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January 31, 2014

Spirit of Athens honors volunteers for downtown service

— Classic. Southern. Character.

That was the theme for the annual Spirit of Athens awards luncheon Thursday and a classic Southern character was the featured speaker — local author Jerry Barksdale.

The annual luncheon saluted those who worked to keep downtown Athens exciting.

“We will honor those who have worked to keep downtown Athens active and beautiful,” said SOA Director Trisha Black. “This is also an opportunity for those who want to know more about our organization to learn about our efforts in downtown Athens.”

Barksdale discussed a “history” of Athens in his homespun style, touching on the art of “speaking,” that is, greeting someone properly or risk being labeled “high falootin’” and the event that removed Athens from the ranks of the world’s culture centers.

“We were a cultural city until somebody threw a polecat in the gene pool,” he said, referring to Julia the Pig being voted Christmas Queen in successive years.

Then, there was the Dynamite Atkins debacle, which started as a demolition job for Garth Lovvorn in the 1960s, Barksdale said, but resulted in windows being blown out for a mile around the city and “when the dust settled, Athens had its own leaning tower.”

Black followed Barksdale’s lead with a video retrospective of the year.

The Spirit of Athens hosted several activities and events downtown last year, including the Saturday Farmers Market, Athens Grease Festival, Chocolate Walk, Arts League activities on the Square, Christmas Open House and Sippin’ Cider – “a fierce competition on who’s going to get the tacky trophy,” she said.

The organization helped with façade improvements for three downtown stores and, Black said, in a couple months Athens will be certified a Main Street program.

Award winners

Spirit of Giving Award — Jason Thomas of Alabama Farm Credit

Downtown Revitalization — Laura Tarokh of Village Pizza for “taking underutilized space above the restaurant and converting it.”

Friend of Downtown — Athens Rotary Club, which sponsors many events and invests money and “sweat equity.”

Volunteer of the Year — Pam Hartmann, “the character of a volunteer is that they don’t want to be recognized.”

Athens Grease Festival — Betsy Hyman, “a Southern-fried phenomenon.”

Athens native Don Osborne then extolled everyone to come downtown and see displays around the Square. “Get yourself out and look at your city …”

Classic. Southern. Character.

 

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