Aug. 1, 2017
                                               Tifton, Georgia

The School Year Has Begun

Tift County  public schools opened their doors today ( Tuesday, Aug. 1) to students for  the new school year.

More than 7,700 students filled the county's schools, says school system Communications Director Stacey Beckham, and 65 new teachers have joined the system.

For the second consecutive year, parents and local business professionals gathered at the entrance of Matt Wilson Elementary School this morning to welcome and cheer on the returning students, who were all smiles and excited about being back.

With the new school year, comes the new football season. Fans get a chance to see all the Blue Devil teams in action this Friday, Aug. 4, during the annual "Soap Bowl." 

Admission is liquid laundry soap or liquid hand soap/body wash, which will used throughout the upcoming season.

The Soap Bowl will be held in the mini stadium at the high school practice field. The sixth-grade team scrimmages at 4 p.m.; the seventh vs. the eighth grade at 4:45 p.m.; the eighth vs. ninth graders at 5:30 p.m.; the  ninth graders vs. the junior varsity at 6:15 p.m. ; and the varsity blue vs. the varsity white at 7 p.m.


Local business people welcome back students Tuesday morning at Matt Wilson Elementary School.


* Tiftarea Academy begins the school year Aug. 11.

* The University  of Georgia Tifton campus has classes starting Aug. 11.

* Abraham Baldwin  Agricultural  College begins classes on Aug. 16.


Tifton's Brad "Chili" Culpepper, who has qualified seven times for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, is among the
professional cowboys and cowgirls participating this week in the 73rd Annual Gerry (N.Y.) Rodeo -- the longest consecutively running rodeo east of the Mississippi.

Culpepper's team will compete in the team roping eventsanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys' Association, or PRCA.

A professional cowboy since leaving Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Culpepper won his first Southeastern Circuit title in 1994. Culpepper has won and placed in rounds at the National Finals Rodeo, and has won the National Western Stock Show & Rodeo in Denver, Colo.; and won events at rodeos in Odessa and Cleburne, Texas; in Arcadia, Fla.; in Attica, N.Y.; in Fort Smith, Ark.; and in Licking, Mo. 

Culpepper, who is nationally ranked, has exceeded $1 million in rodeo winnings.

The Gerry Rodeo is scheduled Aug. 2-5 and has a  record 251 professionals from 34 states registered to compete for more than $45,000 in prize money with $5,000 guaranteed for each event.


Ritchie Swindell brings 25 years of experience to Tifton as the new Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) Southwest District engineer.

Swindell was promoted to district engineer effective Aug. 1, taking over leadership of Georgia DOT operations in 31 counties. He succeeds retired District Engineer Chad Hartley.

"I look forward to supporting this community and working with our dedicated staff. I'm pleased to be a member of the team that will continue moving Southwest Georgia forward through construction of new infrastructure," Swindell said.

"Maintaining existing roads and bridges is equally important," he said. "I'm proud of our 285 maintenance employees who push themselves daily, ensuring safe travel in our district."

Swindell comes to Tifton from west central Georgia, where he was district maintenance engineer. He has worked for the department in various roles in four of the seven districts and on the statewide level.  His experience includes district state aid coordinator, assistant area engineer, area engineer, district administrative officer and liaison in the state maintenance office.

Swindell received a bachelor's in civil engineering technology from Georgia Southern University.

Swindell will be taking the helm of a large district that stretches to the Florida and Alabama state lines on the south and west, Coffee County on the east and Wilcox County on the north. The district office is located in Tifton, but the department maintains area offices in five counties.

There are 2,600 bridges in the district, 3,600 state route centerline miles and 106 interstate centerline miles, GDOT says.


The four Tift County school Show Choirs are  joining for a yard sale this Saturday, Aug. 5, to help offset the students' Show Choir expenses.
Yard sale items from multiple families will be available from 7 a.m.-noon Saturday in the front drive area of Eighth Street Middle School

Members of the Show Choir groups are raising money to fund their own expenses, which can run more than $600 per child. Costs include costumes, set designs, sound equipment, choreography fees, music fees and competition fees.

The choirs are already practicing in preparation for their competition season. The groups will work from now through late January to perfect their competition shows before the competition season begins on the last weekend in January.


University of Georgia Cooperative Extension's newest plant pathologist will focus on improved control of plant-parasitic nematodes, the microscopic, worm-like pests that primarily feed on the roots of vegetable crops.

Nematologist Abolfazl Hajihassani is now responsible for control of the pest in more than 20 Georgia commodities, including
  bell peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers. Based out of the UGA Tifton campus, Hajihassani hopes his research and expertise will help producers manage the devastating pest.

"We have to do a lot of research to try to get short-term and long-term controls. As far as the short term, we have to find a solution through nematicides for the growers to control the nematodes," said Hajihassani, who was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Idaho before arriving at UGA Tifton

"In the long term, we need to find alternative approaches, like screening different varieties of vegetables to see which varieties have resistance and which ones don't."

As an Extension specialist, Hajihassani will answer nematode-related questions from farmers and UGA Extension agents. He is often asked about solutions available to combat nematodes and why they're so problematic in Georgia.

" Nematodes need three components to thrive: water, temperature and a suitable host. Here in Georgia, we have water, we have hot temperatures, and we have a wide variety of hosts," Hajihassani said.

"Our growers can get serious damage on their vegetables if proper care is not taken prior to planting and throughout a growing season. Hopefully, I can provide knowledge that will aid in managing these pests."

There are approximately six different types of nematodes that impact vegetables in Georgia. Root-knot nematodes are the most widespread and cause the most damage.

According to the UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, vegetables accounted for $1.1 billion in Georgia farm gate value in 2015.


The Tift County High School Class of 1972 will have a reunion from 5-10 p.m. Oct. 21.

An outdoor venue is planned, so casual attire is suggested. There will be live music and more. 

For information, contact Denise Goff, 770-256-5654 or


The  28th Annual  Run for Love , supporting the  Tift County High School cross country teams , is set for this  Saturday Aug. 5, at  Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.

The one-mile fun run begins at 7:15 p.m., and the 5K begins at 7:45 p.m at the Red Hill Athletic Center on the ABAC campus.

This year, the Tift County Animal Shelter will be at the event with pets available for adoption.

Race registration is $15 for the one-mile run; $20 for the 5K. Registration for both events is $30. Families may register for $70.  To register , Click Here!


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