A1 A1
Aerobatics competition flying Friday, hopeful for good weather Saturday

Friday’s looking good but the organizers of the Mark Fullerton memorial 2019 Bear Creek Bash are casting a wary eye to the weather on Saturday.

This year’s event is dedicated to Mark Fullerton, contest director of the event the past few years and manager of the US Aerobatic Team that competed last year in Romania.

Charlie Sikes, the organizer of the event, said they’ve had 20-22 pilots register for the event set for Friday and Saturday. With the weather forecast, the number of pilots that show could be cut in half. Despite that they’ve got good weather Friday and are planning on flying all day, Sikes said. The pilots will meet at 7 a.m. and will begin flying at 7:30 a.m.

It’s even bringing in some local talent.

A local father and son, both pilots, are looking forward to their first aerobatics competition.

Rick Ferrin has been flying 47 years and Dan Ferrin has been flying for 22 years, but for each of them this is a first. Rick Ferrin, a 767 pilot for UPS, said while he has been in the cockpit of a plane for over 37,000 hours of flight time, the flights planned for the next couple of days will be particularly exciting.

This time he’s flying them with his son. While they’ll each fly their separate routines they’ll be competing against each other in the primary division.

It’s been dry in Rome since the event was originally postponed in June, but now this Saturday it looks like not only rain but likely storms.

According to the National Weather Service:

There’s an increasing chance of showers Saturday, beginning at 4 a.m. with a low around 52. Rain showers are likely throughout the day with wind gusts as high as 15 mph. The high will reach to around 65.

'My story is not going to be the last one,' domestic violence survivor says

“We have a lack of mental health care in this country. We’ve had 18 years of war without end. And we have veterans coming home every day. This is a very volatile combination and my story is not going to be the last one.”

Those were the words the keynote speaker left her audience to ponder Thursday at the Hospitality House for Women candlelight vigil.

About 50 people gathered at Rotary Plaza to honor and remember local people who lost their lives to domestic violence — and to encourage the survivors.

“We all know a survivor of domestic violence,” said Lee Niedrach, who chairs the nonprofit’s board. “You may not know who that person is but I guarantee, you know somebody or are a survivor yourself.”

Niedrach spoke of the strength and courage it takes for people to decide to leave their old life, knowing the risks involved in asserting that control.

Wooden silhouettes at the side of the stage bore plaques telling the stories of three local women who tried, but died anyway.

Kimberly Ware was 39 when she was shot to death by her estranged husband. Brenda Keller, 41, and her 13-year-old daughter were shot by her husband, who later killed himself. An ex-boyfriend shot and beat to death 16-year-old Tierra Sparks while he was out on bond for a previous attack.

The risk still remains for the keynote speaker, who shared her story but asked that her name and identifying details be kept private.

An educated woman with a good job and happy children, she said she never thought it could happen to her. But a “perfect” second husband, a newly retired military officer, descended into the madness of PTSD within 20 months of their marriage.

“There were no red flags,” she said.

She tried to get him help — through the Veterans Administration and private doctors — but it was the local police who saved her when he tried to break into the house to kill her.

He’s now on probation and banned from Georgia, she said, but she lives with the knowledge that the voices in his head could send him back at any time.

“I lost my job. I went through bankruptcy. My children will always bear the effects of that trauma, and I have issues, too,” she said, her voice breaking but her head held high.

Juanita Luther fought just as hard for control of her life, but her story turned out differently. She touched the heart of Hospitality House Executive Director Lynn Rousseau, who told of the eight years Luther struggled to take her child and go.

“She’d check in every six months or so to tell me, ‘I just wanted you to know he hasn’t killed me yet,’” Rousseau said.

But in December 2011, Rousseau got the call. Luther’s husband shot her in the face in front of their young son.

“We should have been able to prevent that ... but there doesn’t need to be another 13-year-old watching his father kill his mother,” Rousseau said.

The vigil was aimed at raising awareness of domestic violence in the community and the services Hospitality House can provide. For more information — about help or helping — visit HospitalityHouseForWomen.org or call the 24-hour crisis line at 706-235-HOPE (4673).

City Commission candidates gather one last time for NAACP forum

Get out and vote.

That was the main message heard by more than 45 voters gathered for more than three hours Thursday night at the NAACP Candidate Forum for the Rome City Commission race.

“I’m probably the only member of this panel up here who at one time couldn’t vote,” said Commissioner Milton Slack, a black resident who has lived in the same house off Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. for 49 years and represented Ward 1 for 12 years. “So it’s a very important thing to me to be able to vote. I would walk 90 miles in the snow to vote.”

Slack, who missed the first candidate forum hosted by the Floyd County GOP due to a previously-scheduled engagement in New York, added later he also recalled having to clean restrooms he wasn’t permitted to use because of the color of his skin.

Slack was joined at the front table at the Willingham Community Room by fellow Ward 1 incumbent Sundai Stevenson and challengers Mark Cochran and Jim Bojo, as well as Ward 3 incumbents Bill Collins and Craig McDaniel and challengers Bonny Askew and J.J. Walker Seifert.

Ward 1 incumbent Bill Irmscher was not in attendance at this fifth such gathering of the candidates within the past month. Voters were encouraged to write questions for the candidates on index cards, which were reviewed by a panel of three people first to ensure appropriateness.

The Rome-Floyd NAACP joined with AARP-Etowah Chapter, Rome Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Northwest Georgia Housing Authority, MLK Jr. Commission of Rome-Northwest Georgia and 100 Black Men of Northwest Georgia to provide the forum, complete with refreshments and decorated tables.

Three of the eight questions asked of candidates centered on voter access and security and on how candidates have supported diversity in the community.

Stevenson, the first black woman to serve on the City Commission, told voters she holds sacred what her forefathers fought and died for.

“For a long time we didn’t have the right to vote, so whatever I can do to ensure we continue with the right to vote for generations that come after me, I’ll do it,” said Stevenson, a former social worker who works in affordable housing.

Collins, Rome’s first black mayor, said he’s grateful his fellow commissioners and groups like the NAACP stood up when the Floyd County Board of Elections and Registration did not include weekend voting during the early voting period.

“It’s our job to make sure you have every opportunity to vote,” Collins said.

Askew, a member of 100 Black Men of Rome-Floyd County, said he recently attended a family reunion where the struggles of previous generations were discussed.

“My great-grandfather paid a poll tax to vote,” Askew said. “It was more money than he had, but he scraped up the money to go vote. So I would be remiss if I didn’t honor that right to vote so many struggled for. This includes bringing more polling places back for our citizens. I will stand toe to toe with anybody who wants to deny anybody the right to vote.”

McDaniel agreed with fellow commissioners about ensuring weekend voting is preserved, but he said the greatest barrier is actually apathy.

“This will be a low turnout election,” said McDaniel, a former technical college administrator who now sells commercial real estate. “People don’t have an understanding of what we do and they do not want to go and vote. I hope I’m wrong and that we have a really good turnout this election. That’s the biggest challenge to any community — people who have earned the right to vote, but they sit at home.”

Seifert, who has her own Rome law firm, refused to agree with McDaniel when it comes to voter apathy.

She pointed to her 14-year-old daughter Carson sitting at a table near the candidate panel and asked her how many times she has gone with her to vote.

“Fourteen times,” Carson said as Seifert laughed.

Seifert said she loves to vote on Election Day and has instilled that love in her two children.

“As far as my friends of color, I am so glad they are able to vote. It’s a constitutional right,” said the two-time cancer survivor. “I am an eternal optimist and I think it’s going to be a great turnout because you all are going to go vote. I don’t even know what’s going on in national politics because I’m going to tell you right now that what happens on the City Commission affects us all on a daily basis more than anything else in the news. Go vote. It’s important.”

Bryer Courson, a third-grader at Pepperell Elementary School

Katelyn Adams  

Moderator Willie Mae Samuel (right) reads a question for candidates J.J. Walker Seifert (from left), Craig McDaniel, Bonny Askew, Bill Collins, Sundai Stevenson, Milton Slack, Mark Cochran and Jim Bojo at the Rome-Floyd Candidate Forum on Thursday sponsored by the NAACP and partners.

Cave Spring fall festival set for Saturday in Rolater Park

Close to 50 vendors are signed up for the Cave Spring Fall Festival, set for Rolater Park on Saturday.

“It’s one of the largest vendor turnouts we’ve ever had,” said Kyle Abernathy, principal at Cave Spring Elementary. “And we’re going to do some barbecue, hot dogs, games ... inflatables for the kids.”

Admission is free to the annual school fundraiser, which is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the downtown park at 13 Cedartown St.

“A lot of our arts and crafts vendors are Heritage Arts people,” Abernathy added. “We’ll have people who do paintings, pottery — folks who build things that are unique.”

The nonprofit folk arts school Alton Holman Heritage Arts is based in Cave Spring. Among its many specialties are pine needle basketry, bead-making, felting, Pysanky — which is Ukrainian egg batik — quilting, weaving and woodcarving.

A costume contest for kids is set for 2:30 p.m. Abernathy said there’s a competition for pre-K through second grade and another for grades 3 through 5.

Carnival-type games will also be set up from noon to 2 p.m. Tickets are 25 cents for one or five for $1.

“We have some great ones,” Abernathy said with a laugh, pulling up the list. “Football toss, elephant march, bean bag toss, nose picker, cornhole and Coke toss.”

Pony rides, hay rides and pumpkin-painting also will be available along with fair-food staples such as roasted corn, funnel cakes and fried Oreos.

While the event is an annual labor of love for the Cave Spring Elementary PTO, Abernathy just came on board this year and is looking forward to his first festival. He said the money raised will go to benefit the school’s students and teachers.

“I haven’t seen a school festival this big,” he said. “I think it’s because Cave Spring is such a destination community.”

Rolater Park is home to the city’s iconic limestone cave, which provides drinking water for residents and customers in eastern Alabama. Visitors are welcome to fill up jugs from the stream, and the cave is open for tours, at $1 a pop, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Across the street is the city’s historic downtown district, with antique shops and other draws that bring tourists from around the region.

Earlier this month an old red caboose was moved to The Square with plans to restore it to tell the tale of the city’s railroad days. It’s next to the 1830s Vann Cherokee Cabin, which was discovered hidden inside the walls of the old Green Hotel in 2010.