Friday, July 22, 2022
Tifton, Georgia
A STAR IS BORN? ABAC's Mike Chason of Tifton, second from right, poses on the film set with, from left, actress Andrea Susan Bush, Assistant Director Josh Lou Friedman, actress Maria Menounos, and, beside Chason, Director Brian Herzlinger.
Tifton Grapevine
It's Christmas in July ... well, at least it is in the Friendly City as Tifton once again is a backdrop for a movie – this time a Lifetime TV Christmas movie starring Maria Menounos.

And once again, Fitzgerald resident Alexander Kane with Workhorse Cinema is making things happen. 

Filming has been taking place this past week at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and is continuing downtown and outside the Union Depot apartments. Billy Jack Harlow, who has been in four of Kane’s films, said the shooting will continue around Tifton for the next two weeks.

Kane said people are still being recruited as extras.

“The production crew spun the web of fiction and frivolity for a holiday-themed movie scheduled to be released in 2023,” an ABAC press release proclaimed. 

Tifton has been good to us, and we’re using many locations in the area,” Associate Producer Ava Paloma told ABAC staff. “The plot of the movie is kind of ‘Hitch’ meets ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,’ set over the holidays.”

Portions of Tift and Lewis halls, two of the original three buildings at ABAC, were transformed into holiday scenes this week, complete with Christmas trees, presents, and even a snow-covered sidewalk, in Tifton’s 96-degree weather. 

“The lead character, Jack McNeal, is one of the top publishers in the East, and we wanted something that looked very grand to represent those surroundings,” Paloma said.

“We thought we would have to go to Atlanta for the day, but everyone saw these buildings (at ABAC) and thought they would be great.”

Mike Chason, ABAC’s acting vice president for communications and transition, had a small background part in the production.
“What was so amazing was that one minute I was working in my office, and the next minute, I was concentrating on my steps just outside my office in an actual movie,” Chason said.

“It was lots of fun. Being ‘inside’ the movie as an extra showed me just how much attention to detail is involved in the process. Every facial expression, every prop, every piece of clothing is analyzed to see if that fits the scene.”

The movie's working title is "The Holiday Dating Guide." Playing the lead is Maria Menounos, who is an actress, journalist, and television presenter. She is known for "Fantastic Four," "Entourage," and "Kickin' It Old Skool." Menounos was part of the 14th season of "Dancing with the Stars," and has hosted "Extra" and "E! News," has served as a TV correspondent for "Today," and "Access Hollywood."

Actor Brent Bailey, who wrote the script for "The Holiday Dating Guide," plays Menounos’ love interest. He is currently a spokesman for Shell Oil commercials and starred as JFK speechwriter Ted Sorensen opposite Woody Harrelson and Richard Jenkins in Rob Reiners "LBJ."

Bailey has four feature films in post production, and additional feature film credits include "Think Like A Man," "Fatal Beauty," "Girlfriends of Christmas Past," and "The Republic Of Two." He has had numerous TV roles on such shows as "N.C.I.S," "Lucifer," "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D," "Criminal Minds," and "Rizzoli & Isles."

Actor Steve Vinovich is playing another male role. He was Dr. Frederick Sykes on the soap opera "Days of our Lives" from 2002-2008 and has had many other roles through the years, including one in "The Intern" with Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway. 

Anyone interested in being an extra in the Tifton film may email their name, phone number, and a recent photo to
Tifton Grapevine
Tift County officials are seeking an outside mediator to break the logjam between the county and the City of Tifton over Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) negotiations, County Commission Chairman Tony McBrayer said Thursday.

McBrayer told the Tifton Grapevine that the county had called for LOST negotiations in a June 26 letter, and noted that representatives of the city, county, Ty Ty, and Omega gathered on July 14.

"However, since the City of Tifton chose not to engage in meaningful discussion at the July 14 meeting, we consider negotiations at an impasse and will move forward in preparing for mediation," McBrayer said.

City officials say that at the July 14 meeting, the county presented a demand that the city accept Tift County's proposal for settling long-standing lawsuits between the two governments before LOST is negotiated.

In a press conference Monday, Tifton Mayor Julie B. Smith charged the county with holding the city and taxpayers "hostage" over LOST, which the state requires to be re-negotiated this year or it expires. LOST is used to reduce local property taxes.

Smith called for a joint meeting with the county and its municipalities for this coming Monday to discuss LOST.

In response, McBrayer sent a letter to the City of Tifton on Wednesday. He wrote that at the July 14 meeting, "You and your delegation immediately rejected the offer without any meaningful discussion and walked out. The meeting barely lasted five minutes before you left. You and your delegation opted for drama rather than meaningful discussions. After you stormed out of the meeting, the City of Ty Ty and Omega remained to negotiate in good faith with the county."

McBrayer wrote that “when negotiating a LOST distribution, political subdivisions must consider their various service delivery responsibilities."

He wrote that the "lawsuit will have a pivotal effect on service delivery in Tift County in the future, and it must be resolved before the parties can evaluate a fair and equitable distribution of LOST proceeds. Therefore, the county cannot negotiate LOST without also negotiating the intertwined service-delivery issues that will be decided in the lawsuit."

The city responded Thursday with a press release saying that “as the City of Tifton seeks to return to negotiating the renewal of the Local Option Sales Tax, Tift County responded Wednesday by doubling down on its threat to let the LOST expire as leverage in ongoing lawsuits."

Tifton Mayor Smith said the “lawsuit can be resolved in time through the courts for a fair and just adjudication of the issues. The LOST negotiations must proceed now. LOST has nothing to do with the lawsuits.” She again called for a joint meeting on Monday.

McBrayer took issue with the city's statement on Thursday, telling the Grapevine that his  letter "did not 'double down' on a threat to let LOST expire because that threat has not been made."

McBrayer said that because the "City of Tifton chose not to remain and negotiate in good faith at the July 14 meeting does not constitute a need for another redundant meeting. So no, Tift County will not be attending the meeting on Monday, July 25."

The pending lawsuits go back several years in which the city accuses the county of misappropriating Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) funds, and the county accuses the city of misappropriating water, sewer, and solid waste funds.
Tifton Grapevine
Tiftarea residents lined up Thursday at the Tift County Recreation Department to get a photo with the Atlanta Braves World Series trophy.

Individuals and families were able to get a free professional photo with the Major League Baseball championship trophy as it continued its tour through Georgia and adjacent states – "Braves Country."

The City of Tifton organized the local event and had music, games, and food trucks available.

Earlier in the day, the trophy was on display at Truist Bank on Virginia Avenue. Truist Bank is sponsoring the trophy tour, which makes stops in Albany today, in Thomasville on Saturday, and in Americus on Sunday before it moves to Alabama, South Carolina, and Mississippi.
Tifton Grapevine
Tift County's total COVID-19 cases have risen by 290 in the past two weeks –
a total of 529 new cases during the past monthaccording to the state Department of Public Health (DPH).

That number includes rapid tests and confirmed PCR tests. It represents only those results reported to the health department and do not include at-home testing.

Confirmed PCR tests during the past two-week period totaled 71. There was one additional related death reported in Tift County in the past week.

Tift County’s total positive cases represent 710 cases per 100,000 population, the measure used across the country to compare case rates among communities and states. Tift's testing positivity rate for the two-week period was 26.6%; the rate one month ago was 18.9%, the DPH said.

Tift has seen a total of 6,471 confirmed cases with 166 confirmed deaths, the DPH said.

The state has recorded a total of 2,104,785 confirmed cases and 32,304 related deaths, the DPH said. That number represents 20,177 more confirmed cases in the past week and 101 additional deaths statewide. The state reports COVID-19 data once a week.
Tifton Grapevine
“Every single teacher should be teaching behind a locked door,” Tift County Schools Superintendent Adam Hathaway told the Tifton Rotary Club on Wednesday. 

Hathaway discussed school safety and takeaways from Uvalde, the city in Texas where a school shooter entered an unlocked door and then an unlocked classroom to take the lives of 19 children and two teachers. 

“Every bit of research tells us that in none of these cases did a school shooter kick in a door or shoot out a door,” Hathaway said. “When they find an unlocked door, that’s where they go in.” 

There were a lot of things that were not in place in Uvalde that are in place in Tift and surrounding counties. “As a school superintendent,” he said, “I’m confused about how that even happened.” 

After killing a family member and wrecking his car, the Texas shooter shot at a funeral home, jumped a fence, and left 20 casings in the school parking lot. “He was in the parking lot shooting for two minutes before he ever entered the building,” Hathaway said emphatically.

In Tift County schools, on the back of every employee’s name badge is another badge with a button. “Any teacher in our entire school system can lock our buildings down like that. Any teacher can put the entire school in full lockdown,” Hathaway said.
“Most school shootings are three minutes or less, so every second matters,” Hathaway said. “All of our kids and all of our teachers know exactly how to behave when they get that lockdown call. Every one of our exterior doors should be locked at all times. There should be one point of entry in every school. We started doing that several years ago.” 

He said he understands how uncomfortable it can be when a teacher is carrying items to have put them down and unlock an outside door, lock it back, then unlock their classroom door. 

“You know what is more uncomfortable? Standing in front of national media and explaining why 19 students are dead and two teachers are dead. That’s what uncomfortable is,” he said.

“The No. 1 resource when it comes to school safety is our people. I can buy a $3 million door and put a $2 million lock on it, but if I don’t have a person that will shut it, that doesn’t matter.” 

Hathaway also discussed plans for growth and development in infrastructure among the schools. Most Tift County schools are more than 50 years old, he said, except Annie Belle Clark Elementary, which is 20 years old.

Len Lastinger Elementary renovation is starting in January and is expected to be done by the following fall. A new middle school is out for bids to be built on the old Medford farm property on Highway 319. A new elementary school will be built on the Northeast Campus site. 

A new school will mean new districts with new zoning. There will be a lot of community conversation before drawing lines, Hathaway said. Also, in the next five years, Annie Belle Clark is coming up for renovation.
Tifton Grapevine
"Skill House," the horror film about social media influencers that has Tifton native Caitlin Carmichael in the cast, is making headlines in entertainment news as a camera operator faints while filming the bloody movie.

"This has to be one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen happen on a set," Carmichael told the Tifton Grapevine on Thursday from Los Angeles. "If this is how gory the movie seems to us making it, I can't wait to see people’s reactions once 'Skill House' is on the big screen."

TMZ, the tabloid online celebrity newspaper, got hold of the video that was being filmed as the cameraman fainted a few days ago.

"50 Cent and director Josh Stolberg have an instant promo for their upcoming horror flick, "Skill House" ... 'It's so terrifying, even the film's crew is losing consciousness on set,'" TMZ reported.

The rapper Curtis "50 Cent” Jackson is making the movie in Los Angeles and it reportedly has a large amount of blood and gore. A promotional photo of Tifton's Carmichael in her role has fake blood splattered all over her.

On Thursday, Entertainment Weekly (EW) posted that "Producer Ryan Kavanaugh was on set during the incident and revealed what happened exclusively to EW: 'Steve Johnson (the film's make-up and effects artist), whom I believe is the best in the business, makes it all seem so realistic. It's a whole new level of horror.

'When it happened, it was nighttime, dimly lit, and we were in the middle of filming a frightening scene that involved a lot of blood. One of our camera operators literally dropped and passed out. The camera broke, an on-set medic came and tended to him, and we broke for almost an hour. He was a trooper though, and he resumed shooting within an hour.’"

50 Cent posted on social media that it was a "crazy night – one of our camera men passed out cold for 30 min from the scene. Couldn't take how real it was. We're elevating horror to the next level. This is gonna change the rules of the game."

Filming is back underway on "Skill House." To learn more about Tifton native Carmichael's film projects, visit
Tifton Judicial Circuit Juvenile Court Judge Render M. Heard Jr. of Tifton was recently installed for a one-year term as president of the Georgia Council of Juvenile Court Judges.

He was also re-elected to serve on the Board of Governors of the 52,000-member State Bar of Georgia.

The Council of Juvenile Court Judges is composed of all judges of the state's juvenile courts, which have jurisdiction over a variety of cases involving children and families.

The council provides support to juvenile courts through legal research services, legislative tracking, and specialized programs to assist in protecting the best interests of children and the state. Heard has served on the council's Executive Committee for several years and has chaired its dependency and legislative committees.

Heard received his law degree from the Mercer University Walter F. George School of Law and was admitted to the State Bar of Georgia in 1997. He is a fellow of the Lawyers Foundation of Georgia and a past president of the Tifton Bar Association.

Heard will continue to serve in the Tifton Circuit seat on the State Bar's Board of Governors, representing Irwin, Tift, Turner, and Worth counties.

The Board of Governors is the 160-member policy-making authority of the State Bar, with representation from each of Georgia's judicial circuits.
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This Sunday, July 24, is National Parents’ Day, celebrated annually on the fourth Sunday in July. In 1994President Clinton signed the Congressional resolution establishing the day. U.S. Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., introduced it with the aim of "uplifting and supporting the role of parents in the rearing of children.”
  • Southwell Blood Drive, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., Blood Mobile, Southwell West Campus, U.S. Highway 41, Tifton
  • Disney's "Frozen: Kids," performance by the Tift Theatre Kids' Camp, 7 p.m., Tift Theatre for the Performing Arts, Tifton

  • Wiregrass Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-Noon, Ga. Museum of Agriculture, Tifton
  • Disney's "Frozen: Kids," performance by the Tift Theatre Kids' Camp, 7 p.m., Tift Theatre for the Performing Arts, Tifton

CONTACT US at or 478-227-7126
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"Billy," a male pooch, is ready for a forever home. Visit Billy and other pets available at the shelter on Highway 125 South between 1-6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. For additional information, call 229-382-PETS (7387).
Pets of the Week are sponsored by:
Branch’s Veterinary Clinic
205 Belmont Ave., Tifton, 229-382-6055  
Layton “Bryce” Tolbert, 33, Tifton
Emmett Joel Womack Sr., 76, Chula
Lewis Edward Hall, 52, Sylvester
Frances Stanford, 66, Fitzgerald

Maria Del Socorro Rodriguez Tovar, 64, Tifton
JoAnn Wiseman, 63, Tifton
Steve R. Walker, 59, Sparks
Linda "Luke" Gaskins, 61, Berrien County

Michael Oliver "MO" Abell, 69, Fitzgerald
Patricia Ann Sitton, 78, Fitzgerald
Carolyn Strickland, 74, Adel

Nancy Ann Fussell Cook, 68, Tifton
Rhonda Sue Justice, 58, Norman Park
Kay Moore, 80, Adel
Larry L. Stephens, 95, Norman Park

Thelma Vernell Gibbs Swails, 95, Enigma
Danny Wayne Stone, 71, Tifton
Randy Harold Thompson, 76, Sycamore
Mischelle Sumner, 58, Fitzgerald
Helen Martin Register, 96, Cook County
Mario Antrawn "Bo-Legg" Clark, 41, Ashburn

Melvin C. Roberts, 62, Ashburn         
Katherine R. Cooper, 61, Fitzgerald

Renee Collins Jones, 58, Tifton
Winston Jackson “Jack” McKey, 80, Wray
Bobby Cecil Miley, 83, Ocilla
Derry Vickers Gibson, 72, Tifton
Madge Wilkes Lawrence, 86, Adel
Michael Dale Rhoden, 52, Nashville
Mae Jo Spradley Cassell, 85, Tifton
Greg Paul Benson, 58, Ashburn
Nancy Ann McCranie, 85, Nashville
Edwin “Ed” Joseph Bacon, 80, Ashburn

Frances Freeman Harris, 90, Tifton

Diane Jackson, 66, Tifton
Tifton Grapevine
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Frank Sayles Jr.
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Bonnie Sayles
Managing Editor
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