Interesting local attractions can help you beat the July heat

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The welcome mild weather of June is over, and the full heat of summer has arrived. This is the time to look for cool places to spend interesting and uplifting hours. Here are some suggestions.

ALTHOUGH THE Augusta Museum of History is normally closed Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, it will be open every day this week, including the Fourth of July. There are a number of fascinating new exhibits that are well worth your time.

Local Legends: This exhibit, on the second floor of the museum, presents the stories of many of the region’s extraordinary individuals. The display is a celebration of talented musicians, singers, authors, actors, athletes, artists, journalists, scientists and politicians. Also included are two of Augusta’s heroes.

The show highlights the careers of entertainers such as James Brown, Brenda Lee, Butterfly McQueen, Flo Carter and Dub Taylor; authors such as Berry Fleming, Janelle Taylor and Frank Yerby; athletes such as Emerson Boozer, Vernon Forrest, Ty Cobb and Larry Mize; and notables such as astronaut Susan Still, Gov. Carl Sanders, Judy Woodruff, Jasper Johns, Ophelia DeVore Mitchell, Archibald Butt and Jimmie Dyess. Telling their fascinating stories is long overdue.

Blast from the Past: This exhibition was created to celebrate the museum’s 75th anniversary. The featured artifacts represent what was displayed years ago and how they appeared. Many of the items in the show were acquired between 1940 and 1990. When you enter this exhibit, also on the second floor of the museum, you can’t miss the bison – but be sure to linger to observe the butterfly display.

Tying the Knot: This is a special display of wedding dresses and accessories from the late 1800s to the 1960s, and will be on view for one year.

On view are three examples of wedding dresses and one tuxedo. They are stunning examples of what women and men wore in the past.

Curiosity Corner: This displays some of the museum’s more unusual collections – from a South American shrunken head to the hood and rope used in Augusta’s last public hanging in 1931.

THERE IS MORE good news from the museum. At the next Jimmie Dyess Symposium – which will be early next year, on Jan. 10 – three individuals will be presented the symposium’s Distinguished American Award:

• Tom Kelley, Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War. Despite being badly wounded and losing his eye in combat, Tom served for more than 40 years as a officer in the Navy and later as a senior official in Massachusetts
in the Veterans Affairs Department.

• Lou Brissie, for many years an inspiration for wounded warriors and disabled children. Badly wounded in combat, Brissie overcame his injuries and great pain to live his dream of pitching in the major leagues.

• Carl Sanders, a native of Augusta, who served with distinction as governor of Georgia. Sanders continues to contribute his time and talent to support many good causes.

How can you help the museum? By being a supporter of the Dyess Symposium. There already are five sponsors – two from out of town – but more are needed. Please call the museum’s director, Nancy Glaser, at (706) 722-8454. She will be happy to explain the various levels of support.

ANOTHER WONDERFUL place to spend some cool, uplifting time this week is on July 4 at St. Paul’s Church, just across the street from the Augusta Museum of History.

The 16th Annual Star-Spangled Fourth, featuring the 75-member Independence Chorus and Orchestra, will be at 7:30 p.m. The 2012 version includes five area World War II veterans who will accompany active-duty representatives from the five branches of the U.S. armed forces in the Ceremony of Honor.

The program concludes with the playing of Echo Taps and continues with Sousa marches and music ranging from Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the U.S.A. to The Battle Hymn of the Republic. An Afterglow barbecue follows the concert, and fireworks can be enjoyed from St. Paul’s River Rooms or from the church grounds. Information is on the website www.riverwalkseries.com or at the box office, (706) 722-3463.

(The writer – a retired U.S. Air Force major general – serves on the boards of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, the Augusta Warrior Project and the Augusta Museum of History. His email address is genpsmith@aol.com.)


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