By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Mrs. Wynell Reynolds was born at home near Cross Key on February 18, 1939, “right in the middle” of two brothers and two sisters. She graduated from West Limestone High School in 1956, and she married that same year. Her daddy was a farmer, “and we farmed with horses,” she told me. They grew cotton and corn. She grew up without a phone or TV, and she’ll tell you that she thinks that the greatest change in her lifetime has been the invention of both. She was on her smartphone when I came in to her room, and knows her way around Facebook I think better than I do.

Wynell and her husband Wesley first had two boys, David and Dwight. It was the early days of open-heart surgery, and three-year-old Dwight only lived for a few days after the surgery that they hoped would close up the hole in his heart. Wynell is glad that she got to hold him, and is full of faith that she will see him again, but that’s not a loss that any parent ever gets over completely. David was 5 at the time of his brother’s passing, and she says it was “really hard on him,” as it was on the rest of the family. Several years passed, and the Reynolds decided that they wanted to add to their family, so three more sons came along—Paul, Dwayne and Preston. Wynell worked for 29 years at Clements High School, first as a teacher’s aide, then later as a library assistant.

Wynell and her family have always fellowshipped with the Church of Christ, and her favorite scripture is Romans 8:28, which says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Her favorite hymn is “When We All Get To Heaven,” so we sang the chorus together: “When we all get to heaven/what a day of rejoicing that will be/When we all see Jesus/We’ll sing and shout the victory.”

We moved on to some other favorites:

Favorite color? Purple, or lilac. “Not too dark,” she said.

Favorite season? “Fall. I like spring, too, but that’s when I lost my son, so I really like fall better. I love the colors.”

Favorite food to cook? “Reynolds stew.” It’s a family favorite.

Favorite food to eat? That would be her mom’s pork, gravy, and biscuits. Wynell told me the biscuits were the best she ever ate, anywhere.

Favorite authors? Grace Livingston Hill and Mary Higgins Clark.

Mrs. Reynolds is an avid reader, and loves to do word search puzzles. She was working on a Bible word search puzzle whose theme was I Corinthians 13, most commonly known as “The Love Chapter.”

Favorite President? Harry Truman. She was young when he was president, but she remembers him well and thinks he was the best.

She has been at the Limestone Health Facility for rehab three times, and raves about the care she receives and the attentiveness of the staff. She took me down to the therapy room to tell them that she was going to be in the paper, and she told me that earlier they all teased her about who her favorite was. She smiled back with, “You ALL are!” She told me that if she ever has to be a permanent resident anywhere, this is where she wants to come.

I asked her if she had any advice for young people, and she replied, “Listen to your elders because they have been through things you haven’t. Ask them questions, and keep Christ in your life.” Those are good words no matter how old you are, from a sweet and wise woman named Wynell Reynolds.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

A Celebration of Cranes

By: Melinda Dunn, President & CEO – Decatur Morgan County Tourism, Inc.
Decatur, Ala. (January 3, 2018) – Over 14,000 Sandhill Cranes along with several pairs of Whooping Cranes spend the winter each year at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge. In celebration of these long-legged and long-necked birds, Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Association hosts a two day event filled with nature walks, concerts and special programs for experienced birders and anyone who would like to learn more about birding and other wildlife that call the Refuge home. Set for January 13-14, 2018, Festival of the Cranes takes place at Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge with the popular live raptor presentations to be held at the Princess Theater.

Now in its fifth year, Festival of the Cranes has become a popular weekend activity for families near and far. New for 2018 is a change in venue for one of the more crowd favorite activities. Due to the popularity of the raptor presentations and the limited seating and parking at the Refuge’s visitor center, the three Auburn University Southeastern Raptor Center presentations will take place at the historic Princess Theater in downtown Decatur. The new location will ensure everyone will have the opportunity to enjoy the wonderful entertaining and educational program. To make it even more convenient to enjoy all the events at Festival of the Cranes, a shuttle will be available to take festival goers to and from the Wheeler Visitor Center to the Princess Theater and other areas of historic downtown Decatur for a nominal fee. Show times are set for 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 13 and 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, January 14 and admission is free.

Festival of the Cranes kicks off bright and early Saturday, January 13 at 6:30 a.m. with a breakfast in the Visitor Center classroom. Following breakfast, Dwight Cooley, former refuge manager, will lead an early morning birding walk to see cranes and other waterfowl arrive in the fields to begin their day of feeding and loafing. Cost is $5 per person with proceeds benefiting future refuge programs. Participants are encouraged to wear comfortable walking shoes and to bring binoculars and a camera.

A variety of activities and educational opportunities are lined up throughout the day at the Refuge. At 8 a.m., members of the Alabama Ornithological Society and Tennessee Valley Audubon Society will host Birding 101, a beginner course in birding. Participants are asked to meet at the Visitor Center Information Desk for a walk along the grounds of the Visitor Center.

A photography workshop with David Akoubian follows at 9 a.m. in the auditorium.

Acclaimed author, storyteller, and naturalist Brian “Fox” Ellis will present his Adventures with John James Audubon at 10:30 a.m. and will lead a nature hike at 3 p.m.

Flutist Michael Graham Allen will perform a free concert at 1 p.m. in the auditorium. Allen is the founder, principal flutist and composer of the band COYOTE OLDMAN. An early researcher and builder of ancient flutes of North America, he has been a professional flute maker since the mid 1970s.

Additional activities on Saturday include special activities for children to take part in from 9 to 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 to 3 p.m. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., there will be a pizza lunch with proceeds benefitting the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge Association. The enclosed Wildlife Observation Building offers views of thousands of Sandhill Cranes, along with Whooping Cranes, ducks, geese, raptors, and maybe a bald eagle. There are bleachers and spotting scopes available along with volunteers and staff members on hand to answer questions.

On Sunday, January 14, members of the Alabama Ornithological Society and Tennessee Valley Audubon Society will host Birding 101, a beginner course in birding at 8 a.m. Participants are asked to meet at the Visitor Center Information Desk for a walk along the grounds of the Visitor Center.

At 9 a.m., festival goers can choose from a photography workshop hosted by David Akoubian in the classroom or the Comic Mis-Adventures of Lewis and Clark with Brian “Fox” Ellis as Meriwether Lewis in the Auditorium.

Flutist Michael Graham Allen will perform another free concert at 11 a.m. in the auditorium.
At 1:30 p.m., storyteller and author Brian “Fox” Ellis steps into the shoes of Prince of Wied, Maximilian allowing the audience to step back in time. Blending history, science, art and cultural anthropology, the Prince gives us a unique view of America as he saw it in the early 1830s. Much of the text for this performance comes directly from his journals.

Additional fun on Sunday includes special activities for children in the classroom from 1:30 to 3 p.m.

The Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center is located at 3121 Visitor Center Road in Decatur. For more information on the Festival of the Cranes, visit https://www.fws.gov/refuge/wheeler/ or call Teresa Adams, supervisory ranger for Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, at 256.350.6639 or call Decatur Morgan County Tourism at 256.350.2028 or 800.232.5449.

Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge was established on July 7, 1938 by Executive Order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as the first National Wildlife Refuge placed on a multi-purpose reservoir to provide habitat for wintering and migrating birds. Covering 35,000 acres, it attracts thousands of wintering waterfowl each year and is home to Alabama’s largest wintering duck population. The Refuge also supports the state’s largest concentration of Sandhill Cranes and the endangered Whooping Crane. For more information on Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge, visit www.fws.gov/wheeler.

A variety of activities are planned in conjunction with Festival of the Cranes before, during and after the annual event. From now until January 26, 2018, the public is invited to take part in StoryWalk presented by Decatur Public Library. This is the fourth year that Wheeler Refuge and the Decatur Public Library have partnered to display the story, Because of an Acorn by Lola and Adam Schaefer, to visitors while walking along the Atkeson Cypress Trail at the Wheeler Visitor Center. The trail is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The public is invited to attend a Raising Crane Awareness program at the Decatur Public Library. Presented by Amber Wilson from the International Crane Foundation, Back from the Brink is the topic for Dec. 28 and Life as a Whooping Crane follows on Jan. 11. Both programs will take place in the library’s community room at 5 p.m. All ages are welcome.

The Carnegie Visual Arts Center plan to offer special hours the weekend of Festival of the Cranes. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. From January 13 through February 24, Spectrum: Diverse Creations of Alabama Artists, featuring Sculptor Mircea Lacatus from Huntsville, Painter Sarah Carlisle Towery from Lake Martin, Ala., Painter Susan Downing-White from Mobile and Sculptor Charlie Lucas, from Selma, Ala., will be on display.
By: Melinda Dunn, President & CEO – Decatur Morgan County Tourism, Inc.

By: Holly Hollman
The community worked together to ensure children in Athens enjoyed the Christmas season.

About 85 children received presents and more than 20 won bicycles at the annual Lincoln-Bridgeforth Park Committee Tree Lighting and Gift Giveaway.

Each year, the committee works with the Boys and Girls Club and families in the area to help Santa provide a gift to each child who attends. In addition, there are random drawings for bicycles. The community ensured this year’s event was one of the largest to date, said Councilman Frank Travis.

East Limestone Band with assistance from Chick-fil-A, Edward Jones, Village Pizza at East Limestone, and Village Vet filled its trailer, the one recently stolen in Birmingham and recovered. East Limestone Band Director Jennifer “Miss Sam” Janzen said the students wanted to give back to the community this season as a thank you for those who helped share news about the stolen trailer, which led to the recovery of the trailer which was filled with band instruments.

The donations meant that no child left the event without a gift.

“This event is one of my favorites because you see what can happen in a community when people work together to bring smiles to children’s faces,” Athens Mayor Ronnie Marks said.

The mayor’s office assisted in event planning, and Athens Fire and Rescue assisted with collecting and wrapping presents. The Athens Mayor’s Youth Commission and Lowe’s employees joined firefighters and committee members to help wrap the donated gifts.

Among the donors were Athens State University’s Young Alumni Advisory Council, which donated $500, and employees at Limestone County DHR who shopped for gifts to donate.

Santa arrived via firetruck and danced on picnic tables, and Kingdom United sang carols. The Youth Commission, Athens Fire and Rescue, and Mayor’s Office helped the park committee give out snacks and distribute gifts. A wonderful time was had by all.
By: Holly Hollman

Holiday Events

By: Holly Hollman
Athens State Community Band Christmas Concert
Sunday, Dec. 3, 3 p.m., Athens State University gym
Enjoy a free holiday concert by the band. A reception hosted by the Athens State University Alumni Association will follow in the gym. The reception will include a visit from Santa. Parents are encouraged to bring their children and cameras to make their own photos.

Holiday Soiree for the Athens-Limestone Public Library Foundation
Friday, Dec. 1, at 6 p.m., home of Monya and Mitch Claborn at 1808 Lindsay Lane South
Tickets are limited and are $75; get tickets at the library or online at ALCPLFoundation.org

Athens North Pole Stroll

Dec 1-30, daily until 9 p.m., Big Spring Memorial Park
Stroll amid decorated trees and Christmas scenes by the duck pond. Each tree has its own theme. This is a free community Christmas event hosted by Tourism, Lowe’s, City of Athens, and Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful. Santa plans to visit on Dec. 16.
One Athens Christmas Showcase
Friday, Dec. 1, 6-8 p.m., Athens Middle School
Hosted by the Athens City Schools Fine Arts Department. See art made by students and hear performances by the schools’ various choirs and bands.

Athens High School JROTC Jingle Bell Jog 5K

Saturday, Dec. 2, 6:45 a.m., Athens High.
The race will begin and end behind Athens High School. Don your funniest Christmas costume and lace up your shoes for a flat and fast USATF Certified 5K Course (AL13063JD). Race will be chip timed. In addition to race awards, will be an award for best costume; cost is $28. Register here: https://runsignup.com/Race/AL/ Athens/ AthensHighSchoolJROTCJingleBel lJog5K



Learn-to-Read Christmas Dinner

Monday, Dec. 4, at 6 p.m., Rodgers Center at First Presbyterian
Cost is $10. Please RSVP by emailing learntoreadcouncil@gmail.com.

Ladies Civitan Christmas Party

Tuesday, Dec. 5, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Friendship United Methodist
Held for the clients in the Mental Health program. Please RSVP to Lynne Hart at 256-233-8000. (Media, if you would like to cover this, please call Lynne first. It is my understanding the clients cannot be filmed or photographed, but there is a program that will include police, firefighters, Mayor’s office, and church members, that you could get footage of.)

Limestone County Christmas Tree Lighting

Thursday, Dec. 7, at 5 p.m., Courthouse lawn
Music by the Athens High Choir. See ornaments designed by the city and county schools. This is held prior to the kickoff of the annual Christmas Parade.

Trustmark Athens Christmas Parade

Thursday, Dec. 7, 6 p.m., Athens High School and through Downtown Athens
Hosted by Trustmark Bank, this beloved tradition will bring thousands of spectators to Athens to see floats, horses, fire trucks, marching bands, vintage vehicles and more. This year’s theme is Winter Wonderland, and the grand marshal is Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson. Route is Athens High, west on Hobbs Street, around The Square, and south on Jefferson Street to Hometown Grocery.

Birdie Thornton Center Christmas Program
Friday, Dec. 8, at 11:30 a.m. at the center
Enjoy a meal and program offered by the clients of the center. They enjoy giving the community this Christmas present.

Sippin’ Cider
Saturday, Dec. 9, 5-8 p.m., Downtown Athens
Finish your Christmas shopping while enjoying cider, music, store specials, and crafts. The participating merchants will compete for your vote for the best cider concoction. High Cotton Arts will have snacks, music, and a craft as part of the Sippin’ Cider event. This overall event is hosted by Athens Main Street.

Annual Bells of Christmas Holiday Home Tour
Sunday, Dec. 10, 1-5 p.m., various Athens homes
This event is sponsored by the Athens-Ladies Civitan and offers ticketholders the opportunity to see prominent and historic homes decorated for Christmas. Cost is $20 in advance and $25 day of tour. Proceeds benefit the special needs population of Limestone County. Tickets available at Pimento’s, Pam’s Home Furniture, Osborne’s Jewelers, Kathleen’s Hair Salon, First Nation Bank, Crawford’s, and Class Act Hair Salon.

Lincoln-Bridgeforth Park Christmas Tree Lighting and Gift Give-Away
Monday, Dec. 11, at 5 p.m., at the park
Feel the joy of Christmas as children whose families need a little help from Santa receive gifts, including random drawings for a bicycle. Santa will dance on the tables and lead the children in singing. This event is supported by the Lincoln-Bridgeforth Park Committee, Athens Fire and Rescue, Athens Police and Mayor’s Office as well as local merchants, and this year, the East Limestone Band.
By: Holly Hollman

By: Holly Hollman
Planning a 200th birthday party takes more than a few party hats and a cake.

The City of Athens is developing plans to recreate Trade Day on The Square to celebrate its 200 years of history. The Athens Bicentennial Bash will be Nov. 17, 2018, on The Square. Athens turns 200 before the State of Alabama celebrates its bicentennial in 2019.

For the city’s party, Limestone County Archivist Rebekah Davis had the idea of recreating Trade Day, when people flocked to downtown for a drawing to win a vehicle. There is a historic photograph of the event that shows mainly men in hats filling the streets of downtown.

“The plan is to recreate the photo with men, women and children and give away a vehicle to reenact a part of our history,” said Athens Bicentennial Bash Committee Chair Holly Hollman.

The bash will be in conjunction with Christmas Open House. The Athens High School Choir has agreed to sing “Happy Birthday” to the city, and Mayor Ronnie Marks has asked the committee to provide 200 cupcakes in lieu of one large birthday cake. The committee is working on other activities as well.

Sen. Arthur Orr with the Alabama Bicentennial Commission recently presented the City of Athens with a $2,500 grant to fund marketing and celebrating the Athens Bicentennial Bash. Rep. Danny Crawford added a $1,000 community grant toward the event.

“The City of Athens appreciates the Alabama Bicentennial Commission, Sen. Orr, and Rep. Crawford recognizing that by celebrating the history of Athens, we are also celebrating the state’s history and our city’s role in that history,” Hollman said.

In addition to Davis, Hollman has asked the Limestone County Bicentennial Committee Chairs, Tourism Director Teresa Todd, and Limestone County Communications Coordinator Michelle Williamson, to assist in the planning process. She has also asked Trisha Black, who volunteers on the Athens Arts League Board, and Leah Beth McNutt, who works with the Athens-Limestone Hospital Foundation, to assist.

The Athens Mayor’s Youth Commission will participate, and their input helps to encourage youth to engage in learning about their city’s history. Some Youth Commissioners have already created videos highlighting aspects of the city as part of the bicentennial celebration.
By: Holly Hollman

By: John Buhler
In 1943, both houses of the Alabama State Legislature made history by being the first to call for the formation of the State of Israel. This was two years before the end of WWII, the liberation of the death camps, as well as the full understanding of what had happened under Adolph Hitler’s Final Solution. For reasons that many feel could only be described as biblical, our state led the charge by unanimously passing the hand-written proposal into law. That was the beginning of a long and strong relationship with our most ardent ally, and our unique bond is something both states enjoy celebrating to this day.

The Alabama-Israel Task Force (AITF) will be hosting several distinguished leaders from Israel for a special Alabama-Israel Leadership Gala in North Alabama on Saturday, November 18th 2017, at 7 p.m. at the Epicenter in Tanner. Brigadier General Gal Hirsch, Israel Defense Forces (IDF), is a leading expert in counter-terrorism and one of Israel’s most decorated heroes. Mr. Eeki Elner is the founder of the Israel Leadership Institute in Sderot-Israel.

The evening will honor leadership and celebrate friendship between Alabama and Israel during this 50th Anniversary and Jubilee of the Reunification of Jerusalem. It will include the Israel Leadership Award ceremony and presentation from the Steering Committee and Board of Directors of the Israel Leadership Institute (ILI). The ILI is one of Israel’s truly advanced and creative leadership schools, with a board of directors which includes some of Israel’s most distinguished leaders across a variety of disciplines. There will also be a special commemorative presentation honoring the Consul General of Israel to Alabama, Lior Haiat.

The Governor of Alabama, Kay Ivey, will be honored as the recipient of the 2017 Israel Leadership Award 2017. Israeli BG Gal Hirsch will present the award personally. The Alabama-Israel Task Force had nominated Governor Ivey for consideration having witnessed first-hand her exceptional work and leadership on behalf of the Alabama-Israel relationship. As Lt. Governor and President of the Senate, her strong keynote at a statewide gathering, her invitation to the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset to address a Joint Session of the Legislature, and her support of anti-BDS resolution and legislation, have been a testament to her leadership and dedication to this historic relationship. As governor, she has carried on that legacy signing a Statement Against Anti-Israel Bias and issuing a Proclamation Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Reunification of Jerusalem.

The Gala is a charitable benefit for the Alabama-Israel Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Response (EPDR) initiative with the Israel Leadership Institute in Sderot. Through AITF’s partnership, ILI was able to launch an 18-month leadership training earlier this year in Kiryat Shmona (Israel) at the request of their Mayor.

In addition to the governor, Israeli Consul General, and special guests from Israel, U.S. Senate candidate Judge Roy and Kayla Moore are joining us at the Gala, our host district U.S. Congressman Mo and Mrs. Martha Brooks (AL-05) will be attending, and we have secured personal video greetings to the Gala from the Mayor of Jerusalem. We are in the process of securing a personal video greeting from the Speaker of the Knesset (Israel’s National Parliament).

The Alabama-Israel Task Force (AITF) seeks to provide a bridge and catalyst for broader cooperative efforts and help cultivate an even stronger and expanding state-to-state relationship between Alabama and Israel for the mutual benefit of their people. For information on the Task Force or the Gala, visit: www.AITF-Web.org
By: John Buhler

By: Holly Hollman
Students with the Athens Mayor’s Youth Commission recently went on a hunting trip armed with baskets and merchandise scanners.

The students received a retail scavenger hunt challenge from the Lowe’s staff to learn how to locate items in the store based on its location code, scan it, and add it to their cart. Lowe’s hosted the students for their November program. Some of the students have expressed interest in retail and the decision making that goes into a business locating in Athens.

Lowe’s Manager Darwan Kerr talked to the students about a city’s population, growth rate, transportation access, and other attributes. Kerr and his staff also explained to students what an employer looks for in an employee, women in leadership, being a service-minded leader, and why businesses support community engagement.

“This is important for them to hear because they may already have a job, or they soon will, and they need to know what they can do to advance in their careers and be a valued employee and leader,” Mayor Ronnie Marks said.

Lowe’s treated the visiting students as new employees, issued them employee badges, and challenged them to learn how to locate and scan items through the scavenger hunt activity designed by Lowe’s SOS Credit Coordinator Melissa Calvert. Only one team found all 14 items on the list.

“The students had to divide into small teams, and they had to work together and follow directions in order to complete the task,” said Youth Commission mentor Holly Hollman. “The students were very competitive, and it was fun to watch them debate on which aisle was the right way to go and which item was the correct one.”

The goal of the Athens Mayor’s Youth Commission is to teach high school students in Athens about local government’s role and their role as citizens so that they will be informed and engaged citizens. The program includes community service projects, tours of various businesses, non-profit agencies and historic sites, and visits to city departments.
By: Holly Hollman

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
When I walked in for our interview, Red Caboose Café owner Donna McCown was busy peeling potatoes to make 60 gallons of chicken stew for Johnson Elementary School. She can multitask as only a woman can, and never missed a beat peeling while we were talking, watching her granddaughter pretend to take my order and give it to the kitchen, and discussing what needed to happen for the next day with her crew. I felt right at home.

Donna and her kids have been to the School of Hard Knocks, and choosing to take the risk of opening the restaurant was motivated by her desire to leave something to her kids after she’s gone, as well as wanting her family to be proud of her. When Donna was a single mom, she worked several jobs to support them, including cleaning houses and being a waitress. She also spent many years working for a local gas company and handled customer service as well as their computers. All of it served to prepare her for the hardest, as well as happiest, work of her life: being a restaurateur. She was quick to point out that while life at times had been tough, she is now married to her best friend, Kevin. He is a godly man she met at church who backed her in her decision to open the restaurant, and has labored with her side-by-side, in addition to working his other job. “It’s been tough, but all the hard work is starting to pay off,” Donna told me with a smile.
They opened late last summer, had their grand opening in September, and have fine-tuned things so that they are now humming. Their theme is, “We can be your family.” Donna told me that she wants people to feel like they are not only in a high-end restaurant as far as cleanliness, customer service, and quality of food, but also a café where they are as comfortable as a family member. “We want people to think they are in a 5-star restaurant with a ten dollar meal,” she said. She went on to say, “When you come in here, you are somebody. We don’t want you to feel like we are getting you in so we can get you out.” I can attest that the “family feeling” has been there every time I have been in.

Donna has a deep commitment to supporting the local economy as she builds Red Caboose Café’s clientele. “We want everything to be made fresh, and made to order. We are not a fast food restaurant, and ‘We guarantee it will be worth the wait’ is on the front of the menu,” she said. She gets her meat from the Piggly Wiggly in Elkmont on Hwy 127. Her own crew makes the pies and desserts, and she uses local vendors as much as possible. She is also very involved in helping her community and fellow entrepreneurs.

I asked her what she considers to be her signature dish and she quickly responded, “Burgers. We have had people say ‘This is the best burger I have ever had.’” She has a secret that makes them extra juicy, and some have names that are an affectionate nod to the community, such as, “Red Devil Sliders” in honor of Elkmont High School, or “The Steve Pettus,” which I have had, and shamelessly licked my fingers when I was finished. Donna also mentioned that the hamburger buns are always toasted, the meat is never frozen, and the lettuce and tomatoes are fresh.

There are daily specials, and Donna’s meatloaf sells out regularly. I told her, “That takes some doing. Meatloaf is usually so dry that you have to drown it in ketchup to get it down.” She smiled again and said, “Secret,” and I remained content to not be let in on it. Another one of her stand-outs is chicken and dressing. The Red Caboose Café is gaining a reputation for its desserts as well. The big sellers are the chocolate and coconut pies; they also have chess and lemon. They have Mississippi mud cake, peach cobbler, and apple dumplings. The Red Caboose Café offers carry-outs and does local delivery. They will also prepare food to be picked up for parties up to 175.

Donna finished our time by expressing her thanks to the owners of the Red Caboose building. “They helped us a lot when we were getting started.” She also said, “We now have a great team of friendly, honest, hardworking people, and we are ready to go.” If you go on Facebook to the Red Caboose Café, you’ll see the reviews, and they are impressive. And, if you want to go to a place where every day is like ‘going to Grandma’s for the holidays,’ then get yourself on down to the Red Caboose Café!
The Red Caboose Café
Twitter: @redcaboosecafe
Facebook: Red Caboose Cafe
Address: 25483 Railroad St, Elkmont, AL 35620
Phone: (256) 226-4916
Hours: 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Tue-Sat, Noon-3 p.m. Sundays. Closed Mondays, except for special reserved events only
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

By: Holly Hollman
An Athens art organization is giving the German festival known as Oktoberfest an artistic twist for its inaugural event called ARToberest.

The celebration of beverages, brats and brushes will be Oct. 20 from 6-9 p.m. at High Cotton Arts in Downtown Athens. Proceeds will benefit Athens Arts League’s mission to support artists, provide art education, and bring cultural events to Athens and Limestone County.

The beverages will include German beer and wine. The food will include a German-based menu, and the art auction will include art pieces that artists from High Cotton Arts and the Athens Arts League Board have created using paintbrushes.
The cost for ARToberfest is $50 per person and includes music by The Little German Band of Huntsville and an exhibit of beer steins provided from the collection of Maria Taylor of Athens. Athens Arts League Board Vice President Diane Lehr said the beer stein collection demonstrates their artistic beauty with scenes such as Bavaria, Excalibur, Russian fairy tales and knights of the realm.

“ARToberfest incorporates the visual and musical arts in an Oktoberfest setting,” Lehr said.

Artists at High Cotton Arts will attend to highlight their studios and art creations ranging from paintings to stained glass to pottery. Artist Karen Middleton has created a portrait station by painting a German couple with open space for event goers to insert their faces and make a photo.

“For a non-profit art organization, we provide numerous art opportunities in our community from affordable downtown studio space for artists to supplementing art programs in our local school systems to transforming a vacant historic building into the Scout Music House,” said Athens Arts League Board President Amy Golden. “We are able to provide these opportunities because of the community’s support of the arts.”

Some of the art programs Athens Arts League provides include:

  • High Cotton Arts, a downtown art incubator with affordable studio space, art classes for all ages, a space for cultural events, and space for songwriting and guitar classes.
  • Scout Music House, a renovation project at the circa 1938 Scout House to transform the vacant structure into a music venue.
  • Boys and Girls Club Summer Art Camps, funded by grants and donations.
  • Limestone County Department of Human Resources, foster children art classes, funded by grants and donations.
  • East Limestone High School art survey class, providing guest artists and projects, funded by a grant.
  • Art supplies for schools provided through donations from artists and the community.
  • Participation in Fridays After Five, Chocolate Walk, Sippin’ Cider, Christmas Open House, and other downtown events by providing free music, snacks, and art stations for children.
  • The Alabama Spring and the Comic Book Art competitions and exhibits.

By: Holly Hollman

By Ali Elizabeth Turner
Rebecca Bowman was born at home, and was the youngest of seven children. She could be described as a local version of a Tennessee Valley “looper.” By that I mean, she was born 81 years ago in the Shoals, moved to Tennessee where she met her hubby David and lived for several years, came back to the Shoals, and then moved to Athens, so her family could be closer to her and take care of her. The whole region has been a great place to live for the Bowmans.

She met her husband in Oakridge, Tennessee, at an old-fashioned Ice Cream Social. For awhile she worked for a newspaper, and David worked for the Atomic Energy Commission. Then he answered the call to preach, which he did for 44 years. David passed away two years ago, surrounded by his family, and it has been an adjustment for all of them. However, as people of faith, their son David could say with a full heart at his father’s funeral that “it was the best day of his life. He took his last breath here, and then his first breath in heaven.”

Miss Rebecca, son David, Kanesha Hamilton from Activities, and I chatted for a bit about wonderful things about the Shoals. David told me that you could just about see from his childhood home the Swampers’ studio on Jackson Highway where “Sweet Home Alabama” was recorded. We talked about the documentary Muscle Shoals and how such relatively few folks understand the impact the Shoals had on modern music. I told them stories about the Rosenbaum House and how famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright also designed the furniture, and expected it to be a permanent interior part of his creation. Mrs. Rosenbaum wasn’t having it, put the custom furniture in storage, and only trotted it out when they knew that Frank was coming to town.

We moved on to Rebecca’s favorites.

Favorite color? Blue. All kinds of blue. Kanesha and I winked at each other and explained our chuckle, because blue is EVERYONE’s favorite!
Favorite food to cook? Pecan pie, red velvet cake, and blueberry cream pie.
Favorite food to eat? Mashed potatoes, corn-on-the-cob, and Miss Rebecca is big on congealed salads. She especially likes the lime Jello and cottage cheese version, as well as strawberry congealed salad. She also loves fresh turnip greens.
Favorite Scripture? John 15: 12 and 17, “Love one another.”

Favorite hymn? “When We All Get To Heaven.”

Favorite books? She loves all kinds of self-help books, and was working on reading Be Joyful, a study on the book of Philippians.

Favorite actress? Marilyn Monroe

Favorite singer? George Jones. She likes the fact that George used to live in Florence.

Favorite President? “That peanut farmer from Georgia, Jimmy Carter.”

Biggest change in her lifetime? Microwave ovens.

And while Miss Rebecca was a devoted wife and mom, working tirelessly in the ministry, she also found a lot of satisfaction for several years singing alto with the Sweet Adelines.

Rebecca has been in rehab several times at Limestone Health, most recently for her hip. She said that Kanesha greeted her like a family member with a big hug and said, “Miss Becky, you’re here!” Rebecca loves the care she receives, and says the food is good. She has even gotten a chance to participate in cooking activities, and helped make chicken and dumplings, as well as Mexican cornbread. “They have been wonderful to me every time I have been here,” she said.
I asked her for some parting words of advice, especially for young people. “Keep yourself pure, and choose your company wisely. No matter what, do what’s right because the Lord is in control.” I say, Amen.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner