Leila S. Case: Steppin’ in ‘high cotton’

Published 2:00 pm Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Gourmet meals, live stage performances and even a pleasant surprise top my list this week.
I felt like I was steppin’ in “high cotton” standing with former Mayor Russell Thomas Jr., Sybil Smith and Kent Sole when we were dubbed Lifetime Friends of the Rylander Tuesday and given an “Oscar” look-alike statuette engraved with our names to prove it.
Wow. How special and what a privilege to be included among this threesome I consider movers and shakers — a humbling experience. Although we are different individuals we think alike when it comes to the Rylander: the need to have a thriving performance venue for the betterment of this community. Americus is fortunate to have the Rylander Theatre vibrant and well maintained today thanks to the hard work of Heather Stanley, the competent managing director.
Applause, applause must go to the late Mayor Tom Gailey who envisioned the restoration and reopening of the theater that had been closed 50 years and left to deteriorate and to Thomas whose matchless leadership and expert guidance made it all become a reality during his second term as mayor in the late ‘90s.
Smith, then chief executive officer for the city, was totally committed to the mammoth effort that concluded with the theater’s grand reopening on Oct. 1, 1999, to celebrate President Jimmy Carter’s birthday. Her dedication has continued through the years with the excellent advice and leadership she so unselfishly gave to the Friends of the Rylander.
Sole’s loyalty to the Friends and Theatre Authority is singular and impressive. He has gone above and beyond by giving valuable leadership to these organizations through his time, talent and energy that is rarely seen in any group.
Lastly, I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a part of the team that helped open the jewel of a building — and I am so grateful for the long association I’ve enjoyed since with the Theatre Authority and the Friends’ boards. Serving an organization that helps the growth of our community is dear to my heart; it continues to be a meaningful, significant part of my life.
By the way, my Rylander “Oscar-ette” is front row center on the bookshelf in my home office. Sure makes me feel like a star.
Bill Harris Jr., vice chair of Friends of the Rylander, conducted the organization’s annual meeting at Café Campesino, along with Heather Stanley. Among those attending were Dr. Jim Dudley and Mike Saliba, long-time Rylander supporters and Americus High classmates. Their association with the theater began when they were children, attending movies and often staying all afternoon. Among others present were Michelle and Dr. Ben Andrews, Anne Peagler, Bill Krenson, Mark Pace, Maggie McGruther, Julie Megginson, Tracy Hall, Shirley Litwhiler, Elizabeth Gurley, Tom and Diane Harrison, Bruce Case, Lori Shivers, Mark and Anne Barrett, Caroline Herndon, and it was fun to see Scott Ulmstead and Faith Fuller, who are visiting from their home in Mexico.
Incidentally, the Rylander will be “rockin’” tonight with the music of The Beatles and rock legend Paul McCartney. “The McCartney Years” concert, a Friends presentation, opens at 8 p.m. If you don’t already have tickets the box office opens at 7 p.m. Seating is reserved. The performers, Yuri Pool, as McCartney, follow the rock legend’s career for a 20-year period encompassing his time with The Beatles and Wings. So, don’t miss this concert. It is a winner.
The GSW Concert Series’ Faculty and Friends performance Thursday at Jackson Hall was outstanding. The concert performers were Julie Megginson, soprano; Lisa Davis, soprano; Robert Bryant, euphonium; Thomas Bone, mandolin; Fred Bone, guitars; Alwen Yeung, piano; the music of the GSW Jazz Ensemble and debut performance of the Southwest Georgia Big Band directed by Mark Laughlin. It was all glorious and can’t wait for more from these musicians. Afterwards, Kelly and Therese McCoy hosted a delightful reception at their home on West College Street.
Earlier in the week, the Men’s Club of Calvary Episcopal Church hosted an extraordinary fundraiser, a Cajun feast that was delicious and began with turtle soup topped with sherry, steamed crawfish, bondin balls, gumbo, red beans and rice. King’s cake capped the meal. Rod Marchant, chief chef, was assisted by men of the church, including Fr. Jeff Wallace. Some of those attending were Charlie and Pamela Sellers and their children Michael and Mattie, Americus residents for about a year.
Enjoying hot dogs and fries at Monroe’s was Sara Beth Thomas Wolcott and infant daughter, Madison, of Alpharetta, and the former’s parents, Angie and Russell Thomas III who is sporting a beard; while former resident Mary Wysochansky of Santa Rosa, Florida, was sharing pizza at Pat’s Place with her son and daughter-in-law, Calvin and Gina Defenbau, and her grandchildren.  And smile and say hello to Kyle and Kara Hudspeth, guests of his parents, Zona and Phil Buchen.
I’ll see you at the Rylander tonight. It promises to be a rockin’ good time.

Leila S. Case lives in Americus.