The first annual Butterfly Festival will take place at Heritage High School in Ringgold on Saturday, Sept. 2, in an effort to raise money for two scholarship funds dedicated to the memory of a beloved teen who died last year.
Last year on Labor Day, Catoosa County lost one of its favorite daughters in 18-year-old Katie Beth Carter, who was killed in a automobile accident on her way back to college at Jacksonville State University (JSU) in Alabama.
Now, a year later, her family and friends have organized the Butterfly Festival as a way of garnering the necessary money needed for the Katie Beth Memorial Scholarships that'll be awarded to students of both JSU, and Heritage High School.
Amy Carter, Katie Beth's mother, says she hopes the festival becomes an annual event that families look forward to each year.
"This festival, which we hope to make an annual event, is an opportunity to invite the community, which has been so incredibly supportive to our family, to gather together and enjoy some family time," Carter said. "The proceeds from this event will be used to continue building up the scholarship funds so they will eventually become self-sustaining and allow students the opportunity to receive these for many years to come, even after we are gone. We have already awarded the first scholarship to Heritage High School graduate Alya Gilbert, who is now attending Lee University. Katie Beth was an education major at JSU and both her parents are educators, so it is important to us to invest in the education of these students."
So far, the family has received a lot of support and encouragement while organizing the festival.
"We really just launched the festival a short time ago, because we weren't sure if all the family was going to be ok with the idea," Carter said. "Once we got their approval, we ran with it. We have a full line up of musicians, Scenic City Dance Center (Katie Beth's former dance studio) will be performing. We have over a dozen arts and craft vendors booked, food trucks/vendors, face-painting by Deb (Chattanooga Market), and more."
The event will also include a butterfly and balloon release. Butterflies hold special significance for those who loved the teen, as they've become a source of inspiration since the tragedy.
"Yellow butterflies have become what we call a "God wink" for Katie Beth's friends, family, and the community since we lost her," Carter said. "They seem to keep appearing at the most unique times and places along our paths, even at the site of the Katie Beth Carter Memorial High School that is being built in Tomas Borge, Nicaragua right now. It started the day of her burial and has continued throughout the past year, so we thought it would be appropriate to include them as a way to honor her." The gate fee for the event is $10 per person and $5 for children under 3, with a $50 maximum per family. All proceeds will be deposited into the KBC scholarship fund.
"It should be a lot of fun for the families that come, and we hope to make this an annual event," Carter said.
Ringgold's City Council recently discussed the possibility of packaged distilled spirits being sold inside the city limits after it was learned that several city residents are working on a petition to get the issue put on November's ballot.
"There is currently a petition going around the city," Mayor Nick Millwood said during the Aug. 14 City Council meeting. "Someone is paying someone to go door-to-door and collect signatures. It's my understanding they have a goal of having it on this November's ballot."
In addition to the door-to-door effort, The Dapper Gentleman shop across from the Ringgold Depot held opportunities for residents to come in and sign the petition.
Millwood says he's begun looking at how other municipalities police the establishments and sales through their ordinances, and thinks it's a good idea for the city to prepare for if or when the item gets on the ballot.
"What I did was I called around surrounding cities and tried to find a quality ordinance so that we don't have things like a packaged store on every corner, or any hole in the wall or things like that," Millwood said. "This is to limit the number that could come into the city, but to also make sure that if it does get on a referendum and get passed on the ballot, that we have something that protects the city and makes sure it's a respectable establishment."
Millwood says he found an ordinance the city could work off of, and that he passed it along to the council.
"I did find a good ordinance that I have provided the council with," he said. "It's something that we're not going to be voting on tonight, but come the end of the month, if the signatures are collected, we'll have to get a little more serious about it then. I wanted to make sure the council had this in hand. There's not really anything for us to vote on, but I wanted to initiate the conversation since that process (petition) has begun." Councilwoman Sara Clark said the city would need to find the right ordinance that addresses the needs of the city and thinks it'll be a little while before the council has to take any type of vote on the matter.
"I'd like to clarify...I don't even think at the end of the month we would be voting on anything," Clark said. "I think that the end of the month, depending on how the referendum item goes as far as signatures are concerned, it would then be a beginning point for discussion. I don't want anyone to assume we are going to start voting on something by the end of the month."
A former Ringgold court clerk, arrested in 2015 for allegedly stealing city funds, pleaded guilty to theft charges Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 23, in Catoosa County Superior Court.
Tracy Alan Bass, 54, of Fort Oglethorpe was sentenced to 20 years probation, but will only have to spend one day in jail.
Bass was Ringgold's court clerk for years before being arrested Dec. 8, 2015, on charges of theft, computer forgery, tampering with evidence, and interference with government property.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) determined that Bass, who handled city payments for tickets, fines and court fees, allegedly altered payment records in the city's computer system and then skimmed thousands of dollars in the process over a more than two-year period. He even attempted to shred documents in his office after being questioned by GBI agents the day before is arrest, officials said.
Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 23, Bass pleaded guilty to the charges, followed by Judge Don Thompson sentencing him to 20 years probation, restitution fees, and 24 hours jail time.
The court heard testimony from a GBI agent, Ringgold's city manager, as well as from Bass and his wife before the sentence was imposed.
The sentence includes Bass paying $61,398.75 in restitution, $36,000 of which must be paid back within 90 days.
Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney Alan Norton says Bass entered his plea back in March.
"He (Bass) pleaded guilty March 1 and that was done without recommendation, meaning the state did not offer Mr. Bass any type of deal," Norton said.
As far as Bass' minor jail time goes, he was ordered to serve his 24-hour jail sentence sometime within the next 14 days.