July 1, 2016
           Tifton, Georgia

    (478) 227-7126


A fireworks display, watermelon slices and music from singer and songwriter Kevin Mac highlight the annual Independence Day Celebration today, Friday, July 1, at the Georgia Museum of Agriculture (GMA) and Historic Village.

Singer Mac has worked with such entertainers as Britney Spears, Beyonce, Missy Elliott, Leann Rimes, Diamond Rio and Kenny Chesney.

Gates open for evening activities at 6:30 p.m. Guests may bring blankets and chairs to set up on the Opry Shelter lawn to hear live music beginning at 7:30 p.m., followed by a veterans' salute and the fireworks show. 

For children, there will be an inflatable obstacle course and an 18-foot inflatable slide

Admission is $10 per passenger car seating up to eight people, and $20 for larger vehiclesVeterans and current armed forces personnel will be admitted free with valid military ID. 

Coolers, alcoholic beverages and pets are not permitted For information, call 229-391-5205

Among other spots to see fireworks this holiday weekend:
  • * Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany's annual celebration, 4-10 p.m. today (Friday). Military working dogs demonstrations, music and activities get under way in the afternoon before fireworks at dark. Visitors to the base may bring lawn chairs and blankets, but no coolers, alcoholic beverages or weapons. Call 229-639-5268.

* Wild Adventures Theme Park in Valdosta has two nights of fireworks at dusk on July 3 and 4. There is a park admission fee.


* On July 4, from 8-10 p.m., the SAM Shortline Train at Cordele blows the whistle for its BBQ & Fireworks On The Lake Express, including a barbecue dinner over Lake Blackshear and evening train ride through the countryside. On the return, the train parks on the Lake Blackshear trestle for a fireworks show over the lake. Call 229-276-0755.


Effective today, July 1, Tift County has created its own separate fire department to handle the county's unincorporated areas and the cities of Ty Ty and Omega.

Since 2004, the county had teamed with the City of Tifton for one joint city-county fire department to serve all of Tift County and all of its municipalities. Last year, Tift County commissioners said they had concerns about equipment, safety and the city's leadership of the joint department. City officials disputed the criticisms.

Last summer, the Tift County Commission voted to end the joint agreement and run its own department.

On Wednesday, Tifton City Council and Tift County Commission had a short joint meeting to discuss division of assets as the fire departments split. The two bodies appear close to agreeing on the outstanding assets.

Tifton city residents will see no changes in service with the split, as current city fire personnel will continue to handle calls within city limits, including extrication from vehicles. The county will continue to provide countywide EMS service.

Note: Grapevine Editor & Publisher Frank Sayles Jr. is a member of Tifton City Council and attended Wednesday's joint meeting in his role as District 4 councilman.


A body was discovered inside a bedroom of a house that caught fire about midday Thursday in the  800 block of 14th Street  in Tifton, authorities say.

The body was badly  burned, and an autopsy will be performed to confirm the body's identity as well as the cause of death. WALB-TV reported late Thursday that the body was that of  John Aiken.

Arson investigators and agents with the Georgia Bureau  of Investigation were on the scene.



For the Tifton Grapevine
In an age when so many children are growing up with missing, absent or disengaged fathers, Sylvester Collier stands out.
The 77-year-old Ocilla native not only raised his own children, but also fathered, mentored and nurtured an estimated 200 to 300 boys and girls over 20 yearsCollier was honored Saturday at his
Photo by Angela Pierce
Clifford Ross of Miami hugs Sylvester Collier (with his back to the camera) as Greg Claret, left, and Ronald Billy McGahee, look on.
Irwin County home during an emotional and spiritual reunion with many of the youth he mentored 40 years ago at a Miami boys and girls club.
"We won when we got you into our lives," Greg "Juice" Claret of Miami told Collier. "You helped shape us into men. You did that; no one else."
Collier often wept when he greeted the "kids" he helped raise. The boys and girls he nurtured from the late 1960s and the '80s say they carried what they learned under his mentoring into their adult lives. Some became teachers, police officers, professional athletes, city and county workers and members of the military.
About two dozen traveled from Oregon, the Carolinas, Tampa, Miami and elsewhere in Georgia for the reunion with their mentor. They presented him with hugs and kisses of gratitude as well as plaques and trophies.
"Forty years is a long time," Collier said to them. "I thought many of you had forgotten about me, but you haven't. This means more to me than any silver and gold."
The reunion weekend featured a fish fry and barbecue, concluding with a worship service at Collier's church, Christian Fellowship Tabernacle in Ben Hill County. The visitors, who stayed at hotels in Tifton and Fitzgerald, all pledged to return next year for a second gathering.
Collier's involvement with youth began in the late 1960s in Miami's Coconut Grove neighborhood, a predominantly black enclave of working-class families. When Collier began taking his own three sons to the nearby Southwest Boys Club, he noticed there were few adults other than coaches accompanying the children to athletic events and practices. That's when he stepped in to fill the void.
When the children needed money for membership dues to the club, he paid their way. When they needed a ride to their games and practice sessions, he drove or arranged for them. When they needed comfort to soothe bruised knees or other hurts, he hugged them. If they needed a stern hand or a belt, he gave that to them, too.
"He didn't just parent his children; he parented everybody else's child around him," said Robert "Big E" Corker, 58, a commercial truck driver who lives in Morrow. Corker befriended Collier's son Tracy as a teenager and became a frequent dinner guest at the Collier home. Along with the food, Collier served advice.
"Mr. Collier always talked to us about being obedient and watching what you're doing out there," Corker recalled. "He had a lot of wisdom for us."
"Guys like that are few and far between. I've met only a couple that really cared about the kids like that," said Samuel Dukes of Villa Rica, a far west Atlanta suburb. Now, 55, Dukes was eight when he met Collier.
Ronald "Billy" McGahee, 55, of Miramar, Fla., explained why Collier is so important in his life: "When you got hurt, he held you. He told you everything is going to be all right. That's why everybody took to Mr. Collier."
Photo by Angela Pierce
Sylvester Collier enjoying the reunion in Ocilla.
McGahee said his own father had two jobs, and his mother was a homemaker raising 10 children. Neither had much time to take their kids to the park, but Collier made time.
"I wanted my father to be like Mr. Collier," said McGahee, a retired physical education teacher for Miami-Dade County public schools. "He always told you the rights and the wrongs, and the do's and the don'ts. He didn't scream and yell. He spoke to you with respect," McGahee said.
Those formative years at the youth club were "a part of my life that made an impact on me," said Sandra Gale McArthur. "It was very, very instrumental in our lives," said McArthur, who went on to become a Miami city police lieutenant. What she and others learned were leadership skills and the importance of respect, fitness, good grades, punctuality, teamwork, sharing and caring for others.
When Collier led a push to add cheerleaders to the then all-boys club, McArthur was one of the first girls to join. She and about 10 other girls met at another parent's single family home in the Grove to learn their cheer routines.
"Most of the kids lived in apartments," McArthur said, adding that she, her three brothers and single mother lived in a one-bedroom unit. Seeing the other family's style of living gave her hope. "I said, 'Wow, we can do better. We can live like this.' " McArthur said she was inspired to work hard to get what she wanted and got a job bagging groceries at age 13 to help her family.
Collier didn't limit his mentoring to the boys and girls club youth. His former City of Miami parks department coworker says he owes his life's success to Collier .
Alfred Pitts, now a retired Air Force colonel who works at the Pentagon, was a 17-year-old high school dropout when he was partnered with Collier in a parks department service truck. During those hours on the road together, they formed a bond that would last 45 years. Collier talked at length about his boys club kids.
Then, he turned his attention to Pitts, who had quit school to work fulltime to support his pregnant girlfriend. "I took him under my wing," Collier said of Pitts, who had grown up in a Miami ghetto surrounded by negativity and violence.
Collier told Pitts he was too smart and too young to be doing the kind of work he was doing and urged him to go back to school to get his GED. Pitts turned 18 in 1971, shortly after he started working with Collier. When he told the older man that he hadn't registered for the draft and feared any penalties he might face for not registering, Collier counseled him to get registered. Collier then drove him to the nearest registration office and went inside to find out what was needed while Pitts waited in the truck. When he returned, Collier told him he could register without penalty, and Pitts signed up that day. He was amazed that Collier cared enough to do that for him.
"When you first meet someone like that, immediately you think, 'What's going on? Why is he going out of his way to help you out?' " Pitts said. "You realize he's genuine. He never wanted anything in return.  There's no doubt that he helped shape who I am."
Collier, who moved to Miami in 1958 shortly after graduating from Ocilla High and Industrial School in Irwin County, retired from the Miami Parks and Recreation Department in 2006 and returned to Ocilla. He continues to give back.
He and his wife, Victoria, occasionally speak to youth at Irwin County High School, joining them for lunch and urging them to stay in school and do well so that they can grow into outstanding men and women. Both Colliers have accompanied the Irwin Indians football team to the state championships at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta and  have  hosted cookouts and an Easter Egg hunt at their home for young people from their church.

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Tifton's "Read Aloud" initiative continues at the Summer Accelerated Reader (AR) Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

This past week, Dr. David Bridges, president of Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, at left, dropped by the center at the United Way of South Central Georgia to read to children.

And on Thursday , retired educator Eunice Mixon,  pictured below,  brought along her copy of "Peter Rabbit" to read to the kids taking AR tests on books they have read.

The reading center, run by the Tift County Foundation for Educational Excellence, is open Tuesday and Thursdays through July 14.


The Carl Vinson Veterans Affairs Medical Center will host an informational fair at the  Leroy Rogers Senior Center in Tifton on July 15 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. in anticipation of the opening of its new Tifton VA Clinic.
The fair will  provide information about VA programs and services and serve as a VA "meet-and-greet" with the Tifton community, says Tifton VA Clinic manager Donna Ammons.

Veterans will hear about services to be provided at the Tifton clinic and how to start receiving their basic health care at the new location.

The Tifton VA Clinic will be located at 1824 Ridge Ave. North in Tifton. Hours of operation will be Monday-Friday from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; services will include primary care, mental health and other basic health care. Additional services will be available through Tele-Health, a new VA initiative that allows veterans to access some healthcare needs using interactive visual technology. 
For information, contact Ammons at  or 478-272-1210 ext. 2427.


Tifton Mayor Julie B. Smith received a Certificate of Recognition from the Georgia Municipal Training Institute at the Georgia Municipal Association's (GMA) 83rd annual convention in Savannah on Monday.

The Georgia Municipal Training Institute, a cooperative effort of GMA and the University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute of Government, provides a nationally recognized series of training opportunities for elected city officials. To receive a Certificate of Recognition, a city official must complete a minimum of 42 units of credit, including at least 18 hours from the required list. The training program consists of a series of more than 50 courses

"This is an outstanding achievement," said GMA Executive Director Lamar Norton. "We commend Mayor Smith for this accomplishment and for the dedication she's shown in using this valuable resource to become a more effective city official."

Also while at the Georgia Municipal Association, Smith was sworn in on the GMA Board of Directors, joining elected officials and professionals from across Georgia who will serve implement programs, policy and training programs for GMA members.

City Council members Wes Ehlers, Frank Sayles Jr., Jack Folk and Johnny Terrell attended the GMA meeting along with City Manager Larry Riner, Finance Director Lois Love, City Clerk Jessica Jones and Becky Moore, assistant to the city manager-mayor-council. All received training hours for taking classes on various segments of city government.

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YOUR WEEKEND fireworks_family.jpg
        a Glance

  • "Independence Day Celebration," 6:30-9 p.m, Ga. Museum of Agriculture, Tifton
  • Annual Independence Celebration, 4-10 p.m., Marine Corps Logistics Base, Albany
  • Downtown Tifton Farmer's Market, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Old Train Depot Platform, Tifton
  • Wiregrass Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-Noon, Georgia Museum of Agriculture, Tifton
  • "Home Place" art exhibit opening, 10 a.m., Georgia Museum of Agriculture, Tifton
MONDAY, JULY 4: Happy Independence Day!
  • "BBQ & Fireworks on the Lake Express," 8-10 p.m, SAM Shoreline Excursion Train, Lake Blackshear, Cordele

In Memoriam

Barbara Sue Green McLendon, 62, Tifton
Tommy Edwin Griffin, 71, Eldorado
Wanda "June" McBrayer, 61, Tifton
Weldon Gates Ford Jr., 78, Worth County
Helen Kaye Bruner, 74, Alapaha

Betty Bussey, 72, Tifton
Calvin E. "Bill" Lollis, 83, Adel
Shavonne K. Hillmon, Ashburn

Susan "Melissa" Winser Childers, 41, Tifton
Stephen Jones Jr., 77, Sylvester

The Rev. Daulton Jackson Blanchard Jr., 86, Tifton
Billie Sue Dean Summerlin Fountain, 74, Nashville
Betty Joyce Jackson Whitley, 82, Irwin County

Clarence Amos Luke, 96, Nashville
The Rev. Smith David "Junior" Gentry, 82, Tifton

Sharon Tillman Smith, 62, Irwin County

Douglas Carlisle, 69, Tifton
Vera Corene Gaskins, 103, West Berrien
Mary Jane Grant, 61, Nashville
Amos Lamar "Buddy" Lindsey, 70, Nashville

Mary Tillery, 77, Scooterville
Joyce Peacock Taylor, 75, Fitzgerald
Paul Drake, 87, Fitzgerald

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