Leila Case: We’ve come a long way

Published 2:04 pm Monday, January 29, 2018

Some years ago, as a member of the Americus-Sumter County Arts Council along with a few others on the council’s board of directors, I attended a statewide conference at the King and Prince Hotel on St. Simons Island.
The focus of the three-day meeting was devoted to promoting the arts presented by experts in that field. They addressed topics ranging from fundraising to “friend-raising” ideas and we came away with a lot of helpful information.
The conference’s outstanding keynote speaker, whose name I don’t recall today, was the director for a metropolitan museum. His remarks were impressive, especially the fact that art-related sites are a positive means toward rejuvenating an area of a city, no matter the size, that was once vibrant.
Then the arts council was in a space on Cotton Avenue that had a wonderful art gallery, an office and two other rooms open to members for a studio. Dr. Jim Dudley took advantage of the space and enjoyed painting there.
During the past 20-something years great strides have been made in that once forgotten area of our city.
The area literally bustles with activity.
Habitat for Humanity International’s Americus operational headquarters anchors the block on West Lamar between Dudley Street and Cotton Avenue and is a beehive of activity. The three-story structure that once housed Rylander Ford Co. was totally reconfigured, renovated and opened with much fanfare in the late 1990s.
A few doors away is an Americus treasure. The Rylander Theatre, built in 1921, was restored and reopened in the fall of 1999. Since that red-letter day in the Rylander’s history, there have been a myriad of live performances, concerts, dance recitals and even on-stage weddings, wedding rehearsals and galas that over the years have attracted thousands. Restaurants — The Station and 1800 — are nearby as well as Rylander Park, where folks can sit and relax. Over the years, the park has provided space for outdoor concerts, an ice skating rink, festivals, the “Taste of Sumter” and even a craft beer/glass blowing fest last spring.
A number of other professional offices and retail businesses are located in that area. One of the largest changes in the past two years is the total renaissance of the block encompassing West Forsyth, Hampton Street and West Lamar Street. And the Americus/Sumter Arts Council headquarters is on West Forsyth Street and offers varied programs from art lessons, special events and art shows.
Personally I’m pleased that our community leaders, past and present, moved forward to rejuvenate that area of downtown. It’s a lively place — let’s keep it going.
I’m hopeful the folks with the Small Business Revolution (reality TV show) that visited earlier this week were duly impressed with Americus. It would be great to have Americus become a finalist among the small cities vying for the $500,000 grant and ultimately named the winner that will be announced Feb. 12.
Meanwhile, as we suffered during the recent cold snap that had temps dipping to 19 degrees F., some folks were enjoying a winter vacation in Italy.
Nick Owens and James Edgemon spent eight days in Italy, visiting Rome, Naples, Florence, and Venice. Some highlights were a guided tour of the coliseum and Ancient Rome, Vatican City, Sistine Chapel, and they did a lot of walking. They enjoyed excellent pizza in Naples and toured various places in Florence including the museum that holds the statue of David. They found Venice amazing and unique with all the water taxis and canals. Welcome home, guys.
Alex Riccardi is home from a mini-vacation to Las Vegas, which I describe as Disney World for adults.
Bennett Vann celebrated his first birthday in great style at a party hosted by his parents Brandon and Lauren Vann that had a wild duck theme. Bennett had his own small cake shaped like a mallard duck that he dove right into with both hands and loved every bite.
Others celebrating birthdays this week were Everett Byrd, who was honored by Crystal and Mark Waddell, and Anne Barrett was celebrated at a family dinner at the Windsor’s Rosemary & Thyme.
Among visitors here from out of town last week were Kathy Ray of Auburn, Alabama, Katherine Waldrop of Macon, and Joy Schwartz of Savannah.
The Drifters, the familiar and long-lived American R&B band, were in concert here at the Rylander Theatre Jan. 19, performing before a sell-out crowd of enthusiastic admirers. Their music had the crowd up on their feet jumping and jiving and giving standing ovations. The performers had a good taste of Americus’ warm hospitality. They enjoyed a pre-concert dinner at The Station, breakfast at Café Campesino and were overnight guests at the Windsor Hotel.

Leila Sisson Case lives in Americus.