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County extends hours, sets contingency plan for drag strip

Catoosa County commissioners extended the curfew for a local drag strip Tuesday night, June 20, and also created a contingency plan for speedways during bad weather scenarios.

For the last few years, Catoosa's two speedways, Boyd Speedway and Brainerd Optimist Drag Strip, have been running to two different curfew deadlines.

According to County Attorney Chad Young, the discrepancy began with a court order back in the early '90s.

"Boyd Speedway has been in existence since before we had zoning regulations in the county about racetracks," Young said. "Their (Boyd's) operation is regulated by a court order from a nuisance case in the 1990s and provides that Boyd Speedway can race until the hour of 11:30 p.m. on any given night. Our motor speedway ordinance that regulates Brainerd Optimist Drag Strip and any other or future motor speedway in the county also contains a curfew for how late racing can occur, but it says that the cutoff is 11 p.m. each night. So there's a discrepancy allowing one speedway to operate a half-hour later because of this court order."

The existing court order allows Boyd an extra half-hour for its racing events, a courtesy Young says should be extended to Brainerd Optimist Drag Strip.

"We would need an adjusted amendment to the rule to allow both speedways to operate with the same curfew," Young said.

Commissioner Jeff Long also suggested adding an amendment to the ordinance that allows additional operating hours in the event of unforeseen circumstances.

"We need to look at an amendment for certain situations," Long said. "A rain delay or an accident or something...they still want to finish up those racing events. So maybe we could

put an amendment in there that maybe up to three times a year they can go until 12 o'clock (midnight) if there's an emergency, but that they have to call 911 and advise the sheriff's department if they're going to be running over."

Brainerd Optimist Drag Strip official Steven Farrow says an additional half-hour would go a long way toward helping finish events.

"We have people traveling here from out of state for these races, and there's a purse and points involved," Farrow said. "There's been times if we had 10 or 15 (more) minutes we could have been done. It's important that we finish these races."

The curfew extension for Brainerd Optimist Drag Strip was approved with a 4-1 vote and included the new contingency plan for all speedways that would allow additional hours in the event of unforeseen circumstances.

The only vote against the curfew extension came from Commissioner Jim Cutler, who says he's not against the drag strip, but wanted to vote as the voice of his district since that's where the strip sits.

"A large portion of that (the drag strip) sits in my district," Cutler said, "A large portion of those people do not like the noise. I personally like the motor speedway, but I have to vote the conscience of the people."

The commission also mentioned revisiting the court order in place regarding Boyd Speedway.

Young said the order was created before the county had a speedway ordinance, and that the county could look at having it dissolved by Superior Court judge Ralph Van Pelt now that it has an ordinance on the books to regulate speedway activity.

SonShine: Christian books and gifts in Fort Oglethorpe

Karen Demastus

Sometimes very good things come in small packages. SonShine Christian Book Store, located next to Planet Fitness in Fort Oglethorpe, is one of those little treasures.

"In many ways, I can't compete with the online stores," says owner Karen Demastus. "But we have a lot more than people might think, and we offer the personal service that only a local business can."

SonShine has been in business for 12 years. "We bought the store when it was located in LaFayette," says Demastus, "then we bought a second Christian bookstore in Fort Oglethorpe – Harvest Time Celebrations."

Demastus said it became apparent pretty quickly that two stores, even with the help of relatives, were too much to handle, so they consolidated the two into the one in Fort Oglethorpe, keeping the name of the original shop in LaFayette.

Things have changed over the years, says Demastus. "It's hard for a bricks-andmortar bookstore and gift shop to stay in business. Both Rome and Dalton recently lost their only Christian bookstores. Christian publishers like Zondervan and Thomas Nelson have been bought out by secular publishing houses."

Demastus considers what she does as much ministry as business. She focuses on bringing in merchandise and services that will enrich her customers' lives and help them reach out to others.

One of the more popular features at SonShine is their MyMedia Burnbar. "If you want specific music for a wedding or funeral or just for personal listening," says Demastus, "we can customize and burn a CD for you." The store also carries a variety of Christian music and soundtracks, as well as concerts and movies on DVD.

Bibles are one of SonShine's biggest

SonShine Christian Store

1841 Battlefield Parkway, Fort Oglethorpe. Hours: Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information: 706-861-7675 or

sellers. "We have many versions and varieties, and imprinting is available, often at the time of purchase," says Demastus. There are also plenty of Bible accessories, including covers and bags, tabs and highlighters, and there are study guides to enhance Bible reading.

The shop carries popular Christian books, both fiction and nonfiction. There's a full line of greeting cards, post cards, bookmarks, message cards and stickers. There's also a large selection of gospel tracts, including Chick tracts.

Church, Sunday School and Vacation Bible School supplies are also a focus of SonShine.

For those searching for the perfect faith-based gift, the choices at SonShine are many: jewelry, Kerusso T-shirts, ties, hats, mugs, figurines and home decor. There are gifts specifically for parents, grandparents, sons, daughters, teachers and pastors. The store carries special items for new parents and has a children's section.

Holiday times, especially Christmas and Easter, bring in special merchandise.

"There are so many precious people who come in here," says Demastus. "I've made wonderful friends and have had all kinds of good and interesting conversations. I've grown in the Lord being in this business. You want to be able to help people, direct them to passages in Scripture when they're hurting, sometimes even challenge someone to think more deeply.

"I wouldn't trade any amount of money for the experience of this store, even with its challenges and struggles," Demastus says. "God knows where to put you. The journey has been sweet and we continue to press on even when so many have not been able to survive the changes the internet has produced."

Shop-Rite in Ringgold closes after more than half-century

After more than 60 years of satisfying the grocery needs of the community, the Shop-Rite grocery in Ringgold recently closed its doors.

According to Shop-Rite Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Todd Richardson, the closing of the store was a sad day for the community.

"We are saddened that we had to close the Ringgold location," Richardson said.

The Ringgold store opened up in 1956 and was the first location for the chain that now includes stores in North Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama.

Some residents were taken by surprise when the store closed last month, after being a staple in the community for decades.

"It's very sad," said Catoosa County resident Millie Butler. "I've been going there since I was a kid. It'll be strange the store not being there anymore."

Richardson, a thirdgeneration member of the family that started the company, said via email that he isn't at liberty to comment on specifics surrounding the closing.

During a 2011 interview celebrating the store's 55th anniversary, Richardson credited the store's longevity on quality and great relationships with customers.

"It just goes to show you that if you provide quality products, quality service, and if you treat people right, they'll keep coming back to you."