Friday, October 30, 2020
Tifton, Georgia
Commerce Way's oldest building, at left, circa 1895, is planned to become a boutique hotel.
Tifton Grapevine
Commerce Way, a relatively short street in Downtown Tifton, has seemingly been overlooked as the rest of downtown was revitalized in recent years.

"I sometimes feel that Commerce Way was left out of the renaissance efforts, for whatever reason, so it’s very exhilarating to see the street coming alive and to see a long overdue energized revitalization," says Abbey McLaren, downtown development director.

In the not too distant past, the street was home to small shops by day and rowdy nightclubs by night where even gunfire had broken out. Gone are the late-night clubs. Now, Commerce Way is on the verge of a dramatic makeover.

Several folks have recently acquired some of the buildings with major plans for future projects, among them Mike Cooksey's intention to create a “boutique hotel” in an historic building on Commerce Way.

Cooksey, president of Tifton’s Cooksey Steel Co., a family-owned business begun in 1917, recently bought the 125-year-old building at 325 Commerce Way that formerly housed the Davis Music shop. Constructed in 1895 by Dr. G.W. Julian for his medical practice, the structure later became the city’s first African-American hotel, says Bruce Green, Tifton's Urban Redevelopment Agency director.
It’s the oldest building on the street. Cooksey plans to renovate the structure, creating seven upscale hotel rooms upstairs, handicapped accessible rooms downstairs and a retail shop in front. Behind the building will be covered parking.

“This is original wood upstairs,” Cooksey says. “We’re trying to save as much of the original stuff as possible."

He plans to make the rooms unique with an eye toward a clientele of business travelers who seek accommodations with a local flavor.

Cooksey has never undertaken a project like this. He says he “started entertaining the thought” after seeing a successful boutique hotel in Berrien County. Cooksey hopes to have the project complete by next fall. Its total cost is still being calculated.

“We don’t know what we’re going to get into until we get fully into it,” he explains.
Cooksey and several others are looking at developing other properties along Commerce Way. City Manager Pete Pyrzenski says recent plans and acquisitions translate to about a $1.4 million investment by developers. The city, along with the Downtown Development Authority, will be drafting a streetscape plan for Commerce Way.

McLaren, the downtown director, says, "This rehabilitation and Tifton’s first boutique hotel is not only organically critically important to the block but also to serving as a catalyst for future projects and investments within Downtown Tifton. We’re already seeing it happening just within a few weeks."

Cooksey is bullish on Downtown Tifton’s future.

“We have the right people in place right now. We can do something special with downtown if locals get behind it,” he says.
Tifton Grapevine
Today (Friday) is the last day to vote early in the Nov. 3 general election. Polls in Tift County are open today from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Tift County Elections Board office at 222 Chesnutt Ave., Building B.

After today, polls will be closed until Election Day on Tuesday, when polls will be open from 7 a.m.-7 p.m., and voters will cast ballots at their respective precincts.

Residents with absentee ballots must have them in by Election Day on Tuesday, says Leila E. Dollison, election supervisor at the Tift County Board of Elections. Initially, ballots only had to be postmarked by Election Day, but Dollison said Thursday that "the ruling was overturned, and absentee must be in by Election Day, Nov. 3. ... I want our voters to be informed and have the correct information."

24-hour ballot drop-off box is in front of the Charles Kent County Administration Building at 225 Tift Ave. N. There is also a ballot box for absentee ballots in the lobby of the Tift County Elections Board office.

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, a total of 8,906 Tift countians have voted, Dollison said. That includes 538 ballots cast on Thursday.

Statewide, 3,588,342 ballots have been cast, a 79.8 percent increase over the same time period during the general election four years ago, says the Ga. Secretary of State's Office.

Total early, in-person ballots cast so far number 2,444,185, and 1,144,157 absentee votes have been cast in Georgia, the state says.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has released more information about the shooting death of a Ty Ty man after a run-in with Sylvester Police on Saturday.

Jakerion Shmoud Jackson, 19, was shot by a Sylvester Police officer during an encounter Saturday morning, the GBI reported. Jackson, was transported to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The GBI says that the "early investigation indicates that Jackson brandished a handgun during the incident. The officer provided repeated commands for Jackson to drop the handgun, but he did not comply. 

"That handgun was later found in close proximity to Jackson. A second handgun was found on Jackson," the GBI said.

The incident began at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday when a Sylvester police officer attempted a traffic stop, and a brief car chase ensued with the suspect fleeing the scene on foot, the GBI said.

Approximately three hours later, multiple 911 calls were received describing a suspicious person that matched the description of the suspect from the car chase. A Sylvester police officer encountered the subject, later identified as Jackson, the GBI reported. 

Jackson's autopsy has been completed, and the results are pending further testing. The GBI said that the investigation is ongoing and will be turned over to the Tift County District Attorney’s Office once completed.
During the past seven days, Tift County had 45 new cases of the coronavirus and an additional two related deaths, according to statistics from the Ga. Department of Public Health (DPH).

During the past two weeks, Tift has reported 77 new cases and five coronavirus-related deaths, based upon DPH data. Of those tested for COVID-19 in the past two weeks in Tift, 10.6 percent were positive.

As of Thursday, there have been a total of 1,969 positive cases and 65 deaths from the virus in Tift County, the DPH reported.
Statewide, there were 1,866 new cases between Wednesday and Thursday, along with 47 deaths, the DPH said. Since the beginning of the pandemic, 356,848 Georgians have tested positive, and 7,923 of them have died.
Tifton Grapevine
“Tifton, Georgia, is alive and well!” Tifton City manager Pete Pyrzenski told the Tifton Rotary Club on Wednesday.

“There’s an increase in building and rebuilding. We’re growing,” he said.

“We are financially strong, we are doing very well. I’m excited about what is going on in Tifton right now.”

Pyrzenski said the city has experienced only a 3 percent decline in revenues from COVID-19, a lot better than many cities around the state. But he noted that hotel and motel income has dropped off by 40-50 percent from a decrease in travel. 

He discussed the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) the city applied for and did not obtain last year, but after adding in more statistics, was awarded last month. “That is a $750,000 grant” for a community resource center in South Tifton across from Matt Wilson Elementary School. 

Pyrzenski noted that the center will involve a partnership with the Tift Area YMCA – “a great fit – serving kids and teens,” along with opportunities for a partnership with adult education and literacy for GED classes. “This community building will create an atmosphere that’s exciting.” 

The community center is planned to be the nucleus of a planned housing development at the former location of Captain’s Point Trailer Park, providing housing for those with low to moderate income. “We are waiting to hear about a $12 million grant” for the housing project, which he said will change the face of South Tifton.

The city will provide a $150,000 match to the CDBG for the community center and will include a partnership with the Tifton Urban Redevelopment Agency.

“In a year and a half, this area of South Tifton will be unrecognizable,” he said. 

Pyrzenski presented the City of Tifton's Annual Report for 2019-2020. During the past year, the city paved 15 streets at a cost of almost $60,000, including replacing water and sewer lines under the streets. He cited the new dog park and walking trail at Fulwood Park. 

He mentioned that the upcoming movie "The Tiger Rising," filmed at Town Terrace Motel in Tifton last fall, is expected to debut in December starring Dennis Quaid, Queen Latifah and Sam Trammell. “The stars in the film can’t say enough great things about Tifton,” Pyrzenski said.

He added that the project on Highway 41 North across from Harvey's Supermarket is on track, that ABAC is expanding, and that Southwell/Tift Regional Medical is growing.

North Tifton is on fire; South Tifton is on fire,” Pyrzenski said.
Tifton Grapevine
“There’s something strange in the neighborhood,” and Justin and Kayla Adamson of Tifton are to blame.

“My wife is big on Halloween,” Adamson said. “We started doing it about four years ago.”

What they do is not only lighting up their house and yard for Halloween and Christmas – they also synchronize the light display with music that is broadcast on their own radio transmitter via a short-range radio station at 97.1 on the dial.

Their display at 806 Texas Drive is located off Magnolia Drive near the Eighth Street Middle School walking track. Be sure to turn the radio on in your car when watching the display. A sign guides listeners to the station.

“We found a spot on the dial with static and went with it,” Adamson said.

What will you see?

“We have two singing jack-o-lantern faces, light-up tombstones, pumpkins, colored flood lights and strobe lights,” Adamson said. Among the six songs on rotation are "Thriller," "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," "This is Halloween" (from "Nightmare Before Christmas”), and "Ghostbusters." The equipment that synchronizes the light display with music is called Light-o-rama. 
Adamson is the fire inspector for the City of Tifton Fire Department. He said his family moved into their neighborhood in 2015 at about the same time another family with a huge Halloween and Christmas display was moving out.

“They moved out and we moved in,” he said.

Adamson’s parents describe his extensive Christmas display as similar to the Griswolds’ in the movie “Christmas Vacation.” It will go up the week of Thanksgiving.

“My youngest brother (Joey Adamson) and I work on it,” he said. “We can do it all in a weekend.” 

For Halloween this year, the Adamsons were not sure whether the holiday was going to go on as usual, but they decided to prepare just in case.

“She’s off the next two days just getting ready,” he said of his wife. Kayla will be a witch; Justin is “doing a spin on the Pumpkin King.”

“We usually get a lot of trick-or-treaters.” 

Hmmm ... we wonder why.
Wisham Jellies of Tifton has won this year's Flavor of Georgia contest in the Jams & Jellies category.

The Tifton company won for its Apple Fig Pepper Jelly.

The University of Georgia’s 2020 Flavor of Georgia Food Product Contest is a signature event for UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) and spotlights Georgia products.

Wisham Jellies, owned and operated by Eric Wisham, previously won the annual Flavor of Georgia contest with Wild Mayhaw Pepper Jelly in 2016 and received the People’s Choice Award in 2015 for its Cranberry Pepper Jelly.

Charleston and Church of Atlanta won this year's grand prize with its Cheddar Rounds snacks.

This year's 30 finalists gave virtual product pitches from their businesses and home kitchens to a panel of socially distant judges, who sampled submitted products in Athens on Oct. 27.
“Contestants represent the intersection of culinary skill and entrepreneurial spirit. Both ingredients are essential to bring a new food product into the marketplace and for the overall viability of the business,” said interim UGA CAES Dean Dr. Joe West during the virtual awards celebration. 
Entries are judged on technical aspects such as flavor, texture and ingredient profile. Also considered are consumer appeal including packaging, innovation or uniqueness, and how well the product represents the state of Georgia

To see the complete list of winners in this year's contest, Click Here!
J.G. Woodroof Farm Manager Trey Davis, from left, Agriculture and Natural Resources Dean Mark Kistler and Lasseter Tractor salesman (and ABAC alumnus) Austin Harrell with the John Deere 8335R tractor on loan to ABAC.
With a record number of students enrolled in the School of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College this year, the J.G. Woodroof Farm is an integral component of the teaching schedule.

That farming operation teaching laboratory will be better equipped this fall semester thanks to the one-year loan of a John Deere 8335R tractor from Lasseter Tractor Co.’s Tifton office.

“ABAC is a tremendous educational resource for our industry, and we believe it is vital for students to have access to the latest technologies in equipment. We appreciate their commitment to agriculture and the quality of students they produce,” said Carlton Self, Lasseter’s store manager of its Tifton office.

Nearly 4,000 students are attending ABAC this fall, including a record 1,371 students in the School of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Carol M. Smith, left, the chief nursing executive & chief operating officer for Southwell Medical, and Cassandra Thomas, WBL/YAP coordinator for Tift County Schools, pose with the award presented to Tift Regional Medical Center. 
Tift Regional Medical Center (TRMC) was recently named Business Partner of the Year for the Southwest Region of the Georgia Work-Based Learning (WBL) and Youth Apprenticeship (YAP) program.

The WBL/YAP program, in association with the Ga. Department of Education, allows qualified students to work at an approved job placement to get work experience while receiving CTAE (Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education) course credit.

Youth Apprenticeship is a structured combination of related coursework completed at the high school level and on-the-job training specific to a post-secondary credential.

TRMC has been a supporter of Tift County Public School System for years. Work-Based Learning students learn so much during their time at the hospital. Being in the vicinity is a learning experience in itself, especially if they must run down the hall with their supervisor. Some finish with confirmation of their career choices, some decide to focus on other careers in the medical field, and some decide that the medical field in not for them,” said Cassandra Thomas, WBL/YAP coordinator for the Tift County School System.

Carol Smith, chief nursing executive and chief operating officer for Southwell Medical, said "healthcare is a complex industry that requires a high-school diploma as a minimum for entry into the work place, so it is often difficult for high school students to gain employment in or exposure to the industry.”

The partnership program helps students advance in their future careers, Smith said.
Southwell/Tift Regional Health System (TRHS) is conducting a health needs assessment and is asking members of the community to participate in a web-based survey by Nov. 23.

English and Spanish versions of the survey are available. Complete the survey by Nov. 23, 2020, to be eligible for a drawing for three great prizes:

  • $200 VISA gift card
  • $100 Walmart gift card
  • $50 Darden restaurant gift card (good at Longhorn, Olive Garden, and other locations)

Winners will be announced on Nov. 24. You can also participate anonymously. Thank you for your feedback!
Peace Lutheran Church's popular "Cookie Walk," an annual Tifton tradition for more than 20 years, was initially canceled this year because of the pandemic; but because of the disappointment that many longtime participants expressed, the baked items will be available through a pre-order format.

The items, including "Ethel’s Favorite Cookies" along with cakes, pies, and banana and pumpkin breads, will be available in limited quantities. They include such popular cookies as Cardamom Cuties, Cappuccino Royals, Chocolate Crinkles, German Gems, Snickerdoodles and M&M cookies.

The pre-order deadline is noon Friday, Nov. 13. Orders will be picked up on Saturday, Nov. 21 at the social hall of Peace Lutheran Church, 604 Tennessee Drive.

To order, call 229-339-4335. The proceeds will be used for pre-paid phone cards for military personnel and to help with church missions.  
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This dog is currently on stray hold at the Tift County Animal Shelter. If not reclaimed, will be available for adoption or rescue at the Animal Shelter, located at 278 Georgia Highway 125 S. It is open to the public for adoptions from 1-6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

For more information, call 229-382-PETS (7387).
Pets of the Week are sponsored by:
Branch’s Veterinary Clinic
205 Belmont Ave., Tifton, 229-382-6055  
Important Phone Numbers & Web Sites
• Georgia Department of Public Health:
• State of Georgia Hotline: 844-442-2681 
• U.S. Centers for Disease Control:
• City of Tifton: 229-391-3957 /
• Tift County: 229-386-7856 /
• Tift Regional Medical Center / Southwell Hotline: 229-353-2819
OCT. 22
Gerald Marvin Deese, 85, Ashburn
Margaret Ann "Marg" Hall, Ashburn

OCT. 23
Bobbie Fussell Tomberlin, 91, Ty Ty
Mary Faye Paulk Bostick, 79, Ocilla
Elaine Francis, 90, Lenox

OCT. 24
Pastor Raymond Lonnie Cason, 77, Nashville
Lisa McGriff Holley, Ashburn

OCT. 25
John B. Mallory Jr., 98, Tifton
Ronald DuBois, 70, Poulan
Herbert Loyd Black, 81, Sylvester
David Douthit, 78, Sylvester
John Coleman "Johnny" Hall, 76, Nashville

OCT. 26
Nettie Mae Scarborough Pope, 85, Sylvester
William “Bill” Richard McMahan, 84, Tifton
Lorenzo De Dios Ramirez, 58, Omega 
Bonnie Jean Dannunzio, 75, Adel
Amanda Gwen Hemby, 34, Ray City

OCT. 27
Ronnie Whitley, 71, Tifton
David L. Hamm, 63, Tifton

OCT. 28
Eddie B. Hunt, Sylvester
Cannell Bateman, 35, Tifton
Annie Mae Jowers Williams Edgy, 92, Adel
Jackie Marie Griffin Trowell, 79, Douglas

OCT. 29
Joe "David" Hullett, 71, Tifton
John “Larry” Willis, 73, Cordele
Shirley Foster, 68, Tifton

James Rickman Murray, 77, passed away peacefully but unexpectedly on Saturday, October 24, 2020.
Jim was born on July 28, 1943, in Washington, D.C., to Ernest Burgin Murray and Adelaide Sweatt Murray. Jim was an Eagle Scout and a graduate of Boca Ciega High School in Gulfport, Florida, before joining the United States Air Force in 1961. In the Air Force, Jim rose to the rank of staff sergeant and earned a Bronze Star for meritorious service during an extended tour in Vietnam. After leaving the military, Jim became a law enforcement officer and graduated magna cum laude from St. Leo College. Following his graduation from the University of Florida College of Law in 1979, Jim embarked on a lengthy and diverse legal career that took him from Florida to Wyoming and back again. At every point in his legal career, Jim meticulously applied the principle that “if a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.”
Jim was a lifelong Episcopalian and diligently sought to do what was right in the eyes of the Lord. Jim loved God’s creation. He was an avid outdoorsman and hunter, a gunsmith and competitive shooter, a woodworker and a traveler. He was welcoming; few met Jim who weren’t offered the chance to join him on his next adventure. But most of all, he loved spending time with his family and friends, whether around a campfire or a kitchen table. 
Jim is survived by his beloved wife of nearly 47 years, Julia; children Ronald James Murray, Kathryn Murray Irby (Scott), and Julianne Murray VanLaningham (Chris); grandchildren Ryan Murray, Mary-Kathryn Royce Irby, William James Irby, John Elton Boyd Irby, Benjamin Matthew VanLaningham, Andrew Scott VanLaningham, and Elizabeth Mairet VanLaningham; and siblings Thomas Murray (Debbie) and Marion Curry (Mike) and nieces and nephews Bessie Jay (Daniel Stewart), Michael Jay (Jennie), Elayna Kelly (Joe), Tommy Murray (Kelley), Tammy Murray and numerous grand nieces and nephews.
An outdoor funeral service will be held Thursday morning, November 5, 2020, at 10:00 a.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Little Rock. The family will hold an outdoor visitation on Wednesday evening at the Allsopp Park pavilion on Cedar Hill Road at 5:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Wounded Warrior Project, the NRA Whittington Center, or the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation.

Tifton Grapevine
e-published every Tuesday and Friday

Frank Sayles Jr.
Editor & Publisher
Bonnie Sayles
Managing Editor
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