Augusta is a 'premiere' destination -- so get on up and sing it, everyone!

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Dear Augusta:

For far too long you have been given a bad rap, while there is so much for you to be proud of.

Back in November 2008 our video production company had the idea to show a documentary that we had just completed on the Tuskegee Airmen. After all, many in this area had helped the documentary come to fruition. What better way to repay them?

WHEN MENTIONING our grand idea, we were told by quite a few people it would be a futile effort. “Augusta does not support, nor will she ever support, one of her own. You probably should take this viewing to a much larger
city.”

Thank God our company doesn’t listen to naysayers. We went forward with our plan and had a sellout at the Imperial Theatre that following January.

Besides accepting Christ, getting married and witnessing the birth of my son, that showing at the Imperial Theatre of our first documentary was one of the best nights of my life. It was not necessarily because of the success of the documentary, but more so the crowded seats, filled with whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians, young and old. An 840-seat venue was filled to the brim with my people – Augustans.

The Tuskegee Airmen in attendance have not forgotten how well they were received. Three men in their late 80s and early 90s told me with tears in their eyes how special our city was, and how it made them feel so very welcome. One of the airmen, Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson, a POW, was absolutely thrilled to see a mural hanging in Springfield Baptist Church of his grandfather, who was the first pastor there.

I HAVE READ A lot of local write-ups recently regarding the Get On Up movie premiere. Some of these articles focused on why the movie did not portray Augusta in “the best light,” and “Why was it not filmed in Augusta?” and “Why has there been so little national press for our city?” James Brown put Augusta on the map, so why not endorse that in the movie?

While these are valid questions, Universal Pictures did in fact do something quite flattering and downright amazing for the city of Augusta during the night of the premiere.

OUR COMPANY has been working with daughter Deanna Brown the past two-and-a-half years on a documentary project called JAMP: The Legacy of James Brown. The story is inspirational, and an incredible showpiece and statement about what good can come out of Augusta. It is a documentary that shows the best side of James Brown, as it focuses on what he wanted more than anything in this world: children learning his music, and getting positive starts to what are not always positive lives.

Universal Pictures graciously allowed our documentary teaser to be played at the various movie premieres for Get On Up. This was an enormous gesture from the movie giant. It is practically unheard of for a company such as Universal to allow a teaser to be shown the night of a premiere, as they rightfully want all of the focus that night to be on the intended feature.

Universal was touched by Augusta’s overwhelming desire to have a premiere in our city, and felt the content of the documentary teaser really spoke to the real character of James Brown. Universal felt so strongly about it that the teaser was shown at premieres outside Augusta.

Deanna Brown worked tirelessly to ensure Universal understood the kind of people her city is made of, and how deserving we all are. Those efforts produced the excellent opportunity for our city to be shown in such a positive manner – to show the incredible good that can come out of Augusta with the documentary, and the level of support Augusta will show for one of its own.

I FELT IT NECESSARY to write this to you, Augusta, because sometimes you seem to miss out on your blessings that are not as loudly announced. Sometimes it seems the negative speakers are louder than the positive ones. But we are out here, and we are determined to speak up.

We need your support to continue creating work that reaches far beyond your boundaries, such as our Tuskegee Airmen project – work that will inspire others to carry on. A clip from that documentary has made its way to the education arm of McGraw Hill, which placed it in high schools across the country as inspiration for graduating seniors. I’d say that adds another marker on the national map for Augusta.

PLEASE CONTINUE to support those who have the vision to, as the Tuskegee Airmen told us, “look far beyond our supposed station in life.”

I guess what I want you to know most about yourself, Augusta, is that I love you and I want the best for you. I always will try to remind you of your greatness, nudge you when you are tired and even give a helping hand. Our most famous citizen gave you the road map so many years ago. He said it loud and proud that the first step to greatness is to “get up offa that thing” – recognize, and do something positive.

God bless you, Augusta.

(The writer is co-owner of Bryton Entertainment LLC in North Augusta, S.C.)

Comments (14) Add comment
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deestafford
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deestafford 08/24/14 - 07:21 am
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I would like to hear the definition of a "destination city"...

I would like to hear the definition of a "destination city". Is it one where, let's say, I'm sitting in my living room in Jesup and say, "Hey, let's go spend the weekend in Augusta."?

What is a two or three day itinerary that would be an inducement for me to load up the wife and kids and drive two hours to come to Augusta and spend $400 for the weekend?

I could do that were I talking about Savannah, Atlanta, or Charleston. I just do see it for Augusta. Granted, we have a lot of good things going on and a lot of hard work by many people but none of that fits into what I would term as a "destination city".

We don't have to be a "destination city" to be a good place to live and work.

Proud2Serve
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Proud2Serve 08/24/14 - 06:13 am
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Agree with Dee

With the exception of the Master's or the Boshears Fly-in, I can't really think of anything that would bring me to Augusta for a weekend. Honestly, I try to leave Master's week.

I think it is a decent place to live. The cost of living isn't terrible, although that has increased fairly drastically recently. Crime isn't terrible compared to other cities I have lived in. However, with unemployment over 8% again, that may change.

Even so, it is still a good place to be a resident. I just don't see a reason to come spend a weekend.

"Destination City" is a stretch.

Bodhisattva
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Bodhisattva 08/24/14 - 07:40 am
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The documentary on the

The documentary on the Tuskegee Airmen was definately a worthwhile and excellent project. I can also understand as to why all of "Get On Up" was not filmed in Augusta since the city has changed over the years. As to why NONE of the movie was filmed in Augusta, that has to fall on our beloved leaders who should have been all over it from the moment it was first announced. Perhaps Deke was out of town and couldn't be reached. The far end of Broad near the famous, or infamous, Discotheque Lounge and the "Snake Lady" has changed little if at all since Brown's day (let's hope it's not the same "Snake Lady") and would have been perfect for some of the filming, as have some of the other areas of town. The rest of Broad was ruined long ago by the monstrosity of the Chamber Building (or whatever is is now) and the most convoluted parking system known to man. You would think with a decent offer, the filmmakers would have jumped at the chance to have filmed at least a portion of the film around Brown's old stomping grounds. A "destination city"? I can't see that in any sense of the word. Very little of the historic context remains, other than a building or part of a building here and there, and in the scheme of things they aren't that historic. The gorgeous old train station was ripped down for the ugliest Civic Center around, which is designed perfectly for a rodeo, but poor acoustics and seating arrangement make it horrible for concerts. A tiny somewhat restored theater, which even many small towns have, remains he best place for a music show. Bell, again, is shaped like a gymnasium and not for theater style seating so good seating for plays or music is out. A river with pitiful access. A Riverwalk that opened to great potential and activity but then was allowed to waste away. We live in relatively close proximity and, other than the occasional concert (and they few and far between since I can't stand the top 40 pop with a twang sung by pretty young people that passes for today's country music) we don't even go to Augusta, why in heavens name would people spend their hard earned money when there are places with so many more options? Even if there's a play, it's here one night, usually a weeknight, which blows it for most people. Even in the clubs you're extremely limited to the entertainment choices, usually loud, lots of karaoke, nothing, or the omnipresent country judging by the entertainment lists put out, maybe one or two jazz, no blues, few acoustic acts. I hate to burst your bubble, but if it weren't for the once a year "tunamint", that most people can't even attend, Augusta woundn't even be on the map for a destination.

hoptoad
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hoptoad 08/24/14 - 07:48 am
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Perhaps James Brown was not

Perhaps James Brown was not as embraced as the Tuskegee Airmen because compared to them James Brown was not someone who was a person we would have wanted our children to emulate. His drinking, drugging, shooting up the city, wreckless driving and other shenanigans almost overshadow the good deeds he did do for the community.

To JB's credit, he did good things for Augustans and the surrounding area. It's a shame we remember more of the crazy stuff he did.

hoptoad
21127
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hoptoad 08/24/14 - 07:55 am
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Funny that last week I had

Funny that last week I had lunch with a friend that was trying to plan three days of activities while taking his turn hosting a group of veterans from out of town. We discussed what there was they would be interested in and came up with much of nothing except possibly a tour of Ft. Gordon and SRS.

Augusta isn't a bad place to live and we do have many things going on during the year, but with no beaches, mountains, Dollywood, and so on, we certainly aren't tourist friendly.

Bodhisattva
7183
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Bodhisattva 08/24/14 - 08:33 am
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No Dollywood? Thank the

No Dollywood? Thank the heavens for that. We could have BillyandDeke Land. It can have horse, and be built with taxpayers' money, but it'd be closed for a long weekend every week because everyone would be out of town.

par 3
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par 3 08/24/14 - 10:06 am
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Great column

Instead of taking time to thank you for your efforts, Mr. Williams, some waste their time criticizing. Maybe that's more of what's wrong with Augusta than what is not here for tourists to see
. What are they doing, besides criticizing those who are at least making an effort to make the city better? Does anybody ever have anything to say positively? I wonder.

jimmymac
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jimmymac 08/24/14 - 10:58 am
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BOD
Unpublished

I agree with you on every point. If the Masters wasn't in Augusta the whole town would dry up and blow away. That week makes it for most of the hotels and restaurants for the whole year. When visitors come to town they're shocked at how dilapidated most of the downtown area is. I try and steer them to Washington Rd. because they want to see Augusta but they're disappointed due to such poor access. The rest of the area can be found in many other urban slums. Destination city is a pipe dream except for one week a year.

deestafford
31782
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deestafford 08/24/14 - 11:19 am
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Par 3...

Par 3 No one was criticizing the hard work and efforts of Mr. Williams and others who contribute so much to the community. What we are pointing out is there is nothing in Augusta or the surrounding area which can make it a "destination city" and there is nothing wrong with that.

Augusta is an excellent place to live and work, even with its flaws. That's why I chose to retire here 24 years ago.

There is nothing wrong or adverse about not being a "destination city". The thing to do is to do the best with what you have and that is exactly what people such as Mr. Williams are doing.

So please don't take the comments as a slap at Mr. Williams or any other hard working area person who contributes so much.

My hometown of Savannah is a "destination city" and I don't think I would want to live there anymore. Because of all the outsiders and continuous influx of tourists, most of the people I grew up with have moved to Richmond Hill, Effingham, and other counties to get away from what the city has become.

Being a "destination city" may not be all that it's cracked up to be. Let's capitalize on what we have rather than "what we ain't got".

historylover
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historylover 08/24/14 - 11:27 am
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Hoptoad

As a member of a national veteran's group, we have had three of our reunions here over the years. While it may not be apparent to those of us who live here, there are several things that groups can do while visiting. Our group loved the Canal boat tour. We had a picnic lunch served on board and a wonderful tour guide. The Museum at Ft. Gordon was another favorite. We also now have tour trolley buses that you can rent for groups and do historic tours and even ghost tours at night. All of these things add up to not a whole lot, but at lest they can keep a group of retirees happy for a few days. Oh, the Augusta Museum and the Morris Museum, the Lucy Laney Craft Museum are a few other spots to check out.

No I would not consider Augusta a destination city. Mainly because we have never developed our Riverfront or our Canal to truly drive tourism. Still all in all, there are things out there if you look for them.

hoptoad
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hoptoad 08/24/14 - 03:15 pm
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History, thanks for reminding

History, thanks for reminding me of these museums, canal tour, etc. I guess we were thinking along different lines, but these would be great also and I will mention them to my friend.

harley_52
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harley_52 08/24/14 - 04:22 pm
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Don't Allow Yourself To Get Hung Up On...

....the term "destination city." Whether, or not, Augusta is a "destination city" depends entirely upon what you're seeking. Art, fishing, surfing, mountain climbing, golf, fine dining, night life, or whatever? Depending on your interest, Augusta may be, or may not be, at the top of your list of desirable destinations.

I think there is a broader message here and it's an important one. Mr. Williams says....."I FELT IT NECESSARY to write this to you, Augusta, because sometimes you seem to miss out on your blessings that are not as loudly announced. Sometimes it seems the negative speakers are louder than the positive ones."

Augusta has its problems, for sure. We hear them trumpeted on these AC boards day after day, after day, all day, all night, a constant barrage of negativity and scorn, much of it coming from people who don't even live in Augusta, but enjoy working here. Augusta also has its positives. You don't hear so much about them on these boards, and when you do the author is roundly ridiculed and attacked by the naysayers.

It's refreshing to see someone take the time and make the effort to say good things about Augusta.

Thank you, Mr. Williams.

Boudreaux
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Boudreaux 08/24/14 - 07:16 pm
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Destination city?

I spent Friday evening in Augusta for the first time in years. We had a hard time finding entertainment for the night, let alone the weekend. We went downtown and although a couple places were ok, we didn't feel comfortable with the gangs crowding the street, rudeness, not giving people room to walk, profanity, just a total lack of respect for everyone. It is a real shame, it could be such a beautiful place. As far as I can tell, unless your headed to a big box store or the Masters, there is no good reason to go to Augusta.

Young Fred
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Young Fred 08/24/14 - 08:58 pm
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I for one

appreciate Mr Williams' sentiments.

Augusta has alot going for it. Enough to make her residents proud, but not quite enough to make this a destination outside the Masters.

Even within a two hour trip, there are better choices than Augusta. Make that a three or four hour trip and Augusta doesn't even make the top five destinations.

What a shame! A little vision could change that perception.

But those of us that know her can find plenty to entertain ourselves, as can any city of our size.

itsanotherday1
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itsanotherday1 08/24/14 - 09:26 pm
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I would say that Mr Williams'

I would say that Mr Williams' experience with a full house is out of the ordinary for sure. I've been disappointed time after time with the poor support the CSRA provides their sporting teams, the arts, etc. The only thing you can count on is for them to flock to restaurants.

It isn't a slap at Augusta either, but rather at the whole CSRA. Just last night I went to an event in Columbia County. We saw Coriander Blue, Thom Bresh, and the Malpass Brothers. Who are they you say? Look them up on youtube. Great performances all; and well worth the $27 ticket price.
The rub? The place was barely half full despite plenty of advertising. That is just shameful for an area this size, especially considering there were a lot of people there from outside of the area; one from Indiana or some place up that way.

Nice area to live? Sure, or we wouldn't still be here. Destination? Not a chance.

Bodhisattva
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Bodhisattva 08/25/14 - 04:53 am
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Like I said, county music,

Like I said, county music, country music, and country music. We did go see Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, a fantastic show by a super talented group. Cheech and Chong and War? Old jokes, War might be cool if the band wasn't down to one original member and the nose bleed seats weren't $29.50. Love Count Basie, but he's been dead since 1984, the same with Glenn Miller except he's been dead since 1944. Blind Boys of Alabama, like them, seen them at a festival with about 8 other bands for 20 bucks, not the cheapest tickets for $59. You have to be freakin' kidding? That's about what we paid to see Cosby, Stills, Nash, and Young do a 2 1/2 hour gig. Janis Siegel, seen her with Manhattan Transfer, she's fabulous and worth attending for $30. There are some decent ones out there, but the pricing on some seems way out of line with what you're getting.

Young Fred
20919
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Young Fred 08/25/14 - 10:35 am
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Arts in the Heart

and Westobou are events I look forward to each year. They're also events I pay to attend (hotel rooms, tickets, etc). BUT other cities offer the same, and tend to do it better. Augusta should concentrate and focus on what makes her unique.

If only the downdraggers would get out of her way!

jusjim5290
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jusjim5290 08/30/14 - 08:26 am
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En route, to my destination city: how I found myself in Augusta.

I am a retired businessman from California who has been to your city twice. I had located an automobile that was way past due for bank collections and called a cab to get me to the vehicle. The drivers semi-circuitous route included a building with a large red door. The place seemed 'full of character'. " That's where JB got his start" was all the driver said. My Job has taken me to forty five states, most eight, nine times. Also, two or three places more dangerous than the one I was in that nite. The only thing that could make Augusta a true tourist destination would be an annual Iron man triathalon, using the route that JB took to evade capture. A counterpoint to the conservative, and some say, stodgy 'masters week'. Lastly, if not for tourists, for your kids , I believe the chronicle should get that scientist who commented about toxic dumping in your river there to actually quantify the levels, instead of simply saying "We really need the things the polluters make."I was really surprised that, as a scientist,after disputing numbers, he made no attempt to show us some lower ones.I am astounded that we have not figured a way to test for such a thing as a polluted river that everyone can agree!!! What is it the Brits say? Dodgy....

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