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AFTER HOURS: Of brewskies and butterflies

If you are a beer connoisseur, or just an amateur who likes an occasional cold one, and missed the fourth annual Macon Beer Festival last Saturday, plan ahead next year! The 1,500 tickets sold out early according to Steve Bell, who came up with the idea of adding the Pints for Prostates event to the beer fest -- a genius idea if there ever was one.

Pints for Prostates is a national nonprofit organization founded in 2008 by a survivor of prostate cancer. The necessity for testing has gained the same significance as the message to women to get yearly mammograms. Recent statistics indicate that the number of men diagnosed with prostate cancer has exceeded those of women with breast cancer.

As Bell pointed out, the beer fest was really a health fair thinly disguised as a street party celebrating one of men’s favorite beverages. A survivor of the disease himself, Bell proposed the Pints for Prostates idea to the Downtown Rotary Club, which enthusiastically signed on as a sponsor in its first year and was one of 25 sponsors this year.

This was the second year the festival included a home brewing contest, which attracted not only locals but visitors from far flung places who traveled long distances to compete for prizes and to enhance their status in other competitions.

Brian Whitley, organizer of the contest, said there were entrants from as far away as Pennsylvania. The Holy Ale! award is given to the winning brew club who has earned the most medals. This year, the winning club was A Merry Cuss, which begs the question -- how much beer does it take to come up with a creative and witty name like that when you hail from Americus? The individual first place ribbon went to Blair Housely, from Cumming, who is a member of the North Georgia Mountain Mashers brew club.

Third Street Park was the central location for the festival, which included popular restaurants and bars within walking distance. Not to be left out of the fun, Twang Southern Tastes and Sounds, which is located in Payne City, set up shop in the park. Many of the popular bars and restaurants that served the beer on the streets outside their establishments added musical entertainment to bring patrons inside. Bell, owner of Ocmulgee Traders, served beer on the sidewalk and had many first time visitors to his store, which specializes in natural and home grown grocery products.

INDIAN BUTTERFLIES?

This is the season for butterflies. You can see them landing in groups, jockeying for position on the heads of large colorful blossoms in the garden or flitting from plant to plant looking for the best sources of nectar. They are a color palette in flight -- some iridescent and shiny, some dusted in powdery tempera hues.

If you were at the Ocmulgee National Monument last Friday or Saturday, you learned names and much more about the many species we see in Middle Georgia. Who knew butterflies taste with their feet and carry pollen on their legs? Named Butterfly Bio Blitz, this is the second year Interpretive Ranger Angela Bates has conducted the event for the purpose of documenting information on the delicate visitors. Bates’ assistants, biological technicians Mark Beatty and Christine Sallon, catalog the information for the museum.

On that Friday, fifth graders from L.H. Williams Elementary School and sixth graders from Mount de Sales Academy split into groups and scattered throughout the park armed with field guides and cameras to identify the fragile creatures in their natural habitat.

According to Beatty, there were about 80 schoolchildren on hand for the field trip. On Saturday, families were invited to spend the day at the park and participate in organized expeditions to add more species to the catalog. Jim David, park superintendent, said he knew early in the day that the Butterfly Bio Blitz would be a success when he saw more than 400 cars parked all over the grounds.

Even though Saturday might have broken 100 on the thermometer, there are plenty of shaded trails through the woods for cool strolls on the periphery of the park.

Enjoy your Labor Day holiday and put First Friday in downtown Macon on your must-do list. See you there.

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

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