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Margie Grimes was born in Lawrence County on January 23, 1934, right in the middle of the Great Depression. She was the second of eight siblings, and her daddy was a farmer. They grew peanuts, cotton, hogs, cows, and had a huge garden. Of course all the kids worked the farm, and up until Margie was 12, they used horses and mules for plowing. “When I was 12, my daddy got his first tractor. It was a John Deere,” she told me. I asked her, “Did you ever go for rides on the back of it?” I have to admit, I was remembering my first tractor ride on the back of my granddaddy’s tractor, and at the age of three, I wasn’t yet expected to work in the fields. She looked at me and said, evenly, “No, we didn’t play on the tractor. It was just for work.” She chopped cotton, and when she was big enough, she was expected to do a full day’s work in the fields.

At the age of 18, she married James Grimes, and they had two children. One was named Stacy, and he lived for only 4 days. She has a daughter, Judy, who has a daughter, Holly Miller, and a whole passel of grands and great-grands. James had a number of businesses, including a wrecker service, and Miss Margie says with pride and devotion, “I was right there beside him.” James is still alive and will be 90 on April 8th. She really misses him, after having shared the same bed for 64 years. She told me, “I’ve slept in the same bed with him all these years, sleeping alone about tore me up.” They have a plan to one day be in the same long-term facility, and finish out there days there together.

Miss Margie has nothing but praise for the treatment she has received since she has been at Athens Health and Rehabilitation. Because she never had much chance to play, she has enjoyed learning how to play cards and other games such as Bingo. “The food has been good; they just make their ‘taters different than I do,” she said. She has also been very grateful for the care she has been given.

Miss Margie is something of a philosopher and told me, while I was singing some of her favorite songs to her, “God loves us all, red, yellow, black and white.” I asked her what she felt was the secret to a long and successful life, and she said, “You’ve got to give, and you’ve got to take. You can’t just give, and you can’t just take.”
She absolutely loves gospel music, and “I’ll Fly Away,” and “Beulah Land” are on her “Top 10.” Miss Margie has spent most of her life fellowshipping in various Baptist churches, and she and James are long-time members of Valley Grove Baptist church in Danville.

We went on to her favorites:
Favorite color? “Black, because it makes me look slim.”
Favorite food? “Lots of ‘em. I like pinto beans, corn bread, fried potatoes done the ‘old timey’ way. I like the peelings of sweet potatoes, as long as they were washed well.”
Favorite scripture? “Psalms 23, and all I have done since I have been here has been to pray, pray, pray.”
Favorite book? “The Bible.”
Favorite President? “JFK.”
Biggest change in her lifetime? “Losing my mama and daddy. I just can’t get over it because they were there when no one else was.”

I asked her, “What words of wisdom would you have to give to young people?” and Miss Margie answers, “Teach ‘em to work and take care of themselves.” Good advice from a woman who loves God, loves her man, and loves her family.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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John and Melissa Filewich met in a Chicago area high school and became sweethearts after they graduated. They worked for a while, married, and then decided to attend UAH. Melissa used to spend her summers in Rogersville with her grandmother, so Alabama was already a second home; and like so many of us, they are grateful to call Athens home. While they were attending UAH, they used to come to Tan Lines to tan, and never dreamed they would one day become the owners. By way of back story, Melissa was in a serious car accident in high school and had to have extensive facial reconstructive surgery. Tanning had an important role in her recovery, greatly boosting her confidence, and became a permanent part of her lifestyle.

They both graduated with degrees in business, and worked for two large cell phone companies. John works in Huntsville for Verizon in tier-one tech support and is planning on making it his career. However, Melissa was commuting to work in Birmingham nearly two hours every day, and it was grueling. John and Melissa had owned several businesses, and this just seemed like the next right step. When Tim and Judy Springer decided to sell Tan Lines earlier this year, John and Melissa knew this was the “fit” they were looking for. John sacrificed greatly in terms of sweat equity in order to help Melissa, and Melissa gave up her successful corporate career in order to make the new Tan Lines a reality.

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They made a number of changes in the salon, starting with a theme. Most tanning salons understandably have a tropical theme as part of their décor, but Melissa and John wanted to create a safe, homey atmosphere where kids could come and be comfortable while their parents took a few minutes for themselves. Tan Lines has a well-stocked Keurig machine that no doubt will be especially popular when the weather finally gets cooler. They replaced the tanning beds, stocked the salon with the highest quality American-made lotions at the best prices, and all of it is paying off. “We had 30 new sign-ups in October,” Melissa told me.

Tan Lines offers spray tanning, which has come a long way from the days when it made you look like a human Cheeto. “We use Norvell products, and they are the very best,” John told me. He took me back to the booth to show me how it works, and I never would have guessed that both he and Melissa were sporting a spray tan. They just looked healthy and natural, and I was glad to know that the products used are made from food. “We offer discounts for wedding parties who want to look their best on that special day,” Melissa said, and business is brisk during prom and bridal season.
No matter how much effort you put into renovating, replacing, and re-decorating a business, none of it is going to matter if you don’t have friendly, experienced, customer-focused staff. Jordan Smith, who has worked for several years for the previous owners, is someone who truly loves what she does, and it shows. She stayed on through the transition, and I can speak from experience that she is one of the biggest reasons that I have been a satisfied Tan Lines customer.

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My own reason for frequenting Tan Lines is possibly a bit different than most. I have had a life-long battle with eczema, and it gets much tougher when winter comes. Tan Lines has what they call a “red bed,” which is short for infrared light therapy. This type of light helps skin, bones, wounds, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), shoulder pain, tendonitis, carpal tunnel, knee pain and so much more. It also reduces stress, and Melissa swears by it. Last year I used the red bed package, and I had one of the easiest eczema seasons ever. Tan Lines is right next door to Ultra-Fit, a highly personalized fitness studio that opened last spring, and active Ultra-Fit members get to use the red bed at no charge.

11-18-2016-2-04-42-pmWhat is unusual about Tan Lines is that they do not require a contract. Tan Lines offers comparably priced tanning packages when compared with other salons, including monthly packages and by-the-minute. They do not use EFT, and their packages are flexible. “Hardly anyone has packages by-the-minute anymore,” John said, and added, “I want everyone to get the best value.”

One of the things that is very important to Melissa is to provide eye protection for every client. “Other places charge you nearly five dollars to purchase the standard tanning goggles, and we do carry those if you want them,” she said. She then pointed to a basket in the hallway that holds disposable eye protection and said, “I can relax knowing that this is always available to our customers at no charge.”

If you have been considering a tanning package for yourself or as a holiday gift for someone you love, you need look no further than Tan Lines which promises, “Dollar for dollar, this is your best value.”
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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Hollis Jolly, owner of the Ultra-Fit Gym located next to Casa Blanca on Hwy 72 in Athens, graduated from East Limestone High School in 1997. He studied drafting at Limestone County Career Technical Center as well as Calhoun, and also studied guided communications. He worked in several places in the US, including Texas, where he met his wife, Brenda. One thing that he never expected to be was the sole proprietor of his own gym. In fact, he had never even worked out in a gym until he was close to 20 years old. His mom had gotten a family membership to a local gym, and she didn’t want to see her investment in her family go to waste, so at first he went because of that. Hollis will quickly tell you that at the time he weighed “118 lbs soaking wet.” However, it wasn’t long before he was hooked on being fit, and became hungry for more education. He began to read everything about fitness, physiology, and nutrition that he could get his hands on.

Eventually the gym was sold and renamed No Limits, and the new owner continued to mentor Hollis. He competed in body building competitions in Huntsville, Montgomery, and Cincinnati, and he told me he “took 1st, 2nd and 3rd.” He also became a certified personal trainer, and that’s where the story really begins. Wherever he was, whether on the road with work or at home, he found he had a passion to help people transform their health as well as their shape. He began to do one-on-one personal training at several fitness centers in Alabama, including in Decatur, Rogersville, Hartselle, here in Athens at SportsFit, and he built a solid cadre of clients who followed him to each location. For a while, after Target downsized 2 ½ years ago, he even had a small studio in a building in his own back yard. “My clients have stuck by me wherever I have been. I have always loved training people, seeing results, and helping with their transformation,” he said. He added, “When I no longer had my job at Target, I knew I would never quit being a PT, and it was the perfect time to do this. I’m still here; I’m not going to quit, and I am happy at what I do,” he added.
The concept of “marketplace ministry” became clear when he attended some seminars on the topic given at his church, and he realized that’s what he wanted to do. He finally became comfortable with the obvious truth that helping others to get fit in every way was his purpose. They say you have found your true calling if you would do it for free if you could, and that’s how Hollis feels about helping others build their health. The only thing he loves more is supporting his wife and three kids, and he works hard to do so.

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While the prices at Ultra-Fit are competitive with other fitness centers, Hollis feels he brings far more value to his clients than what they’ll experience at any other facility. “Here, people really get the help other places promise but don’t deliver.” While one-on-one personal training at Ultra-Fit is available for an additional fee, clients can ask questions any time, get tips and suggestions, and under Hollis’ watchful eye they are taught how to maximize their work out, as well as how to avoid injury. He also “certifies” any of the personal trainers on his staff. They have to meet his approval before he’ll release them to work with the clients.

“We really don’t want to function like the big gyms,” he said. “People here are family, and they are the ones that are building the Ultra-Fit brand. They are the ones that are out recruiting. One woman lost 12 lbs in one week, eating clean and exercising,” he added. The word “transformation” is used a lot these days, but Hollis has both seen it and helped make it happen. “We are a fitness hospital,” he said. “If you are disabled, you are welcome. If you are wanting to gain strength, sculpt your body, or change your attitude, we are here for you,” said Hollis. He also has a library available and teaches his clients physiology. He doesn’t just want them to get visible results, he wants them to know why it’s working.

11-18-2016-1-43-41-pmUltra-Fit has the highest quality treadmills, ellipticals, free weights, and an all-in-one Smith machine made by Cybex. They offer aerobics, yoga and Zumba classes. Soon they will be adding spin classes as well as kick-boxing. There is child care available at no charge.

The Ultra-Fit packages are designed to meet the specific needs of their clients. If you are not someone who wants to commit to a contract, you can go month by month. That cost is $45. Contracts are $30 per month, and for November and December, the cost is $20 per month. There are family packages as well, and those are $55 per month. Each client is given a key card, so they can have access 24/7.

If you are wanting to give the gift of fitness to a loved one or yourself, come see Hollis Jolly at Ultra-Fit, and experience transformation from someone who has found their passion.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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It might seem odd in a drought with near record temperatures to be thinking about Christmas, let alone the prospect of winter actually eventually getting here. However, due to some remarkable technology, this year as a part of the 30th Annual Athens Christmas Open House and Merry Market, Athenians and folks from all over the Tennessee Valley are going to get a chance to ice skate! And, no matter how warm it may be the weekend of November 18-20, we are going to have “real live snow” on the Square. How did this “Miracle on Marion Street” happen?

I spoke with Jennifer Williamson, our local Chamber Director, who got the ice skating idea from the Andalusia Chamber of Commerce and their holiday event, Candyland. The “ice” for the rink is a synthetic ice made of a high-tech plastic that you can skate on. It is eco-friendly and it made from a non-toxic, recyclable acrylic material. It looks and feels like real ice and real ice skating! This synthetic ice can be used year-round, indoors or outdoors, and in any climate conditions. They construct a rink complete with railings, decorate it, bring about 100 pairs of skates to rent, and snow machines with “blizzard bashes” every thirty minutes. The cost is $5 per person to skate. It will be set up on the West side of the Courthouse where the Storytelling Tent is annually located, and will be open Friday through Sunday. I am going to be one of the vendors at the Merry Market held upstairs at the Center for Lifelong Learning, but I am definitely going to strap on skates and skate around the rink, even if I have to hang on to the lovely railing for dear life! The Ice Rink will be open on Friday, Nov. 18, 3-7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 19, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 20, 1-4 p.m.

Of course, all of the other traditional features of the Christmas Open House are going to be available for our holiday enjoyment. Santa will be on hand for photos in the Center for Lifelong Learning from 5-7 pm on Friday night, Saturday from 2-4 pm, and Sunday from 2-4 pm. And, this year the photos will be free of charge! And, rest assured, Santa won’t be alone. Be on the lookout for other Christmas characters to make their appearance at Christmas Open House.

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Participating merchants will have refreshments and door prizes, along with special sales. For the merchants that are not technically on the Square but are participating in the Open House, once again there will be the “Elf on the Shelf” contest. These merchants will have an elf hidden somewhere in the store. If you find it, you will receive a prize from the Chamber.

And, don’t forget about the 2nd Annual Tacky Holiday Sweater Contest. The contest is open to men, women, and children, and is back by popular demand. Please make sure your sweater is family friendly, and do your best to find the goofiest sweater possible. You will most definitely be adding to the merriment!

As always, you may catch some of our local performers singing carols and other musical entertainment around the Square and treating us to the songs that are such a treasured part of our holiday season.

For merchants who do not have a brick and mortar business, the Merry Market will be held upstairs in the Center for Lifelong Learning, located at 121 S Marion Street. There will be a wide variety of direct sales vendors, artisans, cottage crafts, and more. The Merry Market will be open all three days of the Open House.

Another new feature this year will be Santa’s Wrapping Station, which will also be located at the Center for Lifelong Learning. Any purchases made at a participating Christmas Open House merchant’s store during Christmas Open House weekend will receive FREE gift wrapping. In order to use the service, a valid receipt must be shown to the wrappers.

As is the case with all the wonderful events that we get to enjoy in Limestone County, none of it could happen without sponsors and volunteers. This year’s presenting sponsor is Martin & Cobey Construction. There is also going to be a grand prize drawing, which will once again be provided by Hobbs Jewelers. Bring your family and enjoy the beginning of what will be a very special holiday season. For more information, call the Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce at 256-232-2600.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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Dr. David Purner of the Medical East Urgent Care facility in Athens was born in Johnson City, TN, and received his undergraduate as well as medical school training at East Tennessee State University. During the Vietnam era, he served in the Army for several years in a non-medical capacity, got out, and then decided that medicine was his true calling. He got back in, graduated from med school, and did his internship at Fort Bliss in El Paso, TX. He served in Desert Storm, where he was assigned to a CASH, (which stands for Combat Area Service Hospital) in Kuwait City. He came to our area in 1985, and headed up the ER at Fox Army Health Center, the medical facility located on Redstone Arsenal. Dr. Purner has also done emergency medicine at Huntsville Humana as well as Decatur General.

He has experienced firsthand the need for quickness and accuracy that just goes with the territory of combat medicine, and feels that his time “in the Storm” is one of the things that makes him an excellent ER physician. “I had to get good at being able to tell what is really ‘sick,’ and how to triage well,” he said. (Triage is the French term used to figure out who gets treated first based on the severity of their symptoms.) He let me know that a high level of triage skill is very important during cold and flu season. The clinic is much busier, and some of the symptoms that present themselves that are “flu-like” may be a sign of something more serious, and need to be discerned as such. Dr. Purner wanted me to stress that “Medical East is not a mini-ER, it’s urgent care.”

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Here are some of the differences between the two types of specialties:

Emergency Rooms are designed for true emergencies that need to be treated immediately, or there could be serious or possibly fatal outcomes. They are for things like animal bites, asthma attacks, chest pains, shortness of breath, confusion or altered mental states, head injuries, ingesting an obstructive object or poison, kidney stones, seizures, severe abdominal pain or burns, shock, snake bites, stroke, unconsciousness or uncontrollable bleeding. It is best to call 911 for an ambulance in these situations.

By contrast, urgent care walk-in facilities are for the following: allergies, colds, coughs, sore throats, flu, or fevers, headaches and earaches, diarrhea, minor cuts and burns, insect bites, nausea/vomiting, pinkeye, pregnancy testing, rashes, sprains, stitches, sinus infections, and urinary tract infections.
In addition, the team at Medical East does occupational medicine, which can include DOT exams, drug screenings, on the job injuries, and all aspects of industrial and occupational medicine.
Most urgent care facilities do not see children under the age of two; however, Dr. Purner will treat little ones as young as six months. This is something that it is a great comfort to young parents who have been up all night with their child, but aren’t sure that an ER visit is warranted.

11-4-2016-8-44-30-amDr. Purner told me that he feels the field of urgent care has blossomed because doctors want more autonomy. “We want to be able to give our patients the best possible care, and now with technology being the way it is, we can digitally view records while we have a specialist view an X-ray at the same time we are from across town. And they can also view our records, which helps them. We can do CT scans here, as well as MRIs and some laboratory tests,” he said, and added, “The result is just a better level of care.”

Medical East does not set broken bones, but the OrthoSport Athens medical facility, which is part of the Athens Limestone Hospital system, is literally right next door. In addition, the Athens Limestone Hospital Wound Care Center is co-located at Medical East. “Most urgent care facilities don’t have this level of service located in the same building,” Dr. Purner said, and he said enjoys working with the other physicians on site.

One of the blessings of the urgent care approach is that they are open seven days a week, and no appointment is necessary. During the week they open at 7 am, so in many cases it is completely possible to be seen, diagnosed, treated, and not miss any work. If you are looking for a top flight urgent care or occupational medicine facility, then either give them a call or go straight to the clinic. You have a seasoned team of caring professionals who are waiting to take care of all your urgent care needs.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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Former Limestone County District Attorney Kristi Valls served Alabama as a prosecutor for over 20 years, several of which were from the DA’s office located in the basement of the courthouse. The election in November of 2010 saw Mrs. Valls having to re-think her career path, as well as her future, and find a new niche. In June of 2011, she opened a beautiful office located at 205 West Washington Street in Athens, right across the street from the courthouse. For the past five years, Kristi has been handling criminal cases, divorce and child custody, as well as wills and estates. She is running for the DA position at the urging of law enforcement, victims, and social workers. Kristi is also running as an Independent because she wants to take politics out of the courtroom.
Kristi grew up on an egg farm, and learned all the irreplaceable life lessons that a rural farm-based lifestyle can afford. She went to Birmingham-Southern College, and graduated from the University of Alabama School of Law. While at Alabama, she was a member of the National Trial Advocacy Team. She clerked for Madison County Circuit Judge William Page, and worked in private practice before joining the Limestone County District Attorney’s office. After almost 10 years as an Assistant District Attorney, Kristi was appointed as the Limestone County District Attorney in February of 1999, and was then elected as District Attorney in 2004. She remained in that position until January of 2011. She served as secretary/treasurer, vice-president and president of the Alabama District Attorney’s Association, and was named the 2009 Alabama District Attorney of the Year.

While in office, Kristi was a conservative manager who believed that the DA’s office should do all that it could to assist law enforcement in their fight against crime. She knew they were in the fight together and needed every tool available. Therefore, due to several seizures made by law enforcement and her conservative management of those funds, Kristi was fortunate to be able to award grants to law enforcement agencies throughout our county, as well as partnering agencies. Upon leaving office, over $1,000,000 remained in the bank for the District Attorney’s office.

Kristi is well known for her commitment to victims, as well as her work ethic, and while interviewing others who know her, I was told that she takes the time to listen to victims, and will put in the work necessary to see to it that justice is served.
No stranger to making difficult decisions, Kristi has at times called for the death penalty when she felt it was warranted. As DA, it was not at all uncommon for her to be called by law enforcement in the middle of the night when there had been a homicide, arriving on the scene before it had been processed. She was seeing it just as the officers were seeing it. I asked her why she did that, and she said, “I wanted to look around for myself at what happened, and get a feel for the victim. I did not want to only look at pictures of the scene taken by others, as important as those pictures are.”

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Kristi had a 99% conviction rate for all cases tried. It was high because law enforcement worked hard to investigate the cases and make the arrests, and she worked hard to diligently prepare the case for trial. Kristi had an excellent staff and assistants who were as committed as she was to see justice done. “I treated each case as though I was fighting for justice for someone I knew personally, whether I did or not. I fought for others the way I would want them to fight for me or my family,” she said.

Speaking of family, Kristi is married to Robert Valls, retired Chief Juvenile Probation Officer for Limestone County, and they have one son, Kevin (20) who is a sophomore at the University of Alabama; a step-daughter, Ashley Valls Schrimsher; and son-in-law, Jacob Schrimsher.
I asked Kristi what she was most proud of, and she said, “Being a wife and mom. That really is the most important thing to me.” I then asked, “What about professionally?” She answered, “I’m most proud of the success the DA’s office had while I was in office due to my great working relationship with law enforcement, and the fact that six years later, law enforcement continues to support me.”
In closing, here is what Kristi had to say she will do as Limestone County District Attorney:
“Since 85-90% of all cases arise due to illegal drug use, my focus will be on those who sell, distribute, or make drugs. I plan to use all resources to bring those cases to trial and see that repeat offenders are not released back onto our streets. Drug Court, which my office established in 2009, will be utilized to assist those who are drug users and abusers.
“I will listen to all victims and keep them informed about each stage of the criminal process. Justice is what the victim says that it is. I will work with law enforcement and social workers to see that those who sexually molest our children are brought to trial swiftly without unnecessary delays. Finally, I will again be a hands-on District Attorney who will be in the courtroom taking care of business.”

If independent, conservative leadership is what you are looking for in a District Attorney, then Kristi Valls would appreciate your vote on November 8th.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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It has been three years since Tiffany Seibert and her family opened Snapdragon Kids, a truly charming children’s apparel and gift shop located on Washington Street within a stone’s throw of the courthouse. Much has happened since then, and when we spoke, Tiffany was just back from market in Atlanta, and especially excited about the gifts she had found to feature in the store for this upcoming holiday season. Snapdragon’s is the only store on the Square that is exclusively devoted to kid’s clothes, and I love going in there. It reminds me of the kinds of places my grandmother used to take me to shop for clothing when I was very young, and the outstanding customer service is a definite throwback to a bygone era.

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Tiffany started Snapdragon’s originally as an online shopping service, before she and her husband, city councilman Chris Seibert, along with their sons Brock and Ben, moved back home to Athens. “When the owner of Kids’ World retired, I knew we needed another option for children’s clothes. I wanted a store that was fun for both the parents and the kids to come to for a special outfit, a birthday or baby gift, or a place for grandparents to bring their grandkids.” The whole Seibert clan came together, along with Tiffany’s mother, Debi Davis, and renovated the shop as well as the loft. The result is a wonderful place to shop or just visit, even if there aren’t any kids in your life.

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Snapdragon Kids features girls’ clothing for infants to size 16. The “tween” sizes, from 10-16, are displayed up in the loft. They also have a selection of girls’ sandals in the summer, and dressier shoes all year round.

Brock and Ben have both worn the boys’ clothing that is available at Snapdragon’s, and Ben still fits in a size 12. They are involved in selecting what Tiffany is going to feature. “Brock and Ben ok every item of every boy line and Ben is one of our best advertisers,” Tiffany told me with a properly proud smile. The clothing for boys goes up to size 12.

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There is an adorable display of Calico Critters, which are miniature animal families that to me look like they were inspired by the Beatrix Potter books. Snapdragon’s also carries Madame Alexander dolls, which were certainly some of my favorites when I was a girl. There are stuffed animals by Mary Meyer and Douglas, and Tiffany says, “We try to carry classic toys, because the quality is just better.” There is going to be a great selection of small stocking stuffers for Christmas, clear up to beautiful holiday dresses.

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10-21-2016-1-51-22-pm“We try to be a fun one-stop shop,” she told me, “with a variety of price points.” Tiffany is also committed to carrying clothing that is age appropriate and doesn’t make girls look like they are growing up too quickly. “There are stories about the kids that come in here,” she said. “Sometimes they come in to spend their tooth fairy money. We also have had parents come in with their kids supposedly just to window shop, but the parents stand behind their children, out of sight, and indicate that they want to purchase something desired by their child by pointing to it. We wait until they leave, gift wrap it, and let them come back to pick it up.” That is certainly not a service you are going to find at a big-box store, and gift wrapping is free all year round. “We also offer layaway service,” she said.

We talked about a popular holiday favorite, and that’s matching pajamas for all the kids. Holiday PJs are available for both girls and boys, and some families have even had formal portraits taken in their ‘jammies. Having special PJs certainly adds to the fun of Christmas morning!

The holiday dresses are classically styled in Christmas colors, and some are floor length. Even the gold threaded dresses featured on the cover, which obviously have a bit more glitz, are perfect for a fancy holiday party without making the girls look older than they are.

There are accessories of all kinds– hair bows, jewelry, and more, and again, they are classic, understated, and lovely. The whole flavor of the shop is one where you can find high-quality clothing that is balanced between classic and trendy, with the result being that your kids will look great, and you won’t have to break the bank. Stop by and enjoy the sight of good taste and carefully selected merchandise.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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It’s been ten years since a group of civic minded Athenians brought the first Storytelling Festival to our wonderful town, and since that time, it has grown into an annual favorite of both the attendees as well as the ‘tellers. It started out as a dream, after a group of local citizens came back from the internationally famous Jonesboro Storytelling Festival held in Tennessee, and now it has become one of the most enjoyable as well as award winning parts of our local fall festival season. This year’s festival will be held from October 18th through the 22nd. A committed group of hard working volunteers and local businesses has kept the ‘tellers happily coming back each fall. In addition, the police, Athens State University, Athens Renaissance School, legislators, teachers, and just about the whole town comes together to pull it off without a hiccup. “I can’t say enough about the volunteers and supporters of Storytelling,” Wayne told me. He continued with gratitude as he mentioned that the pumpkins are provided by the Isoms, and Hobbs’ Farms provide the corn to decorate the tent and the Square.

To gain some perspective as to just how special our festival is, there are approximately 300 storytelling events held each year all over the country, and the ‘tellers are on the road far more than they are at home. When they tell you that they greatly love coming here, it is not to impress, they genuinely are stunned each year by how we take care of them with our southern hospitality. While I was conducting the annual Athens Now Storytelling Festival interview with Wayne Kuykendall, who heads up the event, I had a chance to send Carmen Deedy, (one of the students’ favorite ‘tellers) a text from the two of us, telling her how much we would miss her this year. She has some family responsibilities that are preventing her from being a part of this year’s festival, and she made no small showing of her disappointment at not being able to attend. The ‘tellers love everything from the tent on the town square to the way the kids treat them when they see them, and they are not reticent to let that be known.

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Speaking of the kids, once again this year there will be an extra day for them to hear the ‘tellers. That is because our local state legislators have secured funding for public school, private school and homeschool students to attend for free. We are all grateful to Senators Orr, Holtzclaw and Melson, along with Representatives Crawford, Williams, Greer, Hammon and McCutcheon for making it possible for students to attend. We are the only Storytelling Festival in the country to do so. This year Bil Lepp and Carol Cain will be handling the school kids’ event, and Wayne also told me that “now Storytelling meets two of the curriculum core standards.” Another feature of this year’s kid’s event is that high school students are able to attend. Students from the age of 9-18 will be able to soak up all the benefits of storytelling, one being that some students have indicated to their teachers that they want to make ‘telling their career.

So, what is new for the 2016 festival? “For the 10th anniversary, we will have Three On A String,” Wayne told me. These guys are out of Birmingham, and have done music for Rick and Bubba, played for two US Presidents, and are in the Alabama Blue Grass and Alabama Music Halls of Fame, respectively.

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The rest of the legendary ‘telling troupe includes Donald Davis, Andy Offut Irwin, Michael Reno Harrell, and Dolores Hydock. In addition, Bobby Horton of Three On A String and Dolores are going to pool their talent to tell a tale from the Civil War era about a young woman from Florence, AL, and it happens to be true.

For the 4th time, there will be an amateur night held on Tuesday, October 18th. It is now called “The Dan Williams Memorial Annual Storytelling Night” in honor of our recently departed Mayor and State Representative, who was a fine ‘teller in his own right. Wayne and Leah Oakley both told me that they have a great line-up of local competitors who can spin a yarn with the best of ‘em.
The winner of the amateur contest will be announced on Thursday night at the event called the Olio. “Olio” has two interesting definitions: a miscellaneous collection, or a variety act or show. It is the perfect “opening act” for the rest of the weekend, one where you could very well “laugh ‘til you cry, and cry ‘til you laugh.” Come to Storytelling 2016 with your family, and enjoy the dream that has become a delight for us all.

Tickets can be purchased online at www.athensstorytellingfestival.com, or for more information, call Wayne Kuykendall at 256-232-0400.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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Limestone County Circuit Court Clerk Brad Curnutt is busy during any election, but especially so when it’s time to elect a new President of the United States. It is his responsibility to handle every aspect of absentee voting, and Brad wanted to make sure the residents of Limestone County are fully educated as to the process so they can participate in it if they qualify.

I have long been impressed with how seriously officials and volunteers alike in Limestone County approach their responsibilities when it comes to voting. It doesn’t matter if the election is confined to our city, or if it is on the federal level, making sure that things are done “decently and in order” is a top priority, for which I am most grateful.

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Probably the most important things to talk about first are the dates for absentee voting in this election, and then who qualifies. The last day to apply for an absentee ballot is Thursday, November 3rd. However, Brad emphasized two things: the entire process must be completed within 5 days, and you absolutely CANNOT vote on Friday, November 4th. “Don’t procrastinate,” he said, and added, “You don’t want your vote to not count because it wasn’t submitted on time.”

10-7-2016-11-04-59-am-copyWho qualifies for an absentee ballot? According to the official Limestone County voting website found at http://www.votelimestone.com/voter-information/absentee-voting/, absentee voting may be utilized if the voter:

• WILL BE ABSENT FROM THE COUNTY on election day
• IS ILL OR HAS A PHYSICAL DISABILITY that prevents a trip to the polling place
• IS AREGISTERED ALABAMA VOTER LIVING OUTSIDE THE COUNTY such as a member of the armed forces, a voter employed outside the United States, a college student, or a spouse or child of such a person
• IS AN APPOINTED ELECTION OFFICER OR POLL WATCHER at a polling place other than his or her regular polling place
• WORKS A REQUIRED SHIFT, 10-HOURS OR MORE, that coincides with polling hours
BUSINESS/MEDICAL EMERGENCY VOTING applications can be made after the absentee deadline but no later than 5:00 p.m. on the day before the election, if the voter:
• is required by an employer under unforeseen circumstances to be out of the county on election day for an emergency business trip, or
• has a medical emergency requiring treatment by a licensed physician

In addition, the business emergency application contains an affidavit acknowledging that the voter was not aware of the out-of-county business trip prior to the normal absentee ballot deadline. The medical emergency application requires that the attending physician describe and certify the circumstances as constituting an emergency.

It is interesting to note that Limestone County was a test county for UAOCAVA, which stands for Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, which was developed to make sure that everyone had a chance to vote securely, and now all counties must comply. Brad is more than satisfied with the UAOCAVA’s cyber-security level, and here is how it works: the completed paper application is sent to Brad’s office, it is approved, then the link with a PIN# is emailed to the voter. It is held until voting day, then unlocked. “This is a way to get their vote counted, especially soldiers,” said Brad. I know that when I was in Iraq soldiers complained that their votes were not counted, and I am glad to know that this secure option exists to serve them.

If you have qualified for absentee voting state side, you can either mail in your ballot, or cast it in person at the Circuit Court Clerk’s office, which is located on the second floor of the Limestone County Water Authority building. The physical address where you come to cast your ballot under supervision is 520 South Jefferson Street, Athens, AL 35611. That’s the corner of Jefferson and Forrest. The hours you can cast your ballot are Monday through Friday, 8 am until noon, and 1pm until 4:30pm. If you mail your ballot, the address you want to use is 200 Washington Street West, Athens, AL, 35611. You must bring approved identification in order to vote. Brad said with a chuckle, “Ain’t no dead people voting!”

Brad also told me, “So far we have processed around 425 votes.” He then added, “Some people think their vote only counts in a tie, but every vote counts, and every vote is locked up until it’s counted.” He personally records the date an application is received, when the ballot is sent, and the date the ballot was returned. All in all, every precaution is taken to ensure your right to vote is protected, so please, don’t fail to use the absentee voting option if you need it. If you have any questions, call Brad at the Circuit Court Clerk’s office at (256) 233-6406.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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Athens State University will host the 50th annual Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention on October 6-8 at the school’s campus in Athens, Alabama. The musical competitions will be held on the Alabama Farmers Cooperative Main Stage in front of Founders Hall and other locations throughout the campus. Over $18,000 in prize money will be awarded, and on Thursday evening there will be some additional special events added in honor of the golden anniversary.

The convention is sponsored annually by the Athens State University Foundation and the Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce. Proceeds from the convention fund student scholarships and other university projects.

The convention has historically attracted more than 15,000 people for the Friday and Saturday competitions, with more than 200 musicians participating. There are 20 different categories, including several fiddle and guitar categories, harmonica, mandolin, bluegrass banjo, dobro, dulcimer, old time singing, banjo, and buck dancing.

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The Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention is the home to the Alabama State Fiddle Champion competition. The festival is also hosts other Alabama State Champion categories including Harmonica, Bluegrass Banjo, Dulcimer, Old-Time Banjo, Classic Old-Time Fiddler, Buck Dancing, Mandolin, Dobro, Old-Time Singing, Guitar – Finger Picking, Guitar – Flat Picking, Bluegrass Band, and Bluegrass Old-Time Band. The winners in all of these categories shall for that year be known as the Alabama State Champions respectively.

Mark Ralph was named “Fiddle Champion” at last year’s convention. He won the “fiddle off,” which now pits the top fiddlers from the junior, intermediate, and senior divisions. This year’s fiddle champ will earn a total of $1,200 in cash as well as a trophy.

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On Thursday evening, October 6, there will be an unveiling of the fiddler sculpture in the courtyard behind Founders Hall at 5:30 p.m., followed by a dedication of the Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention Memorial Room located in the lower level of McCandless Hall at 6 p.m. At 7 p.m. Bobby Osborne & the Rocky Top X-Press take the stage in McCandless Hall for a special anniversary concert. All Thursday evening events are free and open to the public.

This year’s special guests at the Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention will be Riders in the Sky, performing on the Alabama Farmers Cooperative Main Stage on Friday, October 7 at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. For over thirty years, Riders in the Sky have been keepers of the flame passed on by the Sons of the Pioneers, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers, reviving and revitalizing the Western musical field. Remaining true to the integrity of that genre of music, they have become modern-day icons by branding a group with their own legendary humor and wit.

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Norman Blake, with Nancy Blake and James Bryan, will also be performing on the Alabama Farmers Cooperative Main Stage on Saturday, October 8 at 5 p.m. Blake is an American instrumentalist, vocalist, and songwriter. In a career spanning more than 60 years, Blake has played in a number of folk and country groups. He is considered one of the leading figures in the bluegrass revival of the 1970s and is still active today, playing concert dates and making albums with his wife, Nancy.

Approximately 150 booths featuring old-fashioned arts and crafts are part of the convention. Convention goers will see everything from traditional artwork to coal-fired metal works. Food vendors will also be on hand to provide anything from a quick snack to a full meal. Contests begin Friday, October 7 at 7 p.m. following the Riders in the Sky performance and resume on Saturday, October 8 at 8:30 a.m. Gates open at 8 a.m. Cost is $15 for Friday, $15 for Saturday and $20 for both days. Children under 12 are admitted free with a parent. Advance tickets are available from the Athens State Business Office located in Founders Hall at 300 North Beaty Street.

The festival culminates on Saturday night with the naming of the Alabama State Fiddle Champion. Being named Champion is highly competitive and is a coveted prize. Come and join us for this golden anniversary celebration of one of the highlights of festival season in Athens, AL, and for more information visit http://www.athens.edu/fiddlers.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner