June 2024

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Tammy Clark, Publisher tmclark225@gmail.com

Heather Page, Editor/Sales heather@vipmagsc.com

Tuesday Taylor Creative Design/Sales tuesday29501@gmail.com

Tiffany Mecham, Office Manager jtskipp35@gmail.com

Julie C. Tyler, Sales juliectyler@yahoo.com

Ashley Rogers, Creative Design


Contributing Photographers

Fred Salley Photography

Jennifer D. Holloway

Penelope Penn

Contributing Writers

Brian Blaker, MD

Cynthia Ford

Caleb Gainey

La’Quanita Goodman

Bryan Holt

Penelope Penn

Doug Smith

Martin Weiss, MD

Serving Florence, Hartsville, Darlington, Marion, Mullins, Lake City and the surrounding areas

2011-B Second Loop Rd, Florence, SC 29501 For advertising rates, email heather@vipmagsc.com.





Holt: A Taste of Tradition and Innovation, Exploring The Culinary Treasures of Basque Spain


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20 Grant
24 Trinity
26 Penelope
14 Fred Salley Photography 18 Vanessa Marie Style 10
Excellence - A Heart Team Approach 12 HopeHealth:
What We Do And
We Can Help
Caulder: Triumph Through Tragedy
Pee Dee Tourism: Exploring Florence County
Collegiate School
Penn: The Hat With A Story To Tell
Athletes: Where We Are Headed & How We Got There
Page 32 Page 14 Page 26
June 2024: Fun Days and Events HOME Doug Smith: Exploring The History And Art Of Chocolate Macaroons
Summer Easy Roll Up
COUNTY LIBRARY SYSTEM'S BOOK OF THE MONTH Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice by Jesse Q. Sutanto
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McLeod Cardiothoracic Surgeon Dr. Cary Huber, at left, and McLeod Structural Heart Cardiologist Dr. Brian Blaker, at right, perform a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure at McLeod Regional Medical Center.

TAVR Excellence –A Heart Team Approach

story by Brian Blaker, MD, FACC, McLeod Structural Heart Cardiologist, Director of Structural Heart Disease

Since 2017, the McLeod Structural Heart Program has replaced diseased heart valves using the Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) procedure for more than 450 patients. TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure that allows physicians to replace a patient’s diseased or damaged heart valve without removing the old valve.

The TAVR procedure, including the pre-procedural evaluation and post-procedure care, requires a collaborative, multidisciplinary team effort. We could not do this without the physicians and staff working together for the benefit of the patient. As a group, we identify the patient, then plan and perform the TAVR procedure. Everyone brings to the team their experience and expertise for the optimal care of the patient.

The McLeod Structural Heart team physician members include: Cardiothoracic Surgeons Dr. Srinivas Kolla and Dr. Cary Huber; Structural Heart Cardiologists Dr. Ravi Parikh and Dr. Brian Blaker; and Cardiovascular Anesthesiologists Dr. Daniel Fox, Dr. Robert Savage, Dr. Robert Casella, and Dr. Yaroslav Yatsky.

Additional invaluable support is provided by the exceptional team of nurses, surgical and radiological technologists, pharmaceutical staff, and social workers who participate in the care of patients with valvular heart

disease. This also includes dedicated Structural Heart Navigators Chelsea Matthews, RN; and Traci Berry, RN; and Structural Heart Advanced Practice Provider Chelsea Atkinson. The McLeod Structural Heart team works tirelessly to ensure the process of evaluation and treatment is as seamless as possible for patients in their time of need.

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Radiology Technologists Kevin Turner and Amber Bazen assist Dr. Brian Blaker during the TAVR procedure.

The McLeod Regional Medical Center Cardiac Catheterization Team celebrates the McLeod Structural Heart Program TAVR Certification.

Recently the McLeod Structural Heart Program achieved the American College of Cardiology’s Transcatheter Valve Certification, the second program in the state of South Carolina to achieve this prestigious recognition. This designation by the American College of Cardiology recognizes expertise and commitment to high quality outcomes in treating patients receiving transcatheter valve repair and replacement. Certification is based on the evaluation of our team’s ability to meet specifications for formalized training, shared decision-making, and registry performance for excellent patient care outcomes.

Certification also provides the framework to maintain high quality standards. The certification uses established national clinical measures to support clinical decisions and fosters process improvement to patient outcomes. Hospitals that achieve Transcatheter Valve Certification are equipped with best practices for identifying opportunities and implementing strategies to ensure high quality patient care.

The TAVR procedure is most commonly performed for a disease called aortic stenosis. Patients with aortic stenosis, or other forms of valve disease, often experience symptoms such as profound fatigue, and shortness of breath particularly with exertion. This can make everyday tasks difficult to manage which impacts quality of life. Other symptoms patients might experience include chest pain, fainting, or an overall feeling of weakness. Patients experiencing any of these symptoms should inform their primary care provider or request an evaluation with McLeod Cardiology Associates.

Patients with valve disease can be referred to the McLeod Valve Clinic where they will meet with our team of Structural Heart disease specialists for evaluation and discussion of treatment options. Our Structural Heart Navigators will provide additional education, answer questions, and help arrange any necessary testing, such as lab work, echocardiogram, CT scan, cardiac catheterization, lung test, and/or vascular ultrasound when appropriate.

Once results are available, the findings are reviewed as part of our multidisciplinary Heart Team committee meetings to determine the optimal treatment plan for each individual patient’s unique circumstances and goals of care.

TAVR is performed in a similar manner to a heart catheterization and is typically done through a very small incision in the groin. During the minimally invasive procedure, the physician inserts a catheter, a long flexible thin tube with the artificial valve, into an artery. The physician then guides the catheter to the heart using X-ray imaging. Once precisely positioned across the diseased valve, the new valve is expanded and starts functioning immediately. The old valve provides the foundation to hold the new valve in place.

Although the majority of TAVR procedures are performed through an artery in the groin physicians can also access the site through other arteries when necessary, such as for patients with peripheral vascular disease or blockages in the arteries of the lower limbs. In some cases, arteries in the upper chest or neck can be used as an alternative. These alternate access sites ensures the eligibility of even more patients.

McLeod Vascular Surgeons, who specialize in operating on the veins and arteries in the body, assist the Structural Heart Team with access of the carotid artery. These Vascular Surgeons, Dr. Carmen Piccolo, Dr. William Jackson, and Dr. Luke Stewart, participate in the TAVR procedure whenever called upon.

Dr. Brian Blaker McLeod Structural Heart Cardiologist

Dr. Brian Blaker is an Interventional and Structural Cardiologist with McLeod Cardiology Associates. He serves as the Medical Director of the McLeod Structural Heart Program. Structural heart disease can be present at birth or develop with age. It refers to defects in the heart’s valves, walls or chambers.

Physician and self-referrals are welcome by calling 843-667-1891.

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We all have general aches and pains, but when do they escalate from something normal to a reason to seek medical treatment? If you experience pain in your joints, muscles, or bones, the pain is severe, or pain lasts more than three to four days, it needs to be diagnosed and treated by your primary health care provider. This could be arthritis or another form of rheumatic disease that affects millions of people in the United States.

Rheumatic diseases are more than normal aches and pains and include many different disorders that can affect one's bones, joints, muscles, and connective tissues. Rheumatic disease is an umbrella term that refers to arthritis and several other medical conditions. Types of rheumatic diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, gout, and fibromyalgia. These diseases can impact a person’s health and ability to complete daily activities.

Common symptoms of rheumatic diseases include swelling and pain in one or more joints including the wrist, elbow, knee, or one or more of the smaller joints in the hands and feet. The pain may come and go, or hurt all the time, and the joints can be inflamed and look red or feel warm to the touch. Other symptoms include stiffness in the joints lasting for 30 minutes or more when getting up in the morning, or feeling tenderness in the joints. Talk with your primary health care provider if you notice any of these symptoms. If your case is a challenge to diagnose or treat, your provider may refer you to a specialist called a rheumatologist. A rheumatologist is a doctor with special training in how to diagnose and treat rheumatic diseases.

The most common cause of arthritis in the older population is osteoarthritis, also called degenerative arthritis. It can affect any joint and is often attributed to “wear and tear,” but the real cause is unknown. Drugs like Ibuprofen can give symptomatic relief, but long-term use can cause stomach ulcers and other side effects. Steroid injections, especially into the knees, can give relief lasting for up to several months and can be performed by many primary health care providers, or by a rheumatologist. If needed, hip, knee, and shoulder replacements can be performed by an orthopedic surgeon.

The disease most commonly associated with rheumatologists is rheumatoid arthritis - an inflammatory arthritis caused by an underlying autoimmune disease. An autoimmune disease occurs when the body’s immune system starts to attack itself, mistaking healthy tissue as an enemy. In the past, this was a crippling disease which led to severe deformities. In 1954, the Nobel Prize was awarded for the discovery of cortisone, the first drug to help treat the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, but the long-term side effects of the drug outweighed the benefits. The introduction of the medication methotrexate in the 1980s showed control of the disease is possible, and with biologic drugs now available including TNF inhibitors and others, rheumatoid arthritis can typically be stopped. Biologic drugs are medications targeting specific parts of the immune system to treat disease.

12 VIPMagSC.com June 2024 HEALTH + WELLNESS

Lupus is another rheumatic disease, found disproportionately in African American women. This disease may have many different symptoms, including a rash on the cheeks following sun exposure, fatigue, arthritis, hair loss, and brain fog. Lupus can involve any part of the body and can cause kidney failure and seizures if left untreated. There are several medications now available to help treat and control lupus.

Fibromyalgia is a rheumatologic disorder affecting the connective tissues, including the muscles, ligaments, and tendons. It’s a chronic condition that causes widespread muscle pain. Patients may also experience fatigue, poor sleep, headaches, and mood disturbances such as depression and anxiety. Medications such as Lyrica and duloxetine can help, and moderate exercise can be very beneficial.

Medications are typically the standard treatment for rheumatic diseases, and lifestyle changes such as diet and physical activity can help.

While there is ongoing research into the role of diet in rheumatic diseases, the Mediterranean diet is often recommended for its anti-inflammatory properties. This eating plan focuses on incorporating plant foods that contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other plant substances called phytonutrients to help decrease inflammation and damage to cells. Here are some highlighted foods included in the plan with benefits and recommendations:

Nuts and Seeds - These foods contain antioxidants including tocopherols and the mineral magnesium, and both can help reduce inflammation and promote longevity. Aim to consume one handful a day (about 1-1 1/2 ounces of nuts or seeds). Great options include unsalted walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, almonds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds.

Fish and Seafood - Cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring are rich in omega-3s, a type of fat that can help control inflammation. It is recommended that you eat cold-water fish at least twice a week.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil - Extra virgin olive oil is loaded with oleocanthal, a compound with pharmacological actions similar to ibuprofen. Consume one to two tablespoons daily of olive oil in cooking or in salad dressings for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Diet, physical activity as able, and taking medications as prescribed are all important in managing a rheumatic disease. Early diagnosis and treatment can lead to more positive outcomes with less risk of long-term damage to joints and organs. Early treatment can also increase the chance of remission.

Consider requesting a referral to a rheumatologist from your primary health care provider if you have unexplained joint pain and swelling that is not resolved or repeated episodes of joint pain, swelling, fever, skin rash, or fatigue.

Fruits and Vegetables - Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is associated with overall health and less inflammation. For example, cherries, and berries in general, contain anthocyanins, and citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons contain carotenoids; both have an anti-inflammatory effect. Research also suggests vegetables like broccoli, spinach, lettuce, kale, and cabbage reduce inflammatory markers in the blood. Aim to include fruits and/or vegetables at each meal and snack.

Beans and Peas - Anti-inflammatory nutrients called polyphenols are found in beans and peas such as kidney, pinto, black, and garbanzo beans as well as black eye, crowder, and field peas. Eat beans and peas several times a week to help reduce inflammation and season with olive oil or broth instead of animal fat.

The best treatment for endocrine disorders is prevention. Eat balanced meals, get active, and see your primary care provider regularly for routine check-ups to ensure early detection.

Martin Weiss, MD is a board-certified internist and rheumatologist serving patients at HopeHealth in Orangeburg and is accepting new patients.

For more information, call 803-535-2272 or visit online at hope-health.org.

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In 1984, just 40 short years ago, Fred Salley found himself behind the camera lens inspired to capture objects in new ways. His father was an amateur photographer and somewhat planted the seed for Fred's interest in photography. "I always liked 'taking pictures' but hadn't considered being a professional photographer in the beginning," said Fred. It was 1996 before he took that leap of faith.

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Fred Salley

Read the Q&A to discover what guides Fred to capture not only a photograph but also a feeling of emotion that will last many lifetimes.

Q. What led you to become a professional photographer?

A. "The simple answer is that I watched my friend, Joe Lewis, a successful Florence photographer in the 80s and 90s, photograph a wedding and was fascinated. Joe had encouraged me for some time to pursue photography because he said I had what it takes. I knew that I needed knowledge and understanding so I started taking 4-day classes that were being taught in the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. This education gave me the knowledge and confidence to start a business of photographing people and it grew from there.

"The real answer is that God is Sovereign and He directs the pathways of our lives into the places He so chooses to do His will on earth. He desires to use us for His glory and direct us into paths that he created us for. I didn’t choose photography, but God chose me and led me into photography without me seeing it coming. All the steps I mentioned previously are just a short smattering of events that led me into photography but He was directing those steps to take me where He had gifted me to be. He uses my vocation to minister to people. This ministry takes many forms from talking with clients about themselves to praying with them, and sometimes it is making an image that makes them feel great about themselves. God is doing the work, the photography, the ministering, etc. He just works through me, which blows my mind."

Q. In your opinion, what must an image have to be a great image?

A."A great image must evoke emotion. Often that includes drama."

Q. Where do you think the direction of photography is headed?

A. "What concerns me is that the standards have been lowered. There are very few people who can still photograph classically. By classic, I don’t mean formal or stiff. Classic photography incorporates lighting patterns and ratios, intentional composition, and some directed posing which flatters people. Digital photography has made it easy to make a properly exposed image and filters can produce a cool look. But classically made images will always be in style and will stand the test of time."

Q. How is lighting important in your photography?

A."Great images are made, not taken. You may 'take' a picture, but you must 'create' a great image. In most great images, lighting is of ultimate importance, and it is the FIRST thing I consider when I make an image of any kind. An image without proper lighting is just a picture. Lighting creates drama, both in landscapes and also for people; it enhances the texture. Proper lighting flatters the subject and makes the difference between just a nice photograph and an artistic piece. To be clear, not all images I make are exceptional, but they all have flattering lighting. When I make images for clients, I always use proper lighting but when I create images of people for myself, I use dramatic lighting. In the two images of the ballerina, one is properly lit with directional light and is nice. However, the other is dramatic, it evokes a 'wow'. This illustrates what I have described."

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Q. Have you taken a family trip that offered amazing photography opportunities?

A."Our kids went with us to Alaska, and we took them salmon fishing. The beauty was breathtaking. The river water was melted glacier ice. The water wasn’t as clear as you might think but was a gray semitransparent color. The gray tone was of the glacier silt that flowed with it. We were surrounded by smaller mountains but a lot of flatter lands with trees and grass that the guide told us was a great area for moose. Unfortunately, we did not see moose, but we did catch salmon. We had them shipped back to South Carolina and we are still enjoying them. Believe me when I say that the taste is so much better than a grocery store salmon."

Q. What do you hope people you have worked with will say about you in the future?

Q. Can you share a favorite landscape image and tell us why this is a favorite?

A."I love all landscapes because there is beauty in them all and they all offer different glimpses of the Creator. I will share one; it is my recent favorite because it is so unusual. This image was taken in Antelope Canyon. This canyon is in the middle of nowhere on Navajo land and a Navajo guide must take you there. The area around it is unnotably desert and when you walk up to this canyon it is just a crack in a wall. But when you walk in you are in another world. Over many years the rain has been funneled through this canyon and has formed the most abstract art you can imagine. The sun shining through the top paints a different image regardless of where you look, and it changes with the sun’s location. I had always wanted to see it and it did not disappoint."

A."My identity is not as a photographer but as a child of God. Yes, I do hope that many of my images will grace the walls and shelves of my clients for years to come but the way I want to be remembered is as a man who reflected Jesus, even if people didn’t know exactly what radiated from me." To

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contact Fred Salley, email: fred@fredsalleyphoto.com phone:
How do you find the perfect style for all occasions?

Trending styles continue to evolve. Creating the perfect look can be daunting for some. However, stylist Vanessa Stevenson has proven to be the perfect solution to this problem. As a master stylist, Stevenson works with clients of all ages to curate the perfect look for special occasions and everyday wear.

In 2018, Stevenson, driven by her passion for fashion, established V. Marie Style. She saw a gap in the market and set out to style everyday men, women, and professionals, offering a unique service that combines trending styles with an exquisite, luxurious touch.

“The right style can uplift and build confidence,” Stevenson affirms. “I aim to educate people on finding the

Vanessa Stevenson uses her lavish styling experience to provide personalized fashion consultations
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style that suits their body type and enhances their natural beauty with perfect shades for their skin tone.”

One of the most rewarding aspects of Vanessa Stevenson’s work is seeing the joy and satisfaction on her clients’ faces. She compares their initial consultation to the transformative experience on the final day of styling, noting a significant difference and a boost in their confidence. Stevenson always advocates for people to expand and enhance their wardrobe. She believes in teaching clients to maximize their pieces.

Stevenson’s favorite styles are formal wear and event styles. She offers event styling, photoshoot styling, and wardrobe enhancements. V. Marie Styles often partners with companies such as AYS Media, Brandon Williams, Jazzy Jae Photography, and Dee Rogers to enhance the client’s service. The added services provide clients with a memorable and enchanting experience.

Stevenson offers personalized consultations with each client to delve into their goals and desired look. She takes client’s measurements and selects pieces that would suit the occasion. After a consultation with Stevenson, clients are well on their way to a lavish styling experience.

She always wanted a place where women could shop. That dream became a reality on July 1, 2022, when she opened V. Marie Styles Boutique. The boutique currently offers stylish pieces in sizes small through 3X. The pieces can be multifunctional. She plans to continue to expand her services in the future by teaching other stylists, designing, and tailoring.

“If God allows things to come my way, it’s for me to do,”  stated Stevenson. “When it comes, God prepares me.”

Stevenson has mastered the art of creating a balance between her full-time job, working with clients, and her personal life. She is big on not overbooking or creating burnout. Stevenson is cautious not to overbook clients and notes that clients deserve the best experience. Recently awarded Fashion Stylist of the Year, she is proud of her work and excited about seeing true transformation inside out for clients.

Stevenson thrives as a well-rounded stylist who loves to dance, travel, laugh, and have a great sense of humor. Her gift to style is a work of art that benefits many clients near and far. Clients can conveniently book her online at www.vmariestyle.com. Her impressive work is also prominently showcased on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.

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Longest Day Event 2023: Team Purple Crusaders had 100+ participants last year.

Triumph Through Tragedy

Grant Caulder went through a profound journey alongside his wife, Becky, as they navigated her mother Carol's battle with Alzheimer's disease. This journey is marked by a deep sense of empathy and determination to make a difference. Despite feeling helpless at times, Grant found a way to channel his emotions into positive action, both for his family and for the broader Alzheimer's community.

Even with the emotional strain and helplessness they felt, Grant and Becky remained dedicated to supporting Carol and each other. Grant found solace in running, using it as both a physical outlet and a mental escape from the stress. While searching for local races to attend, he came across a Mountaineer Rumble event held at Cheraw State Park, Cheraw, South Carolina. The race, Cheraw 24 Hour Run, had runners circle a 4.3-mile loop for the duration of the 24-hour event. “It took me several months to decide if I was going to do it,” says Grant. “But, finally decided I would when I knew I could raise money for a good cause.”

Anyone can join or donate to the Purple Crusaders team at  www.act.alz.org/goto/purplecrusaders  or via the QR code:

During this time, Grant also learned about the Purple Crusaders, a local advocacy group working to end Alzheimer's. He met with Chip Ingram, founder of the group and a fellow Alzheimer’s caregiver who tended to his late wife Teresa. Together, the men swapped similar stories of surviving a family member’s unfair Alzheimer’s diagnosis. “After learning Chip’s vision for the group, it was the right decision for me to run in the Cheraw 24 Hour Run to raise money for their organization. Running in the event became personal for me.”

Grant’s connection to the cause, coupled with his passion for running, drove him to take on this challenge despite its physical and emotional demands. He didn’t allow obstacles like injuries and doubts about his abilities as a runner to detour him, he pushed forward, motivated by the cause he was running for. With the help from close friends,

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Grant Caulder finishing the 24 hr / 52 mile endurance event to honor, advocate and raise money for the Alzheimer's association.
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Chris Lloyd and Dustin Rayfield, and the support from his wife and parents, he completed the run and helped raise $2,002 for the organization.

Through his experiences with his mother-in-law, Grant learned firsthand about the cruel nature and complexity of Alzheimer's disease. He witnessed the challenges faced by families dealing with the unpredictable nature of the illness and the difficulty of knowing how to respond in various situations. “One minute a person can be okay and fine and the next calling someone they’ve known their entire life by a different name. Not knowing the exact way of handling those situations may be the most difficult part. Do you just let them think whatever or do you attempt to correct them?”

Grant's advice to educate oneself about Alzheimer's and prioritize mental health underscores the importance of understanding and coping with the disease. “Find out as much as you possibly can,” he says. “I’ve learned a lot just since

4th Annual

Longest Day Event

sponsored by the Purple Crusaders and the Alzheimer's Association

June 20th, 8am Arrowhead Park, 989 State Road, Cheraw, SC

To learn more about the Purple Crusaders, call Chip Ingram, at (843) 910-2668 or email him at chipingram00@gmail.com. You can also follow them on Facebook: Purple Crusaders Working to End Alzheimer's

joining the Purple Crusaders through the work they are doing…by bringing in speakers to discuss Alzheimer's. Having that support from other people that are going through or have gone through the same things is a huge advantage.”

Through the Purple Crusader’s attempt at finding “Triumph Through Tragedy,’ they will host their annual Longest Day Event on Thursday, June 20th. “Come walk 100 feet or up to six miles as we have fun on this day of honoring and advocating,” says Chip.

Looking ahead, Grant remains committed to participating in events like the Longest Day and hopes to see greater community involvement in advocating for Alzheimer's awareness. Sadly, his mother-in-law lost her battle with Alzheimer's disease on April 26, 2023. However, her passing only fueled his fire to dedicate energy to advocating for Alzheimer's awareness.

• There are nearly 7 million Americans living with Alzheimer's or related dementias including more than 112,000 South Carolinians.

• There are more than 11 million Americans providing unpaid care for those living with Alzheimer's or related dementias including 219,000  South Carolinians.

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Pee Dee’s Florence County is brimming with unique dining experiences, top family-friendly attractions, exclusive outdoor activities, premier lodging options, and some of the area’s best shopping spots.

Grab a paddle or bring a healthy appetite to blaze Florence’s two one-of-a-kind trails: the SC Revolutionary Rivers Trail—a National Water Trail—and the SC Pecan Trail.

The SC Revolutionary Rivers paddling trail spans nearly 70 miles of the very swamplands used by the Patriots, including General Francis Marion, during the American Revolutionary War. And the SC Pecan Trail winds visitors along a path featuring more than 20 local shops and restaurants that serve up a delicious array of South Carolina pecan treats and dishes.



138 W. Evans Street, Florence | 843.702.0171

Barringer General Store is a purveyor of locally unique and internationally chic products and goods.


2513 W. Lucas St., Florence | 843.665.5154 agriculture.sc.gov

The Pee Dee State Farmers Market offers fresh local fruits, produce, and plants. It’s a friendly, affordable, leisurely experience of southern hospitality with quality produce at reasonable prices. One visit and you’ll see the difference! The market is available to drive through and park inside.

Overlooking downtown Florence, The Dispensary boasts 3,500 square feet of rooftop bliss sitting atop the modern American restaurant Town Hall. The drink menu consists of creative, craft cocktails along with exquisite wines and beers from local breweries. Accompanied by a menu that is Southern at its roots, The Dispensary offers a list of elevated bar fare, carefully prepared.

4822 E. Palmetto St., Florence 843.661.1355 | astro.fmarion.edu5

Join us on Sunday, June 23, 2024, at Dooley Planetarium for The Evening Skies of Summer as part of our FREE public planetarium shows offered each month. This program will provide an overview of the night sky for June and July, and showcase constellations, planets, and various deep sky objects that are visible at this time of year.

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THE DISPENSARY ROOFTOP BAR 101 W. Evans St., Florence | 843.472.5203 thedispensaryflorence.com
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June 2024 VIPMagSC.com 23 Located just six miles east of Lake City, Carraway’s Treasures & Collectibles has an assortment of items that appeal to everyone. MAMA D’S COFFEE & ICE CREAM 212 W. Broadway St., Johnsonville 843.483.4099 | mamadscoffeeicecream.com We don’t serve only Coffee and Ice Cream – we serve cups and scoops of happiness! #weservehappiness 843-374-1505 | jonescartergallery.com A free, state-of-the-art exhibition gallery located in the heart of downtown historic district of Lake City, South Carolina, The Jones Carter Gallery boasts a state-of-theart exhibition space near contemporary gift shops, clothiers, antique stores, and restaurants. The Gallery hosts several exhibitions of local, regional, and national artists each year, as well as ArtFields, the annual, nine-day art competition, dubbed "The South's Most Engaging Art Event," held in Lake City. 843-669-0950 PAMPLICO VISIT PEEDEETOURISM.COM TO DOWNLOAD "OUR GUIDE TO THE PEE DEE" COWARD LANGSTON RANCH 3603 Union School Rd, Coward (843) 373-2774 Discover a world of farm-fresh delights at the Langston Ranch Farm Store. Our store is your one-stop destination for a wide variety of products that capture the essence of our farm. Whether you’re in need of refreshments, homemade goodies, branded merchandise, canned goods, or unique boutique items, we have something special waiting for you. PAMPLICO JOHNSONVILLE LAKE CITY

The Hat With a Story to Tell

For centuries, men have taken inspiration from many things. This story is about a man who spent decades of Father's Days in a career that paid the bills, was practical and convenient, but provided no inspiration or passion for life. It’s about the father that finally took that giant leap of faith, making his vision a reality and he never regretted a moment of his new life. I’ll never forget the Friday he came home from work, announced he’d taken early retirement, and was going to begin pursuing his long-awaited and unfulfilled dreams.

One might say it was a mid-life crisis, but for him, it was his wake-up call that if he didn’t pursue his joy now, he’d never have the career and life experiences he’d always wanted. After that, he never looked back and awoke every morning enthusiastically anticipating where his day would take him. From that day forward, he spent the last chapter of his life stuffing everything he felt he’d missed into every minute of every day and loving the new challenges.

You’re never too young or too old to passionately pursue your dreams. As long as I can remember, my dad loved learning new things, and his favorite place to unwind – besides walking on a sunny beach – was in the kitchen creating delicious concoctions for his friends and family. It paired perfectly with his love to entertain, learn,


richness I achieve comes from nature." - Claude Monet

“Storytellers broaden our minds: engage, provoke, inspire, and ultimately, connect us.” - Robert Redford



and create. Some of us spend our whole lives trying to inch our way up a corporate ladder or searching somewhere, anywhere for what gives us satisfaction, joy, and peace. Even when Dad was a young marine, he’d slip down to the ship's mess in his off time to create appealing dishes to pick up the crew with the unappetizing military rations they’d been sent.

Despite being over 40, after settling in his new home, his next words were ones no one ever dreamed they’d hear... “I’m leaving for culinary school Monday and I’m going to become a chef.” He spent the rest of his life making up for what he saw as lost time and I never saw him so happy, content, or fulfilled. He bonded quickly with other like-minded individuals and formed lasting friendships. Some of them chose to be cooks at diners; some were highly sought-after personal chefs to the stars; and others opened their own prestigious restaurants in Palm Beach but all were doing exactly what they loved.

He embraced everything about his new life but Dad's favorite times were when he taught budding young chefs at a college and judged various competitions when culinary artists, chocolatiers, students, and seasoned chefs all came together on common ground to strut their best stuff. He had several chef hats and I’d kept them all to remember when he was his best and happiest self. He wore only one though when he was teaching and judging, hoping to help others find their happiness like he had.

“You don’t have the rest of your life; this is the rest of your life.”
- Pamela Hartle



When Alex took a sudden interest in cooking, I knew where Dad’s favorite hat had to go. I gave it to him with wishes and fingers crossed for him to be reminded to find the same inspiration and happiness in his life, wherever that may be, and definitely sooner than my dad. However you end this Father's Day and all the ones to come, embrace your passions and reach for the sun.

South Carolinians are fortunate to have an abundance of colleges, universities, and technical schools plus a diversity of certificate programs scattered throughout the state to jump start your desires toward your dream.

Visit www.sc.gov/colleges-and-universities-list for more information and inspiration to launch your passions, whatever they may be.

Happy Father's Day!

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story and photography by Penelope Penn

A Taste of Tradition and Innovation:


Nestled in the picturesque landscapes of northern Spain lies the enchanting region of Basque Country, a land rich in cultural heritage and gastronomic delights. From its renowned wines to its unique ciders and tantalizing tinned seafood, Basque Spain offers a culinary journey like no other.

Wines of Basque Spain: A Testament to Tradition

The vineyards of Basque Spain, particularly in the provinces of Álava and Gipuzkoa, have been producing exceptional wines for centuries. Among the most celebrated are the crisp and aromatic white wines crafted from indigenous grape varieties such as Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarrabi Beltza. These wines, often characterized by their vibrant acidity and minerality, perfectly complement the region's seafood-centric cuisine. Additionally, Basque Country is renowned for its txakoli, a slightly effervescent wine that pairs exquisitely with pintxos, the region's flavorful small plates.

Savoring the Unique Ciders of Basque Country

Cider holds a special place in Basque culture, and the region boasts a vibrant cider tradition dating back centuries. Unlike the sweet ciders found in other parts of the world, Basque cider, known as sagardoa, is tart, dry, and deeply refreshing. Made predominantly from tart apples grown in the rolling hills of Gipuzkoa, sagardoa is traditionally served in sagardotegis, rustic cider houses where visitors can witness the age-old ritual of txotx—drawing cider directly from massive wooden barrels. This interactive experience, accompanied by hearty Basque fare and lively conversation, epitomizes the convivial spirit of Basque gastronomy.

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Tinned Seafood: A Gourmet Tradition

In Basque cuisine, tinned seafood, or conservas, holds a revered status. From tender anchovies to succulent sardines and delicate mussels, Basque Spain produces an array of meticulously preserved seafood delicacies that captivate the palate. These tinned treasures are cherished for their exceptional quality and flavor, often served simply with crusty bread and a drizzle of fruity olive oil. Whether enjoyed as a tapa alongside a glass of crisp Txakoli or incorporated into elaborate pintxo creations, tinned seafood epitomizes the Basque commitment to culinary excellence.

Vermouth and the Art of Aperitivo

In Basque culture, the ritual of aperitivo, or pre-dinner drinks, holds a special place, serving as a time-honored tradition of socializing and savoring small bites alongside a refreshing libation. Vermouth, a fortified wine infused with botanicals and aromatics, is a beloved choice for aperitivo in Basque Country. Whether enjoyed neat over ice or mixed into a classic cocktail, vermouth captivates the senses with its complex flavors and lingering finish. Paired with an array of pintxos, small savory bites bursting with flavor, vermouth becomes the centerpiece of Basque happy hour, a time to unwind, connect with friends, and indulge in the simple pleasures of life.

Embracing the Basque Aperitivo Culture

As the sun sets over the rolling hills of Basque Spain, locals and visitors alike gather at bustling pintxos bars and cozy taverns to partake in the cherished tradition of aperitivo. Amidst the lively chatter and clinking glasses, the spirit of Basque hospitality shines bright, inviting guests to linger over leisurely meals and savor each moment with gusto. Whether sipping on a glass of chilled txakoli or sampling an array of artisanal pintxos, the aperitivo hour in Basque Country is a celebration of community, conviviality, and the joy of good company.

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story by Bryan Holt, Cru Wine & Tap Bryan Holt is the owner of Cru Wine & Tap located in Downtown Florence, SC. He was the wine buyer at Micky Finn’s for over 20 years.

Where We Are Headed How We Got There! &

Triniti Muldrow-Green

Attending Converse University for Track

High school: South Florence High School

HS sports: Track, Volleyball

I started running in the seventh grade and started playing volleyball in the ninth grade.

My favorite memory while running track is championship season, a very humbling experience every time.

I chose Converse University because the track coach there believes in me. That quality is hard to find sometimes in a coach. Converse was a very welcoming school.

Sha’Carri Richardson is a professional favorite of mine. I’ve been watching her since she was running for Louisiana State University. Also Masai Russell, the drive those two women have is so inspiring!

Noah Gilbert Attending Coker University for Wrestling

High school: Hartsville High School HS sports: Wrestling

I have been wrestling for six years now.

My favorite memory from wrestling in high school is getting to wrestle in the South Carolina State Championship after barely winning my qualifying match my junior year.

I chose Coker University because I want a challenge not only from an athletic standpoint but also from an academic perspective and I believe Coker University can provide the challenges that I am seeking.

My favorite wrestler is David Taylor.

My role model has to be my high school wrestling coach Seth Spell.

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Kelvin Hunter

Attending the University of South Carolina for Football

High school: West Florence High School HS sports: Football

I was seven years old when I started playing football.

A favorite memory is beating James F. Byrnes High School during my junior year.

I was a Gamecock fan growing up and so it was a dream come true to be able to attend and play the sport I love there. What attracted me

Destiny Star

Attending Voorhees University for Basketball

High school: Lake City High School HS sports:Track and Field, Basketball

My favorite memory from sports would have to be winning regional in track three years in a row!

I chose Voorhees University because of the small campus and it felt like home.

My favorite professional player is Aliyah Boston with the Indiana Fever.

My older cousin, Jervon Pressley, plays basketball overseas and I looked up to him from a young age. He is the reason I started playing basketball.

Gage McKenzie

Attending Coker University for Baseball

High school: Darlington High School HS sports: Baseball

I started playing baseball when I was four years old.

My favorite memory while playing baseball in high school has to be my home run during region play to put us up in the same game I pitched.

I chose Coker University because it feels like home there and they have an amazing coaching staff.

My favorite player is Bryce Harper and always has been. He is a very inspirational player that I have always looked up to.

My role model would have to be my girlfriend. She exceeds the expectations and pushes me to be the better me every single day.

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Smoothpringle Photography


Emma Steen

Attending Francis Marion University for Track/Cross Country

High school: Hartsville High School HS sports: Track/Cross Country, Bass Fishing

I started running track in 7th grade and cross country in 8th grade.

There are so many memories I have from both of these sports and it is hard to choose a favorite, but one was certainly witnessing a state champion be crowned in 2022 along with a relay, and getting a huge personal record at the Coaches Classic Regional at Waccamaw last season.

I chose Francis Marion University for quite a few reasons. Back in August and up until January, I was so stressed and overwhelmed by choosing the right college and path. When I visited FMU in late summer to meet head Coach Bluman, and two freshman athletes, I felt welcomed and spending the day there, I could see myself there and the environment felt right.

I enjoy watching many professional athletes, but two in particular I admire are Emma Coburn and Athing Mu. Emma Coburn is a 33 year old USA New Balance athlete and like me, she has experienced so much adversity and obstacles, yet she still shows up to race and takes her time to recover. She holds the American Record in the 3,000 meter steeplechase and is an athlete who you watch every race they have. Athing Mu is a 21 year old Nike USA athlete. At the 2020 (2021) Olympics, when she was just 19, she won the gold medal in the 800 meter race. Being a primarily 800 meter runner, I would watch her races over and over again and study them diligently on how to become better in the event.

I have so many great people in my life that I look toward, but one in particular is my mom. She is one of the main reasons I got into running, track, and the gym. I witness first hand how having a good attitude and work ethic can develop you mentally and physically and how you can improve everyday, even if it hurts sometimes. I always try to reflect her positive attitude.

Andrews Attending Erskine College for Golf

High school: Trinity Collegiate HS sports: Golf, Baseball

I played golf for fun as a young child but played for the first time competitively in June 2020 with SCJGA, and I started on the varsity team in ninth grade. I started playing baseball at three years old.

A favorite memory is when we tied with AC Flora in the Anderson Brothers Bank golf tournament and had to settle it with a 10-hole playoff. AC Flora ended up winning, but it was a great tournament against our rivals! In baseball, my last game pitching for Trinity I threw a no-hitter – that was a great memory, too.

I chose Erskine College because I wanted to attend a small, Christian school in the upstate region of South Carolina where I could play golf. When I visited Erskine, I felt at home.

My favorite professional player for baseball is Trevor Bower and for golf it's Max Homa.

My mom is my role model because she has worked hard to be successful in her career and to support me as I played two sports at the same time.

Hailie Lebiedz

Attending Columbia College for Softball

High school: Marion High School

HS sports: Softball

I have been playing softball since I was four years old.

My favorite memory while playing for high school would be being able to play the game I love with my teammates and coaches whether we won or lost.

It has been a dream of mine to play at the college level, but I didn’t feel comfortable being too far away from home. Columbia College really fit my standards for the college I was looking for.

My all-time favorite team would be the Chicago Cubs. I also got some inspiration from Anthony Rizzo when he was a former Cubs player.

My role models would have to be my parents. They have taught me to work hard for my dreams and nothing will be handed to me. If I want to achieve my goals I have to work for it.

Did you know that Friends of Florence County Library provide critical support to library services and collections? This includes supporting children’s literacy through the Children’s Summer Reading Program and the Children’s Bookmobile, as well as by funding the library’s e-books and downloadable audio books (available through the Libby app, which can be found on the library web page at www.florencelibrary.org).

You can become a Friends of Florence County Library member for as little as $20 a year! Visit www.florencelibrary.org and select the Friends tab at the top of the page for more information.

Caleb Gainey’s, Children’s Library Supervisor at the Florence County Library System, Book Review of


Jesse Q. Sutanto's "Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murderers" is a delightful romp through the streets of San Francisco's Chinatown, featuring the lovable and unconventional detective by the name of Vera Wong. With a unique blend of humor, wit, and heart, Sutanto crafts a cozy mystery that is as entertaining as it is engaging.

At the heart of the story is Vera Wong, a "lady of a certain age" who finds herself embroiled in a murder investigation when a dead body is discovered in her tea shop. Rather than leaving the case to the authorities, Vera takes it upon herself to uncover the truth, armed with nothing but her sharp intellect, keen observation skills, and a healthy dose of maternal instinct.

What sets "Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murders" apart is its endearing protagonist and the colorful cast of characters that populate its pages. From Vera's nosy neighbors to her eclectic clientele, each character adds depth and personality to the story, creating a rich tapestry of relationships and interactions. Every character that we encounter is rich with life and their own complications, which are woven throughout the story and with vivid descriptions and immersive world-building.

The cherry on the top is that Sutanto's writing is witty and engaging, with clever dialogue and snappy banter that keeps the reader entertained from start to finish. The plot is filled with multiple twists and turns, as Vera navigates the complexities of the case while also juggling her responsibilities as a mother and a small business owner.

At its core, "Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murderers" is a celebration of community, resilience, and the power of human connection. As Vera delves deeper into the mystery, she forms unexpected friendships and discovers that sometimes, the answers we seek are closer than we think.

"Vera Wong's Unsolicited Advice for Murderers" is a delightful read that will appeal to fans of cozy mysteries and amateur sleuths alike. With its charming protagonist, clever plotting, and vibrant setting, it's a book that will keep you guessing until the very end.

Jesse Q. Sutanto can be found online at X @TheWritingHippo, Instagram @JesseQSutanto, and TikTok @AuthorJesseQSutanto.

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National Chocolate Macaroon Day

June 3rd

Get more from Doug Smith by following him on Facebook and Instagram at "Doug the Food Guy".

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Exploring the History and Art of Chocolate Macaroons

In the realm of confectionery delights, few treats evoke as much admiration and allure as chocolate macaroons. These delicate morsels, with their crisp exteriors and soft, chewy centers, have captivated taste buds around the world for centuries. Come with me on a journey to uncover the rich history of chocolate macaroons, explore what makes them so irresistible, and learn how to create these indulgent delicacies from scratch.

The origins of macaroons can be traced back to Italy, where they first appeared in the 8th century. Initially composed of almond paste, sugar, and egg whites, these early macaroons were simple yet decadent treats enjoyed by royalty. Over time, variations of the macaroon spread throughout Europe, each region adding its unique twist to the recipe.

It wasn't until the 19th century that the macaroon, as we know it today, emerged in France. Renowned French pastry Chef Pierre Desfontaines (Yes he was the founder of the brand Chef Pierre we buy today.) is credited with inventing the iconic macaron sandwich, a delicate combination of two almond meringue cookies filled with ganache or buttercream. This elegant creation quickly gained popularity and became a staple of French patisseries.

Fast forward to the present day, and chocolate macaroons have become a global sensation, adored by pastry enthusiasts and chocolate lovers alike. With their vibrant colors, diverse flavors, and irresistible textures, these bite-sized treats continue to enchant and delight consumers around the world.

What Are Chocolate Macaroons?

Chocolate macaroons, also known as chocolate macarons, are a variation of the classic French macaron infused with cocoa powder or melted chocolate to impart a rich chocolate flavor. These decadent confections consist of two almond meringue cookies sandwiched together with a creamy chocolate ganache filling.

The magic of chocolate macaroons lies in their delicate balance of textures and flavors. The crisp, airy shells give way to a soft and chewy interior, while the smooth, velvety ganache provides a luxurious contrast to the meringue. The result is a symphony of sweetness and sophistication that delights the senses with every bite.

While chocolate macaroons may seem intimidating to make at home, with a bit of patience and practice, anyone can master the art of macaron-making. Here's a step-by-step guide to creating these delectable treats from scratch:

Chocolate macaroons embody elegance and indulgence, with their delicate shells, luscious ganache filling, and rich chocolate flavor. From their humble origins in Italy to their rise to fame in French patisseries, these bite-sized treats have become a beloved delicacy enjoyed by dessert enthusiasts around the globe.

While crafting chocolate macaroons requires patience and precision, the reward of biting into a perfectly assembled macaroon makes the effort worthwhile. Whether enjoyed as a special treat for yourself or shared with loved ones, chocolate macaroons are sure to delight and enchant with their irresistible charm and decadent flavor. So, why not embark on your own macaron-making adventure and experience the joy of creating these exquisite confections from scratch?

Doug shares steps for 'Crafting Chocolate Macaroons' on next page!

Crafting Chocolate Macaroons: A Labor of Love


- 1 cup almond flour

- 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar

- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

- 3 large egg whites, at room temperature

- 1/4 cup granulated sugar

- Pinch of salt

- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Chocolate Ganache Filling:

- 4 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped

- 1/2 cup heavy cream

- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Prepare the Almond Meringue:

- In a food processor, combine the almond flour, powdered sugar, and cocoa powder. Pulse until finely ground and well combined.

- In a large mixing bowl, beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Add a pinch of salt and continue to beat until soft peaks form.

- Gradually add the granulated sugar to the egg whites, one tablespoon at a time, while continuing to beat on medium-high speed. Beat until stiff, glossy peaks form.

- Gently fold the almond flour mixture into the beaten egg whites until just combined. Be careful not to overmix, as this can deflate the meringue.

2. Pipe the Macaroon Shells:

- Transfer the almond meringue mixture to a piping bag fitted with a round tip. Pipe small circles onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart.

- Tap the baking sheets on the countertop to release any air bubbles. Let the piped macaroon shells sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes or until a thin skin forms on the surface.

3. Bake and Cool:

- Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C). Bake the macaroon shells for 12-15 minutes, or until set and firm to the touch. Be careful not to overbake.

- Remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the macaroon shells cool completely on the pans before carefully removing them from the parchment paper.

4. Prepare the Chocolate Ganache Filling:

- In a heatproof bowl, place the chopped dark chocolate. In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream over medium heat until it just begins to simmer.

- Pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolate and let it sit for 1-2 minutes. Add the butter and vanilla extract, then gently stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth and shiny.

- Let the ganache cool slightly until it thickens to a spreadable consistency.

5. Assemble the Macaroons:

- Pair up the cooled macaroon shells according to size and shape. Pipe or spoon a small dollop of chocolate ganache onto the flat side of one shell.

- Gently sandwich the ganache-filled shell with another shell, pressing down lightly to adhere.

- Repeat with the remaining macaroon shells and ganache filling until all the macaroons are assembled.

6. Chill and Serve:

- Place the assembled macaroons in an airtight container and refrigerate for at least 24 hours to allow the flavors to meld and the texture to mature.

- Serve the chocolate macaroons chilled or at room temperature, and enjoy the luxurious indulgence of these homemade delicacies.

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