Living Columns & Blogs

The best Christmas present of all for local young talent

When Annalise Williams attended the state National Beta Club convention in Savannah, she set her cap, as a vocalist, for the special talent competition in Division I, the category in which her elementary school, Springdale, in Macon, would be vying for several awards. Annalise is a fifth grader that has been polishing her singing skills for as long as she can remember, with her father Keith Williams accompanying her on guitar and encouraging her to perform before audiences to develop the poise necessary for public appearances.

When I heard the good news from Annalise, she looked as if she had opened her biggest and best present ever! After going through the elimination performances, she took the top prize this year, on Dec. 1, and is already preparing for the national convention and competition, also to be held in Savannah in June 2018. Her biggest fans, mother Barbara and her father, will be in the audience again, on the edge of their seats and much more anxious than their daughter who takes the stage like a seasoned performer.

Keith is well known to Macon audiences that take advantage of his gigs downtown and at some of the more popular watering holes in north Macon. No matter where he plays, there is always a family friendly atmosphere. Sometimes his family is part of the audience so you might have heard Annalise singing with her father at Parish on Cherry Street or at another early evening hot spot. After all, Annalise is a member of Junior Beta Club, so being in top form, academically, is also very important.

Haute cuisine encourages giving

Although Christmas was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind last August, Taste of the Arts, sponsored by Macon Arts Alliance, at the Terminal Station, offered some attractive auction items, among which were catered dinners in private homes. Diana Blair purchased one of the dining experiences for the opportunity to invite friends to the loft condominium owned by Evelyn and Joe Adams, in the heart of downtown Macon.

The dinner date, coordinated between the Adamses and Blair, was the first Sunday in December, perfect timing for Christmas decorations to be in place and for all the guests to arrive in a festive mood. All of the proceeds for the sale of the dinner went to Macon Arts Alliance, for the funding of arts resources and of the arts initiatives in Macon.

In keeping with the spirit of giving, Collin Holder and Alex Morrison donated their expertise as chefs de cuisine for the smoked turkey entrée and were assisted by volunteer sous chefs Jan and Robbie Beeland. The elegant evening brought together friends, neighbors and some newcomers to downtown, Cynthia and Bob Lewis, for a holiday feast and to enjoy the light show in Poplar Street park.

On Sunday, Dec. 10, Jan Beeland and Jean Bragg co-hosted another catered dinner, a rare event for the Hay House dining room, which was decorated in full Christmas regalia. The dinner gave guests the chance to savor the culinary talents of personal chef, Shari Morgan, after being treated to cocktail hour with renowned pianist Edward Eikner playing the grand piano in the art and music gallery.

Beeland and Bragg are immersed in the arts scene in Macon, Beeland as executive director of the Macon Arts Alliance and Bragg as a board member of the same organization and as owner of Travis Jean Gallery. According to Beeland, the evening’s guest list included steadfast supporters of the arts in Macon and was a way of honoring that commitment from many of the guests.

Spotlight on world crises during the giving season

For years, James Caldwell has opened his home to friends during the Christmas season, for holiday revelry and to encourage support for non-profit organizations involved in the recovery from world crises. This year, the crowds exceeded those in past years and came with food, drink and checks to support Haitian Hope, a charity that has concentrated its efforts on rebuilding Haiti’s infrastructure and on restoring educational facilities for children.

There are many charitable organizations that can use your help, locally and internationally. Consider an end of year donation that will help someone else for more than one day. Merry Christmas!

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