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Nevaeh Graves, a third-grader at Pepperell Elementary School

Plenty to do this weekend, rain or shine

Update: The Peach State Marching Band Festival has been canceled due to weather and will not be rescheduled. 

Despite the rain, there’s a lot to do this weekend — including the Chiaha Harvest Fair.

The second Floyd Fights Hunger meal packing event will go on as scheduled at Rome High from 10 a.m. to noon but that event is not nearly as dependent on the weather. The United Way-sponsored event will use more than 150 community volunteers, many from United Way agencies as well as members of the Rome Rotary Club, coming together to package more than 60,000 meals.

Two different meal packages will be put together, one of them a macaroni and cheese plated meal and the other a tomato basil pasta-based meal with vitamins and minerals added to offset a recipient’s typically unbalanced diet. The inaugural event last year saw almost 53,000 meals packaged for distribution.

Habitat for Humanity’s Hard Hats and High Heels gala will be held at the Courtyard Rome Riverwalk on Saturday night at 6 p.m. Musician Scott Thompson will entertain following a dinner. That event was essentially a sell-out as of Friday afternoon and like the Floyd Fights Hunger, won’t be impacted by the weather.

Chiaha Harvest Fair, one of the oldest arts and crafts fairs in Northwest Georgia, is in its 55th year. Vendors were setting up tents at Ridge Ferry Park in the rain Friday until organizers actually had to stop to allow sites to drain.

The official weather station at Richard B. Russell Regional Airport recorded almost 2 inches of rain between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Friday. As of 4 p.m., the airport had received a total of 2.66 inches.

The fair has 170 vendor booths on the map, but it remains to be seen if everyone shows up given the forecast. Chiaha is a juried event, which means that vendors are judged on the quality of their work.

Andi Beyer with the Chiaha Harvest Guild said the event will go on rain or shine.

Chiaha raises funds that are used to support arts scholarships at Berry and Georgia Highlands College as well as mini-grants for people in both the performing and visual arts. The fair will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for students and senior citizens. Children 11 and under get in for $1.

The Peach State Marching Festival was expected to attract some two dozen high school bands from Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee marching on the artificial turf at Barron Stadium.

Weekend voting for Rome city election available at Civic Center Saturday and Sunday

Rome residents wanting to cast early ballots for the Rome City Commission race this weekend can head up to historic Jackson Hill where polling stations will be set up in Rome Civic Center Saturday and Sunday.

Polls will be open at 402 Civic Center Drive from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Early voters also can cast ballots during the week at both the Floyd County Administration Building at 12 E. Fourth Ave. and the Floyd County Health Department at 16 E. 12th St. from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Nov. 1.

On Election Day, Nov. 5, polls in the six city precincts will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Every registered voter in Rome can select three commission candidates in both Wards 1 and 3. The five candidates running in Ward 1 are incumbents Sundai Stevenson, Milton Slack and Bill Irmscher and challengers Mark Cochran and Jim Bojo. The four candidates running for Ward 3 seats are incumbents Bill Collins and Craig McDaniel and challengers Bonny Askew and J.J. Walker Seifert.

Voters also will decide whether establishments with at least 50% of sales in alcohol will be able to serve drinks starting at 11 a.m. on Sundays, instead of the current 12:30 p.m. pour time. This is known as the “Brunch Bill.”

Smith sentenced to life for malice murder

A Floyd County senior judge told a man found guilty of murdering the mother of his newborn son that he is at the top of the list of despicable murderers before handing down a life sentence plus 12 years.

Nakotah Javez Smith, 34, shot the mother of their two children in the head on June 15, 2018, in a West 13th Street apartment the two shared. Crystal Dawn Vega, 30, died three days later in Floyd Medical Center leaving behind a 2-year-old toddler by another man, and a 1-year-old and a newborn by Smith.

“Nakotah Smith is a violent, violent man,” Assistant District Attorney Emily Johnson said. “His youngest son was sitting upstairs in NICU when his mom was brought in (to the hospital) with a gunshot wound to the head.”

Johnson was arguing Smith should get a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Johnson argues Smith showed no remorse immediately after the shooting or during the trial. The defendant walked up the street to hide the weapon and drugs, leaving the mother of his children bleeding on the floor, Johnson said.

Chief Public Defender Sean Lowe told Judge Walter Matthews there was no need to have life without parole, saying a life sentence would be plenty. Lowe asked the court to allow Smith the possibility to get out in his 60s to be a father and a brother.

Smith’s sister LaDonna Smith spoke in his defense saying her brother was loving, caring and strong. It didn’t matter who he came across, he wouldn’t speak ill against them, she said.

“Don’t take my brother away from me please,” she said.

The sister of the victim, Tiffany Vega, read a letter from another sister who wasn’t present at the sentencing. Vega said she prays the court will have no mercy on Smith because he had none for her sister.

“It is my sincere, fervent hope you never see the light of day again because you don’t deserve it,” Matthews said to Smith as he handed down his sentence.

Smith was sentenced to life plus 12 years to run consecutively. He declined the opportunity to say anything to the court before Matthews handed down his sentence.

“Since October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month, I hope people will read about a case like this and report domestic violence if they see it or know about it,” District Attorney Leigh Patterson said. “Every 9 seconds, a woman in the U.S. is beaten or assaulted by a current or ex-significant other. I would like to encourage everyone to offer help to someone if they know that person is being abused.

“The most dangerous time for a battered woman is when she makes the decision to leave and her abuser realizes he has lost control over her. Crystal Vega had a plan to leave and was trying to get away when the defendant stole that chance from her.”

Cooking began at 3 a.m. for up to 200 at annual FCSO celebration

Retired Floyd County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Ricky Agan remembers when patrol cars used to have one single revolving light on top and there were fewer than 100 inmates in the jail.

“I’ve been here through four sheriffs,” said Agan, who now works maintenance at the facility after serving 33 years total for those sheriffs.

Fast forward to the present and there are now more than 550 people housed at the jail and multiple light bars atop patrol vehicles.

Agan is one of more than 150 retired and current employees who enjoyed the annual Sheriff’s Homecoming barbecue to honor those who dedicated parts of their lives to public service.

The brainchild of current Sheriff Tim Burkhalter in 2011, barbecue preparations began at 3 a.m. Friday with the grilling and smoking of the 10 Boston butts, 33 racks of ribs and 90 chicken breasts and didn’t end until 3 p.m. when 5 gallons each of coleslaw, baked beans and potato salad also were polished off.

“This really is like coming home every year,” Tim Baird, a deputy in the warrants division before retiring in 2011, said as he visited with those he used to work with under the mobile kitchen awning. “We’re all family.”

Baird, who now has rental units and enjoys flying his private plane, said he suffered two severe injuries while arresting suspects over the years.

“I’m still having surgeries for ruptured discs,” he said as he tried to avoid the rain dripping off the edge of the awning. “I would rather be at work. I miss it. You get used to coming in and working with all these people and suddenly it’s over.”

Richard Wilson was a sergeant for more than 13 years before taking a position as a special agent with the state prison system in 2015. He said he still sees many of his former colleagues on a weekly basis.

Then there’s Maj. Dave Roberson, who continues to serve under the sheriff for his 24th year.

“It’s in my blood, I guess,” Roberson said. “My father retired from the Rome Police Department after 40 years and my brother is chief of operations for Rome fire. This is a great thing Sheriff Burkhalter does for us every year.”

Also anxiously awaiting the meal cooked up by jail food service provider Skillet Kitchen was K-9 Deputy Jimmy Allred. He said he loves his job of 32 years, and hopes to be able to keep it for many years to come.

“I get to run around with my dog all day, so I’m good,” he said of his Belgian malinois, Rhett.

Busily working behind the scenes to make sure the dining area set up in the temporary training rooms was festive and welcoming, Executive Office Manager Mechelle Cliatt lit the votive candles on each table she decorated with pumpkins and fall colors.

For Cliatt, this is her way of showing respect for the many hard-working employees and retirees she’s been honored to know over the years.

“I love what I do,” said Cliatt, who has worked for the sheriff’s office since 1997 and the county since 1990. “Some of the retirees are older, so we like to make sure they are comfortable, especially on a rainy day like today. This room will fill up for sure. It’s wonderful.”