several clocks. In fact, clocks seem to be a theme here. Numbers and times cover the white wardrobe as well, but what they mean isn’t clear just yet. In the center of the locked room is a table on which several mystery-themed books sit. Placed among the books are small flashlights — some blacklight and some regular, but both are necessary to shed light on what information the room and its items have to offer. Once things start to become clear, another puzzle may be found lurking around the corner. But don’t forget: Groups are told early on they can ask for and receive hints, if they want them, through a monitor system in each room should they hit any dead ends. “It’s really a struggle for us (to not blurt out hints) because sometimes someone will be right on top of (solving a puzzle),” Parker said of being on the other side of the monitor. And breaking out can be a bragworthy feat, as the escape rate for each of the rooms is 30 percent or less, Parker says. So groups that don’t manage to break out in time, like the one mentioned earlier, can take comfort in the fact that they’re not alone. Many may see the clock run

down despite getting close to solving all the clues and getting the code to punch into the lock. But don’t let that be discouraging. “We want you to be able to progress. We want the work to be yours, because people are very proud when they do get out,” she said. “We just love for people to come and have fun!” Breakout Tuscaloosa first opened about three years ago but moved into a larger building in January 2017, which allowed for the addition of laser tag. Another activity available is Breakout Expedition, which is a mobile scavenger hunt competition completed by groups in cars. There are three legs of the hunt, and each is completed by taking photos of the items on the lists. If your group wins, each member earns a coupon for a free escape room. Parker said she and the co-owners, Candace Kizziah and Lori White, continue to gather feedback from guests and seek new ideas to use in the escape rooms. “We listen to our customers: What are they asking for? What kind of room are they looking for? What kind of experiences?” Parker said. “And that’s how laser tag came about.” “We are always looking for what’s next.”

Breakout Tuscaloosa is open to the public Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The building is located at 3711 Resource Drive. Prices for escape room experiences, which each last an hour, are $22 per person, $20 per person for groups of 18 or more, and $15 per person for a group of 45 or more. Laser tag is $10 per person for a 10-minute session. College students can get in on Thursday nights for $10 with their student IDs. Breakout also offers professional team-building experiences for companies or office groups during the week. For more information, to see what specials are being offered or to book one of the escape rooms, visit the Breakout Tuscaloosa website at

From left, Lori White, Kim Parker and Candace Kizziah, co-owners of Breakout Tuscaloosa.

The best way to reach co-owners Parker, Kizziah or White is by sending an email to They can also be reached on the Breakout Tuscaloosa Facebook page or by calling 205-632-5135.


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Let your imagination go wild when choosing a container. This antique washing machine holds a whimsical display of yarrow, coleus, purple sweet potato vine, dahlia, cleome, salvia, gaillardia moxie and Dallas red lantana.


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BY BECKY HOPF | PHOTOS BY ERIN NELSON ontainer gardening is an easy solution for those with minimal or no garden space or those who want to accessorize the outdoor space they do have. And part of the fun is selecting what to plant and what to plant in — pots are just the tip of the iceberg. Ashley Johnson Haydu is a third-generation coowner of the family-owned Johnsons Gardens and Cafe, a nursery nirvana, located on four acres in Duncanville. She helps her parents, Teresa and Darrell Johnson, run the business. Teresa’s mom, Faye Price, started it all with a garden business in Northport.

Teresa followed her mom in the business with her “Plant Lady” garden center, which, as the business continued to grow (pun intended), was changed to Johnsons Gardens about 15 years ago. Ashley’s specialties are many, and one of them is container gardening. Tuscaloosa magazine tasked Ashley with putting together a few ideas to spur our readers’ imaginations and creativity in putting together their own gardens, for indoors or out. She also offers her key tips to success in keeping container plants happy and healthy.

Colorful indoor combo plants in the planter on the right include bromeliad, prayer plant, nerve plant, aquamarine pielea, cryptanthus, stromanthe, arrowhead plant, bird’s-nest fern, brake fern and staghorn fern. The indoor pot at right contains spotted kalanchoe, hen and chicks, aloes, Haworthia (little cyclones), blue chalk, portulaca, graptopetalun, cobweb cactus and cactus.

Coleus, Million Bells, salvia, artemisia, dahlia and dwarf sweet potato vine make up this display. This shade lover likes morning sun and is great for porches or covered areas that get little sun. It includes oxalis, silver dichondra, Rave Let’s Dance hydrangea, June Hosta, purple oxalis, Heuchera and fiber optic grass. The hydrangea, hosta, Heuchera and oxalis will all come back. In this pot, the only plant that will need to be replaced is the fiber optic grass.


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If you go Johnsons Gardens and Café is open Monday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and on Sundays from 1-5 p.m. It is located at 7170 Bradley Road in Duncanville. The phone number is

In twig cart: Orchid, air plant and bird’s-nest fern are great for indoor planters. In open terrarium: Maidenhair ferns are great for terrariums because terrariums trap humidity, and ferns love humidity. The diva of houseplants is the fern. It needs a lot of water yet needs to be well-drained. On a scale of 1 to 10, it can be a 10 in difficulty. Alternate choices that are easier are mother-in-law’s tongue (or snake plant), Chinese evergreen and spider plant. This colander contains arrow plant, spider plant and Chinese evergreen.

205-553-2695. Follow the business on Facebook and on Instagram @johnsongardens or visit the website: www.johnsonsgardenandcafe. com. The nursery includes a gift shop — that also features confections — and the staff hosts classes where, for $10, you can learn all about a plant-related topic, get a bite of food, prepared by the Foodie staff, and leave with handouts on the topic.

The depth of the wagon is shallow, and for containers like it — or even a shallow dish — choose plants that are drought-tolerant. This display contains a mixture of sedums and succulents and prefers midmorning and afternoon shade. Rolling inside the wagon are Lemon Ball sedum, echeveria, celosia, Heuchera, oxalis and blue chalk fingers. For a dramatic effect, plant inside a tall cage. This one doesn’t require any soil. It’s planted with a staghorn fern.


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Ashley’s tips:

Coloring this hanging basket are lollipop dianthus, surdaisy brachyscome, Million Bells and sweet potato vine. Come midsummer, when it really gets hot outside, transfer the plants to something deeper, preferably lined with coco moss, which doesn’t hold the heat as much as plastic and will help keep the soil from drying out as quickly.

• For every flowering plant, pick out a foliage plant in a contrasting color to make the display pop. Use a 1-to-1 ratio of flowering to foliage. • The bigger the pot, the less it dries out. Container plants dry out twice as fast as those in the ground. • Rave hydrangea, part of the Let’s Dance series, is great for pots because it stays small and will repeat. • Mix plants that will come back with annuals. Hosta, oxalis, Heuchera and the small hydrangea are among the plants that will come back. • Hanging baskets often come in plastic containers, but to make the plants last, replace the plastic — which tends to heat up and dry out quicker — with a coco liner in a bigger hanging basket. • Use plants that have the same light and water needs. • Use a granular, slow-release fertilizer as opposed to a water-soluble fertilizer. Ashley recommends the brand Dynamite, which she says will continue to fertilize the plants for up to nine months. • The proper soil is a must. Use only potting soil — not topsoil, garden soil or compost. Her favorites are Jungle Dirt and Happy Frog by Foxfarm. • Even cypress can become a container plant. The pot stunts the growth. • For spring plantings, around midsummer, when the heat is on, swap out plants. Transfer the plantings to something deeper that’s lined with coco moss, which won’t hold the heat as much. • Make sure the planter is big enough. Too many plants in too small a container makes the plants root-bound. • Thriller, filler, spiller — a tiered-pot look grows naturally together and makes a more stunning display. • Go green. Evergreens planted together — as in no flowers needed — are easy and striking solutions. • For design, pick out a color scheme that goes well with the color of the pot and always use a pop of bright green. It makes everything look healthier. Sweet potato vine, creeping Jenny and Lemon Ball sedum are all great choices. • Use an 80-20 rule — 80 percent perennial, 20 percent annual. Popular perennials might include ivy, dwarf boxwoods or shrubs, all popular choices for pots by front doors and entrances. Popular evergreen choices also can include Anna’s Ball and angel vine. 75

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Meet six folks who make a difference in our communities


VP and GM of Crimson Tide Sports Marketing


ANDREA EDMONDS Children’s clothing line creator


Tuscaloosa Public Library director

MARIE CARASTRO Master pilot; former UA female football player


Teenage professional photographer


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im Carabin has spent his entire adult career in athletics. For the past 20 years, thanks to his work, he’s had a frontrow seat for one of the most successful tenures of perhaps the most prestigious athletic program in college sports. Needless to say, it’s been a fun ride. “Without a doubt, it’s been the highlight of my career,” Carabin said of his time at the University of Alabama. “When we got here, the football team wasn’t doing that well. To be a part of this, the last 11 seasons with coach (Nick) Saban, to see the job (coach) Avery Johnson is doing with men’s basketball, the golf programs winning national championships, gymnastics winning a national championship, softball winning a College World Series — it’s been an incredible run and hopefully it won’t end anytime soon.” Carabin is the vice president and general manager of Crimson Tide Sports Marketing, which is the multimedia rights holder of UA athletics. Count everything that falls under the CTSM umbrella on your hands and you might need to bring a friend along. It starts with a radio network, which includes more than 70 affiliates in football, and coaches’ radio and television shows. “I think, sometimes, people think of Crimson Tide Sports Marketing, they see us in football or hear us in men’s basketball, but we touch all the varsity sports,” Carabin said. A short list of responsibilities includes signage at each home event, game programs, digital engagement — with as the most visible arm of that — sponsorships, corporate hospitality, game promotions, concession and pouring rights, and sale of chairback seats for football. It includes much more. “There is something different just about every day,” Carabin said. Carabin’s professional journey to Tuscaloosa began with jobs in minor league athletics. He grew into a senior sales account executive in the NBA with the Detroit Pistons. After nearly three years with the

Pistons, the Bowling Green State University graduate came to the University of Alabama as the director of sales for CTSM in February of 1998. Take away a four-year stint as an associate commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference and he’s been with UA ever since. Things are a bit different during his second stint with the Crimson Tide. To begin with, Learfield, which is his employer, had five properties when Carabin first came to Tuscaloosa. Today, Learfield has more than 130 properties. “As college football has expanded, so has our national platform,” Carabin said. Alabama’s football success also plays a big role in the CTSM growth. “I would say it’s definitely a mixture of both — just in the popularity that you’ve seen with the SEC Network and all the different channels that are out there, to ESPN’s growth and the dedication to every single game being on television somewhere,” Carabin said. “Our partners want to be a part of that. We have so many different opportunities now to be involved with Alabama athletics. Of course, they want to be a part of what’s going on here — national (football) titles five out of nine years have helped along the way.” Carabin’s role changed 10 years ago when he became the general manager. “To go from really being a sales representative, where you have the focus of everything you’re doing being sales-related,” Carabin said, “you’re chasing your own number, where now it’s the whole entire property. I think I’ve grown to be aware of everything in the entire property and look at it from a 30,000foot view. The first 10 years, it was more your own book of business that you were creating. Now, it’s the entire property from the radio affiliates to concessions to all of the different things that we touch.” He also learned quickly — doing both jobs — that downtime doesn’t come often. With football and men’s basketball, work on the following season is full speed during the current season. August is perhaps the busiest month of the year with football on the horizon. “It’s one thing after another,” Carabin said. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

Name: Jim Carabin Age: 52 Hometown: Dayton, Ohio Personal: Wife, Debbie; children, Benjamin, Ethan and Madison. People who have influenced my life: Bart Wolstein — gave me my first job in sports right out of college — and Mal Moore (the late Alabama athletic director). Something people don’t know about me: Youngest of seven children with three older brothers and three older sisters. My proudest achievement: Professionally … when Crimson Tide Sports Marketing was named Learfield Property of the Year in 2017. Why I do what I do: I enjoy working in sports and working for such a great company at Learfield.

“Without a doubt, it’s been the highlight of my career.” — JIM CARABIN, OF HIS TIME AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA. 79

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eAnn Sanders Shelton leaves little gray area when describing what softball has meant in her life. “Well, I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today without it,” Shelton said. “I guess it’s been my outlet. I was good at it, and after that, it’s history.” She wanted to make sure that Heaven Harris, a Sylacauga resident, who was 13 years old when Shelton first met her, had the opportunity for a similar history. Long before the two met, though, Shelton lost her left arm in a lawn mower accident. The Pickens County native was 4 years old when it happened. To this day, details of the accident — as well as what happened in the next few weeks and months — are fuzzy. “The only thing I can remember about the hospital is they had a little playroom,” Shelton said. “For some reason, I remember that. I also remember when they changed the bandage on my shoulder, I was too scared to even look at it.” More importantly, though, her life has not been defined by her accident. It’s been defined by her response. As she said, softball became her outlet. She begin playing when she was 6 and found a way of life. She eventually played at Pickens County High and continued to play in adult leagues. She wasn’t a one-armed player clinging to softball. She was an outstanding player, who just

happened to have one arm. Shelton, a standout at every level she played, was 31 when she was inducted into the Dixie Hall of Fame in 2013. “It’s just come natural, I guess,” Shelton said. Almost as naturally as her response when learning, through a Facebook message, about Harris losing her right arm in an ATV accident. Shelton immediately began research on how to contact Harris’ parents. She reached out through Facebook and received a call from Harris’ mother a couple of days later. Plans were hatched for Shelton to visit Heaven in the hospital. By the time she could arrange the trip to Sylacauga, though, Heaven was already at home. Shelton, her husband, Jeremy, and young son, Gunner Lake, made the trip. “The first time we met, it was a little emotional for me,” Shelton said. “She was shy. She was seeing someone with one arm — not herself — for the first time. It took a while for her to start talking.” For some, that trip might have been sufficient. She came to support and accomplished that. For Shelton, however, it was much more. She needed to help Harris learn how to play softball with one arm. She and Jeremy made three or four additional trips to Sylacauga. A local coach let them use a gym to work on fundamentals and drills. It was several hours of softball work. Harris and her family visited Pickens County, staying in a camper outside the Shelton home, for more friendship and softball. “I kind of found my purpose, I guess,” Shelton said. “You always want to ask why things happen. I’ve asked that for about 30 years. We ask when

Name: LeAnn Sanders Shelton Age: 36 Hometown: Reform Personal: Husband, Jeremy Shelton; son, Gunner Lake Shelton; parents, James W. and Deborah Sanders. People who have influenced my life: God, family and friends. Something people don’t know about me: The red stitches in a softball held my life together. My proudest achievement: Overcoming the impossible and finding a purpose. Why I do what I do: To be a lighthouse for others facing the same situation. To help them find hope, courage and a purpose in overcoming the impossible.


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something bad happens, but this is my purpose.” One of Shelton’s biggest challenges was seeing softball through Harris’ viewpoint. “The thing that was a big issue for her, on the field, was she was right-handed and she lost her right hand,” Shelton said. “She was a pitcher. I don’t even remember having two hands. I don’t really know if I was right-

handed or left-handed. It took her a long time to get the hang of everything, even schoolwork, writing and things like that. We had to get her over.” Like Shelton, Harris is flourishing on the softball field. She’s now at Sylacauga High. Shelton hopes to find a ghostwriter to help her with a book on her life story. A group of film students began work on a

documentary film of her life, but the project has not been completed. She says the more people who know her inspiring story, the better. “It’s always been important, just to get my story out there,” Shelton said. “It could help somebody else, not even in my situation. It could be something different, but maybe my story could help.”


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NO. 3



BY KELCEY SEXTON • PHOTO BY GARY COSBY JR. hen Andrea Edmonds started Wonderfully Made Clothing Co., she knew she was venturing into unfamiliar territory. “It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It really has been,” said Edmonds, a mother of three and a former middle and high school English teacher. “With this, I know what I’m doing, and I know where I’m going, and I believe in our designs and our products, but I’m having to learn to navigate in a world that I feel like I’ve just been airdropped into.”

Wonderfully Made Clothing offers designs for young girls who need more from their clothing in hard-to-find sizing. It provides fuller cuts in dresses to “help little girls stay little girls for a little bit longer,” she says. Her youngest daughter, Ruthie, who was born with Down syndrome, is the inspiration for the clothing line. The name “Wonderfully Made” harkens back to the day Ruthie was born and the Bible verse that came to Edmonds’ mind as she held her youngest daughter for the first time. Edmonds said she and her husband knew there was a chance Ruthie would have Down syndrome — a soft marker for it was present on a 20-week ultrasound. But the couple chose not


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to pursue further testing as the result would not change the pregnancy. Ruthie was born six weeks premature with “a head full of beautiful, blonde hair.” “(A Neonatal Intensive Care Unit nurse) handed her to me, and I was just shaking ... shaking like a leaf, and my husband was standing here, and I had so many thoughts going through my mind, but I was looking at her, and the verse Psalm 139:14 was just running through my head. ‘You are fearfully and wonderfully made.’ “I just prayed, ‘God, help her to always know regardless of a diagnosis, we will raise her to where she knows you created her and that she is wonderfully made as is every other little girl,’ ” Edmonds said. Ruthie, who is now 10 and a fourth-grader at Verner Elementary, developed hypothyroidism as an infant. She began to outgrow kids’ clothing at a young age, and it became difficult to find outfits in sizes or styles that fit her comfortably. “(Ruthie’s) body structure and just her struggle with weight caused her to size out of children’s clothes at a young age, really about second grade,” Edmonds said. “So, whereas all of her friends were still wearing the cute little ruffle lines ... and all of that, the patterns were too narrow. They didn’t accommodate her in her back, and I can remember saying, ‘If the patterns were just a little wider…’ ” From there, the idea for Wonderfully Made Clothing bloomed in fall 2016. The line came to life with the aid of Brian Taylor, a design instructor at the University of Alabama in the department of clothing, textiles and interior design, and Silke Suhr, also a UA design instructor with a masters degree in engineering specializing in apparel. Taylor creates the designs while Suhr does the pattern work, the samples and fittings. Suhr’s daughter also wears some of the dresses for fittings and modeling. “What I was so craving clothing-wise to find for (Ruthie), these clothes do not exist in this sizing in the boutiques,” Edmonds said. “They don’t exist. So, that’s what we’re doing.” Taylor created dress designs from scratch to ensure they would be accommodating to Ruthie’s body type, as well as other girls’, while offering the same attention to detail seen in regular children’s sizes. Each basic design structure is made up of 12 pieces of fabric. Details, such as ruffles or gathers, can be added or changed depending on the style of the dress. Dresses are available in sizes 8-16, though there is a possibility of size 18 being available this fall, Edmonds said. Wonderfully Made’s website, which went up in September 2017, features 12 dresses of varying patterns and styles. Ruthie’s favorites are the Sophie dresses, made from a light knit fabric that’s soft and comfortable, yet sturdy and reliable. “I started (the line) because of Ruthie, but I knew that there was a need for this clothing in our sizing,”

Edmonds said. “So that’s when I wanted to make it available for little girls other than Ruthie.” If Ruthie or the other girls who test the dresses dislike a part of a design — like an itchy collar, perhaps — Taylor and Suhr rework the dress. “We’ve tried to problem-solve with our fabrics and the designs, and we get the girls’ opinions,” Edmonds said. “It is about them.” Wonderfully Made dresses do not feature “plussized” or similar wording on the size labels. It is not a phrase or category Edmonds wants associated with the clothing. “I try to get around the term in every way that I can because I believe that our girls are bombarded with what society thinks is perfect,” she said, “and that is not the image of perfection that I want my two girls, or any girls who wear our clothes, to see. So I feel very strongly about the message that we send with these clothes.” One aim of Wonderfully Made Clothing is to be a source of positivity and self-confidence for young girls in a world where so much emphasis seems to be placed on body image. “I hope that our brand always stays positive and offers encouragement to people who need it, and I hope the little girls who see our clothing and who wear it know that they’re wonderfully made in a world that bombards them with these images of these perfect women that we see photos of — that’s not perfect. I want them to know that’s society’s definition.” Since the line is still in its early stages, the pricing for dresses ranges from $74-$129. But Edmonds said her goal is to get the price down once they see a demand for this type of clothing in this size range. “Design and pattern development, I feel like, just makes us so unique because these are our designs,” she said. “We’ve worked really hard creating designs so these little girls can feel good, they can feel cute and confident and comfortable. We haven’t adapted patterns. We started from scratch, and that has been really difficult.” In addition to managing the clothing line, Edmonds plans to start a blog, encouraging others and detailing her journey with Ruthie and with Wonderfully Made Clothing Co. “I always want people to, if they stumble across our Instagram or Facebook and they’re a new parent with a little one with special needs, look at Ruthie and say, ‘Well, she’s just a typical little girl!’ So I want to offer encouragement and hope to people who might need it, because I did. “I certainly try to be authentic and say (Ruthie’s) doing great but has her challenges, but our other two kids have their challenges, and I have my challenges, and you have yours. They’re just different challenges.” For more about Wonderfully Made Clothing Co. or to browse the store, visit Find the company on Facebook or call 205-340-0290.

Name: Andrea Edmonds Age: 46 Hometown: St. Stephens Personal: Husband, Steve Edmonds; children, Quinn, Helen Claire and Ruthie. People who have influenced my life: My parents have influenced my life the most. They demonstrated the importance of being an encourager and putting others above self. Something people don’t know about me: I love to play fun practical jokes on my unsuspecting friends and family. My proudest achievement: I’m not sure if you would consider this an “achievement” but truly it means more to me than anything else ... as far as accomplishments. It might sound cliche, but if I’m completely honest, what makes me the proudest is investing in my children. Why I do what I do: I have experienced what a challenge it is to find age-appropriate clothing for girls in hard-to-find sizing. I started Wonderfully Made Clothing Co. because as girls grow and change, they sometimes need a little more from their clothing. Our line was designed and created so that girls can stay girls a little longer instead of having to make an early transition to adult clothing.


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NO. 4



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ariety is the spice of life. It is an old and perhaps tired idiom but certainly seems to apply to Rick Freemon. For the 54-year-old executive director of the Tuscaloosa Public Library, it is applicable not only in regard to his leisurely pursuits, but also his vocational and service undertakings. Freemon, a Florence native, has an bachelor’s degree in studio arts from the University of North Alabama and a master’s degree in library science from the University of Alabama. He has been a part of the Tuscaloosa library system for nearly 20 years. He has served nearly three years in his current capacity as executive director of a Tuscaloosa library system that, in addition to the main library, includes the Brown Branch and Weaver Bolden Branch. Freemon said his job is particularly enjoyable and fulfilling because it presents him a new set of adventures daily. “The main thing that kept me with the library is that I like to help people,” Freemon said. “It’s a job where every day you get the opportunity to help. I like that each day it’s different because if you work in reference, you may be looking up the history of horses one day, and the next day it’s how to apply for this job. The day after that, it will be medical or something for a class project, so it’s always varied and sort of a mystery of where do we find what you need. When you’re not working reference, it’s still a help service industry.” Freemon was exposed to the value of libraries and books early, as he once worked a summer job in his hometown as a bookmobile driver. “During the school year, the county bookmobile routes were established, but in the summer when the school was closed, they would pull the bookmobiles back and the driver would get most of the summer off,” he said. “They had a summer route for nursing homes, but one of the bookmobiles sat idle pretty much every day of the week. So they got this grant to see if we could do an urban route, just during the summer. So we went to day camps, and we went to some of the housing projects to be able to set up the similar projects that we can do at the branches. We would do story times and we would do our summer reading program off of the bookmobiles and it was great.”

Freemon did various library-related tasks in Florence for nearly a decade. After arriving in Tuscaloosa, he held multiple positions with the public library. He was secretary and acting director before ultimately being elevated to executive director. Although his duties as executive director keep him busy, in his off time, he indulges in his various passions, including a fervent fandom for the Alabama Renaissance Faire, held annually in downtown Florence. “My wife (Darlene) and I are both active with (the fair), and while I was in Florence, I was on their board of directors, and my wife still is,” Freemon said. “Because I’m down in Tuscaloosa now, I’m not able to be on the board, but I do still support the fair, and they’ve got a larger group called the Roundtable, which helps put on the fair. So in October, I spend a good bit of time and energy up there helping to make the fair happen. Because of our love and interest of it, when we got married, we actually got married at the fair and did a themed wedding, and I wore a suit of armor, and I still have it.” Another longtime hobby for Freemon is playing board games. Among his favorites are Robo Rally and Dungeons & Dragons. He describes his collection of games as unique and still ongoing. “I like playing games of all types, especially board games, and when I discovered there were more dice than just the six-sided cubes, I just got fascinated and started collecting them, and I have thousands of dice,” he said. “The dice thing, it sort of piqued an interest when I was in high school, and it’s a varied assortment. You have the color of the dice and the color of the pips (the dots on the dice). Some are actually numbered instead of dotted. I don’t actively seek them (on the internet) because there’s no end to that, and there is an end to my pockets.” Adding to his plate, Freemon also serves on the board for the Literacy Council of West Alabama and the Alabama Virtual Library. “I like both the areas that (the agencies) work on, but in both cases, their interests and service areas dovetail wonderfully with the library’s charge,” he said. “If they weren’t doing it, it’s something we’d need to be taking care of. So I love being there to interface and make sure we’re not duplicating effort and, in fact, we’re able to make it better on both sides. Helping people is really where it starts for me.”

Name: Rick Freemon Age: 54 Hometown: Florence Personal: Wife, Darlene Freemon. People who have influenced my life: My family — especially my wife, my parents and my siblings. Something people don’t know about me: I enjoy playing games, especially board games. And, as an offshoot of that, I have a sizeable dice collection. My proudest achievement: Establishing the first computer lab at the Florence-Lauderdale Public Library. This was at a time when the library had only one personal computer for public use, and it was limited to searching a compact disc magazine database. Adding 10 public personal computers with internet access was lifechanging for so many of our patrons. Why I do what I do: I really enjoy helping people, and this job lets me be of service every day.


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Marie NO. 5



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n any given day, Marie Carastro can be on the clock for close to 11 hours. Carastro, 89, has spent the last 29 years in the Alabama Department of Public Health as a consultant dietitian. In that role, Carastro enforces state and federal regulations related to health care in nursing homes and hospitals across Alabama. From 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., it is to be expected that the Tuscaloosa native is working. Carastro said she does not mind the hours. For her, this is part of what she has always wanted to do. “When you enjoy what you’re doing, you don’t view it as work,” Carastro said. In fact, many aspects of Carastro’s life have been the results of wanting to do things on her own terms. Some of that motivation came from how she grew up in Tuscaloosa during a time when there were not many career opportunities afforded to women other than being a housewife or secretary. “I wanted to do something where if I was older, I could still work,” she said. To do what she wanted to do, Carastro finished school at Tuscaloosa High School in 1946 and went on to study institutional management at the University of Alabama. However, many who know Alabama history would be more familiar with her athletic career than her academic one, as she took part in the 1948 Honey Bowl, a powder puff football game between all-female student teams: the Bumble Bees and the Hummingbirds. “At UA, I was advised by faculty in physical education that I had ‘superior motor development,’ ” she said. “Maybe that was a reason for being asked to participate in the Honey Bowl. Only recently, after having read articles, did I know that then-Governor Jim Folsom had sent three delegates to represent him at the event.” Carastro was quarterback for the Bumble Bees, under the coaching of

renowned Alabama quarterback Harry Gilmer. However, luck did not favor the Bees, who lost to the Hummingbirds, 7-0. That also was the last year the Honey Bowl was played before UA’s Dean of Women Agnes Ellen Harris deemed the game unladylike and canceled it. Years later, Carastro does not remember much of the game. Although some would point out that Carastro is technically the oldest living Alabama quarterback, it does not resonate the same way with her. “It was not something that was that memorable to me,” said Carastro who was Miss Tuscaloosa and a finalist in the Miss Alabama pageant where her talent was baton twirling. “It was just going out and having fun.” Carastro said she is more proud of her academic accomplishments than her athletic ones. Graduating from UA in 1950, she went on to a dietetic internship with St. Louis University in Missouri. After working several years as a secretary, and with a little encouragement from Harris, Carastro completed a master’s degree in foods and nutrition in 1957. Before coming to work for the state, Carastro held leadership roles at Auburn University as part of the Office of Professional Development, as well as Auburn University at Montgomery as an adjunct nutrition instructor. Flying has been a big part of Carastro’s life as well. Influenced by her brother Talmadge, who was killed during World War II, she received her pilot’s license in 1957 and spent years in the Alabama Wing Civil Air Patrol, occasionally working as a search and rescue pilot. “When I purchased the first airplane, though never spoken, (mother) feared for my safety,” she said. “Mom’s only comment was, ‘I reckon you are ready to die.’ She later flew with me.” In 2015, the FAA awarded her recognition as a Master Pilot, after she had flown for more than 50 years with no incidents. Looking back on everything, Carastro said she is proud she was able to do many things she had always wanted to do and continues to do them. “I could do whatever I wanted,” she said.

Name: Marie Fikes Carastro Age: 89 Hometown: Tuscaloosa Personal: Husband, Bob; children, Michael James and Susan Marie; parents, the late James Marion Fikes and Mary Evalou (Hubbard) Fikes. People who have influenced my life: First would be my mother, who was my moral compass, my cheerleader and my support system. The second person would be Dr. Agnes Ellen Harris, dean of women at the University of Alabama. After my internship in St. Louis, she phoned and encouraged me to continue my education. Something people don’t know about me: I recall only sharing the Honey Bowl with family. As a student, I really was not aware of the national publicity. For me, at the time, it was just engaging in a fun way. My proudest achievement: My children. My daughter is a veterinary ophthalmologist, and my son has a Ph.D. in business management. Why I do what I do: I began college right after World War II. I had witnessed women who had lost spouses and were left to support a family. I wanted a career which would sustain me when I was older.


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NO. 6





etween high school, marching band and his photography business, 15-year-old Noah Hinton stays busy. The Northport teen is enrolled in preAdvanced Placement classes at Tuscaloosa County High, plays the trombone in the school band, belongs to the Key Club and the FBLA, runs a thriving photography business, and just recently picked up learning to play the guitar. Asked how he fits so much into his schedule, Hinton laughs a little. “I don’t really know,” he says, admitting it doesn’t leave room for a lot of downtime. When he’s not at school, much of his time is dedicated to running Noah Hinton Photography, where he takes photos for clients, including portraits for weddings, engagements, families, and high school and college seniors. In addition to taking all the photos, Hinton handles booking the photo shoots and editing the photos. “I love meeting all the people,” he said. “That’s one of my favorite things about my business, is all the people that I get to meet and the connections that I make. That’s one of my favorite parts about it, and (it) keeps me going. I just love all the different personalities.” Hinton has garnered a following of more than 5,500 users on Instagram, where his posts give followers some highlights from past photo sessions. A number of clients messaged him after seeing his photography posted or shared on social media, he said, so he thought it’d be worth his time to turn it into a way to earn some money.

Name: Noah Hinton Age: 15 Hometown: Northport Personal: Mom, Tanya Shuttlesworth; dogs, Romulus and Sadie. People who have influenced my life: God, my dogs and some of my closest friends, like Will Morrison. Something people don’t know about me: When I was younger, I tried to be in the program they offered at the elementary school I went to called “GATE.” Both of the times I received testing for it, the answer given back to me was conclusively no, and that I wasn’t creative and intellectual enough to be in there. In recent testing, I found that I am an auditory and verbal learner, not a hands-on or visual learner. That all stacks the odds against me not being able to do, as photography requires the exact opposite of how I learn, and it is only because of my God-given gift that I am able. My proudest achievement: Being able to be as successful as I have been at the age I am while balancing school and organizations I am involved in. Why I do what I do: I do what I do to be able to capture people for who they truly are, the emotion they convey and the warmth they share between one another.


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“They saw other people share it and just message me and whatnot, so it’s like, ‘Oh, maybe I am good at this!’ ” Hinton recalls using his mother’s camera to take pictures on family trips when he was younger, then buying himself a digital camera when he was about 12 or 13. “I always loved capturing memories and everything, so it kind of naturally (happened),” he said. Though his introduction to photography was through a digital camera, his main focus is now shooting with film. “I love the look that it has,” Hinton said. “Also, it allows me to focus more on telling a story, because you have to be more selective with what you shoot ... I just kind of like everything about it.” Through his work, Hinton said he aims to build people up and help them find a sense of self-confidence. “I try to evoke a lot of warmth and comfort and love through my images, so I take a more fine art approach with the film and everything,” he said. “And I love showing people that they are beautiful ... because a lot of people don’t feel that way. So, I mean, I love making people feel good through my images. I think I use it as a medium to do that.”

If he has any downtime, Hinton spends it with friends, playing with his dogs, watching Netflix or snapping some photos for his own enjoyment. Two of his favorite subjects are his basset hounds, Romulus and Sadie. “I love photographing my dogs because they’re a huge part of my life,” he said. Looking ahead to the future, Hinton said he’d love to expand his business and is likely to pursue photography as a career once he graduates from high school. “I would love to eventually be able to travel all over the world for photography,” he said, but he’s keeping his options open. He’s considered taking business or communications classes once he gets to college, to strengthen or build his business or even to take a different route. One thing he is certain of, however, is his plan to move to a bigger city — one with a brand-new backdrop. For more information about Noah Hinton Photography or to see some of his work, visit, his Instagram @nhinton4, or the business Facebook page. For booking, email


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10 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.




11. 12.

Shae Byrd and Letisha Scott Stanley Shambley, Johnny Archibald and Tamara Archibald Calondra Ingram, Latina Williams, Donna Winn, Takesha Shannon, Shonta Ezell and Brittney Anderson LaTonya Jones and Latoya Layton Gabrielle Williams and Siegfried Williams Gregory Jackson and Cedric RufďŹ n Robbie Washington, Jessica Melton and Takesha Shannon Selena Speight and Alexandria Taylor Kirk Ingram and Calondra Ingram Angela Wright, LaJessie Foster, Willie Foster and Irene Byrd Alecia Davis and Kim Turner Herman Bell, Ida Bell, Etta H. Felton and Samuel Rutley


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8 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.


Paige Sisty and Meredith Rogers Joan Phelps, Maria Phelps and Anna Phelps Yashica Smith, Michaela Smith, Karter-Mikal Smith and Monae Smith Barrett Elder and Danny Owen Adrienne Hayes, Mary Lindsay Lovelace and Madison Rudolph



April McKnight holding Caroline McKnight, Brandon McKnight, Asa McKnight and Gina McKnight 7. Kris Hoang, Quoc Hoang and Evie Hoang 8. Terrow Franks, Jordan Pugh and Joseph Tillman 9. Michael Scott and Kimberly Scott 10. Liz Ray, Trey Wilks and Patrick West


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4 2


7 5


9 1. 2. 3.


4. 5.

Dustin Spruill, Beau Burroughs and Ben Miller Eric Hull and Elliott Roberts Jo-Jo Moore and Gretchen Friedrich Stephen Dethrage, Clay Walls, Adam Holle and Zack Knight Amy Kirkpatrick and

6. 7. 8. 9.

Evan Bowman April Horton, Sammie Moore and Loretta Archibald Richard Arrington and MacKenzie Morris Thu Nguyen, Kalyn Tew, Mildred Quarter and Rhonda Tew Linda Dover and Reggie Smith


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6 8 7 1.

2. 3. 4. 5.



Connor Glen, Shannon Glen, Jonathan Fuller and Mandy Thurber Fred Hahn and Helen Hahn Marcie Porter and Nick Porter Mary Ellen Hanna and Rick Hanna John David Smelser, Claire Harrison, Becky Thomas and Butch Thomas Jenny Pichon, Joey Pichon, Rebekah Bracknell and Chuck Bracknell Tim Harrison, Leroy McAbee Sr., Wilson Moore and Poodgie Poole


Sam Phillips, Holly Phillips, Bradley Porter and Brittney Porter 9. Beau Smith, Hannah Renn, Deanna Smith, Blake Ballard and Forest Smith 10. Sarah Dumas, Caroline Lasseter, Stephanie Partlow and Kristin Blakeney 11. Andreas Hackstedt, Christine Blakley, Karen Kennedy and Marion Hackstedt 12. Neely Smith, Jana Henry, Kelsey Wood and Sara Beth Spearing




12 93

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11 12 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

Cille Robards and Michael Robards Fran Powe and Mike Reilly Lauren Humber, Will Humber, Phillip Weaver Jr. and Brittany Weaver Abbi Moore, Jennifer Wright and Holley Mabury Anna Walters and Kris Walters Michael Robards, Charlie King and Phillip Weaver Jr. Jean Hinton, Rusty Gibson and Mary Katherine Gibson Paul Bronold, Londyn Bronold and Brandi Bronold

13 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14.

Cissy Fuhrman and Gene Stallings Sarah Patterson, David Patterson, Andrea Lorenz, and Bill Lorenz Gene Stallings, Jim Harrison, Ophelia Harrison, Peggy Harrison and Ed MansďŹ eld Jim Harrison III and Almon Jamison Sarah BurchďŹ eld and Caroline Lasseter Grant McCabe, Kana Thompson, April Groeschell and Brian Groeschell



095.indd 95

5/27/18 11:14 PM













11 10


1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.




Emilee Scheeff, Kirsten Hicks and Nini Jobson Glenna Drinkard and Wade Drinkard Diane Schultz and Jenny Mann Kim Palm, Gary Jackson, April Lane and Ralph Lane Atta El-Kaddah and Wanda Paul Jason Bailey, Adam Flatt and Blake Richardson Elizabeth Aversa, Jim Jolly and Francine

8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13.

Marasco Janee Bonner, Robin Maughan and Donna Boles Camille Cornett and Harris Cornett Sharon Deck, Alan Deck and Jo Ann Cook Ginnye Capps and Anne Trawick Al Spencer and Leanne Spencer Regina Harrell and Andy Harrell


096.indd 96

5/27/18 11:16 PM






3 4 1.



2. 3.

Danielle Madden, Bianca Valenzuela, Ben Krebs, Mackenzie Baldwin, Hunter Murphree, Kendra Ciezki, Bill Baldwin and Kelli McQuillan Caroline Mullikin and Lauren Thebner McKenzie Jones and

4. 5. 6.

Emma Gullatt Terry Allen, Valencia Pickens, Jasalyn Williams and Kailyn Thomas Sharon Nelson and Erin Nelson Tess Bussick, Jacob Hamby and Megan Woodard


097.indd 97

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4 3

7 6




9 1. 2. 3.



McLean Moore and Gina McClanahan Teia Standeffer and Kara Warr Abigail Bomar, Caroline Pugh, Rebecca York and Terry Davis 4. Abby Abston, Gianna Guthrie and Nancy Reed 5. Suzy Gatewood and Jennifer Wright 6. Kat Drew, Ashton Standeffer and Teia Standeffer 7. Paige Lancaster, Kara Warr and Whitney Jamison 8. Kelly Wilkin, Asheley York and Rebecca York 9. Krissy Bunn and Brandi Bronold 10. Emily Buynak, Jordyn Alper and Avery Bandoian 11. Amy Walker and Cody Walker 12. Nicole Eaton and Shelby Cox


098.indd 98

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1 2



5 6

8 7


9 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Marcie Porter, Roman Porter and Jennifer Naves Janalyn Worthington and Jeff Worthington Christopher Kimbrell and Don Wood Hardy Wood and Sara Beth Williams Ashley Chappell and Kirsten Paxton


Rhonda Bennett and Laura McGee 7. Eric Nixon and Drucilla Nixon 8. Laura Green and Luella Tolbert 9. Jessica Lambert and Natalie Haffner 10. Heyward Gould, Katherine Gould, Lillie Gould and Alex Gould


099.indd 99

5/27/18 11:18 PM















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11 1. 2.

3. 4. 5.


Nadine Estes and Shannon Hampton Tim Pettigrew (Goober Pyle from “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Mayberry RFD”), Kenneth Junkin (Otis Campbell from “The Andy Griffith Show”), David L. Browning (Barney Fife) and Eli Austin (Opie) Mark Staggs (Festus from “Gunsmoke”), Inez Rushing and Patty Browning Justin Webb, Carolyn Brady and Charlotte Crepps Sandra Shirley and Wencie James

12 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13.

Brenda Cooper and Ricky Cooper Melinda Goff and Bill Goff Robin Bonner and Ginger Blake Sandra Pike, Jerry Pike and Joey Pike Robert Osborn and Tina Osborn Lynn Leach and Bailie Leach Theresa Emans and Phyllis Lee Roger Austin with Dixie Griffith, left, and Michelle Bryson, right (Skippy and Daphne, The Fun Girls on “The Andy Griffith Show”)


101.indd 101

5/29/18 9:39 PM








6 7


9 10 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.



6. 7.

Ian Crawford and Sandra Dockery Jan Bryant and Rick Bryant Memnon Tierce and Tammy Tierce Lee Pike, Ed Streit and David Ford Robert Cooper, Brock Jones and Reese Partlow Mary Francis Slaughter and John Slaughter Cal Wilson, Glenna Brown, Angela Sterling

and Rosemarie Childress 8. Adelaide Cherry and Tina DeLoach 9. Jack Partlow, David Partlow Jr., Maggie Partlow and David Partlow III 10. Rob Robertson, Dana Robertson and Rachel Culmer 11. Regina Harrell, Andy Kushner, Ben Kushner and Connie Kushner 12. Jean Gordon and Debra McCrary


102.indd 102

5/27/18 11:23 PM





4 2

3 5



8 1. 2. 3. 4.

Adrienne Richardson, Luke Richardson and Luther Richardson Franklin Flanagan and Becca Flanagan Shakeria Hall and Tiffani McGronan Younkyung Cho, Shulang Cheng, Jordan Leberman, Ellen Potts, Chris Mann, Laura Ritchey and Hunter Morrissette

5. 6. 7. 8.

Casey Knighten, Russell Durand, Santiago Varas and Von Bryan Dee Hamner, Jenny Thagard and George Thagard Tim Gilliam, Sydney Hanel, Morgan Smyth and Justice Smyth Matt Leverett, Jason Spikes, Eric Leverett, Lindsey Felder and Sean Wolfe


103.indd 103

5/29/18 9:31 PM







4 3 5



9 1. 2. 3.


Jared Brinkley and Johanna Brinkley Chad Cannon and Quinn Swanquist Raymond Poore, Amy Poore, Rebecca York, Katie Hancock, Dusti Monk and Thomas Monk Mark Simpson, Gina

5. 6. 7. 8.

10 Simpson, Katie Osburne and Josh Parker Meredith Graham, Ashley Cannon and Deborah Swanquist Andrew Lewis and Becca Lewis Don Howe and Alan Deck Alan Deck, Sharon Deck,


11 Roberta Compton and Charles Compton 9. Jack Gambrell and Louise Gambrell 10. Catherine Ikard and Stephen Ikard 11. George Nunn and Joy Nunn 12. Angie Martin and Tim Martin



104.indd 104

5/27/18 11:24 PM










10 8




3. 4.





5. 6.

Barry Peterson, Cheryl Peterson, Bill Campbell, Lindsey Johnson and Josh Johnson Favor Hinton, Elizabeth Hahn, Paige Lancaster and Chelsea McKenna Britney Hinton and Jimbo Hinton Beth Burchfield and Spencer Burchfield Kelly Verzino, David Verzino and Niccole Poole William Blakeney, Kristin Blakeney, Kara

11 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13.

Warr and Michael Warr Robert Kuhn, Lynda Kuhn, Bryan Oliver and Beth Oliver Melissa McKenna and Suzy Gatewood Roland Pugh and Katherine Pugh Scott Atkinson and Beth Cameron Rita Phifer and Brock Phifer Suzie Duncan and Jimmy Duncan Marcy Poellnitz, Mary Farley Poellnitz and Pam Poellnitz


105.indd 105

5/27/18 11:25 PM


RED SKY AT NIGHT PHOTO BY GARY COSBY JR. No rose-colored glasses are needed to experience this sky’s delight.


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Tuscaloosa Magazine Summer 2018  

Vol. 16, No. 3 With this theme, I thee wed

Tuscaloosa Magazine Summer 2018  

Vol. 16, No. 3 With this theme, I thee wed