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Auld lang syne heralds renewed focus on community initiatives

Middle Georgia’s H.O.G. Ultimate team plays in a recent ultimate Frisbee competition.
Middle Georgia’s H.O.G. Ultimate team plays in a recent ultimate Frisbee competition.

With Robert Burns 1788 poem, we have closed the chapter on a tumultuous 2016 and can look forward to what 2017 has to offer. Despite the circus in the political arena, we are still standing and, for at least four years, can direct more of our attention and energy to local initiatives and accomplishments. Number one on the list — the arts are alive and well in Macon!

This year, the Ampersand Guild opened in an updated warehouse on Fifth Street, which has loft apartments above the hall. The organization offers workshops, classes, lectures, exhibits for artists and artisans and musical entertainment each month.

This year, the 567 Center for Renewal moved from Cherry Street to 456 First St., in a restored business district that is home to Macon Arts Alliance and to Just Tap’d, the craft beer cafe. Tucked into the mix is Wear, the edgy consignment shop for men’s and women’s clothes that occupies two floors and is managed under the auspices of the St. Vincent DePaul Charities.

Across the Ocmulgee River, a partnership of Historic Macon Foundation, Macon Arts Alliance and the Urban Development Authority is rehabilitating five of the former Bibb Manufacturing Company mill houses to promote preservation and economic development in the neighborhood. The centerpiece of the four-block area known as the East Macon Arts Village will be a restored community center, the hub of activity for classes, exhibitions and other arts-related activities.

Macon Arts recently received a challenge grant from the Community Foundation of Middle Georgia to fund the East West Artists Walk, a proposed pedestrian connector between the East Macon Arts Village and the central business district of downtown Macon. According to Macon Arts Executive Director Jan Beeland, artists are being asked to submit qualifications and resumes for the opportunity to assist in planning and executing the project.

Historic Macon announced last month that the Ingleside neighborhood has received official approval as another historic residential district, providing the benefits of protection from unnecessary demolition and decay, and assistance in restoration and renovation in the area through programs offered to individual homeowners by Historic Macon.

ON THE MUSICAL STAGE

The Grand Opera House was filled with enthusiastic anticipation when the Macon Symphony Orchestra’s new maestro, Gerald Steichen, opened the season in the fall. Steichen has made the pre-concert symphony talks a staple of the performances, offering an overview of the evening’s program and deciphering some of the mystique of symphony music for the music lovers whose lexicon of musical knowledge is lacking.

With Macon Pops’ season opening concert on the grounds of Middle Georgia State University, and the move to Mercer University’s Hawkins Arena for the remainder of the season’s performances, the organization is optimistic about increasing its number of subscribers this year. The transformation of the arena from basketball venue to concert hall was a pleasant surprise and, with the orchestra located at the end of the gymnasium, the acoustics were perfect.

The groundbreaking for the restoration of the Capricorn studios and for the surrounding residential and retail district was a shot in the arm for further development in the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard corridor. Mercer’s plans for the studio to be an incubator for musicians — and to once again record where legends were made — is exhilarating for a town that considers music, especially rock ‘n’ roll, to be one of the major food groups.

Betty Cantrell made history as the second Middle Georgia woman to hold the titles of Miss Georgia and Miss America, after Neva Jane Langley Fickling, and as soon as she passed her crown and scepter to her successor, Cantrell was one of the first people to record in the revived Capricorn studio.

THE ULTIMATE REWARD

Middle Georgia has its first ultimate Frisbee team. Ultimate Frisbee, a fast-paced game played on a 70-by-40-foot field, with seven players on each team, is played with a disc that is thrown by each team member within 10 seconds. If that sounds impossible, the other rules include not running with the disc in hand and never stopping for a turnover — talk about fast paced!

The Heart of Georgia (H.O.G.) team is made up of high school age players from Warner Robins and from Macon and won its first game at the East Coast Sectionals in Nashville. In the six months the team has been playing, it has competed in the Chilly Dawg Classic in Athens and in the Uncle Kringle’s Christmas Classic in Montgomery, Alabama, where the team defeated Catholic High School 13-9 in the championship game.

It looks like ultimate Frisbee is here to stay. If you are interested in playing, visit the Middle Georgia Ultimate Association on Facebook.

It is 2017, time to take up a new sport. Happy new year!

Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at 478-742-2224 or kwaldenint@aol.com.

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