|Issue 1.35 | Thursday, March 13, 2009 | Beam us aboard|
CharlestonCurrents.com is a new online twice-weekly publication that offers insightful community comment and good news on events. It cuts through the information clutter to offer insight and news on the best of what's happening locally. More.
MARCH 12, 2009 -- Lower mortgage interest rates have created a surge in refinances from anyone with fixed rates above 5.75 percent or adjustable rates that are getting ready to convert. The Obama Housing Plan (explained below) along with substantially lower home prices are getting buyers to start looking, and some are writing contracts. Sullivan's Island and Isle of Palms had seven contracts in all of February of this year but have already had 10 during the first 10 days of March.
Call it pent up demand, seasonal increase, or a combination of all of the above -and other areas are reporting the same general increase. Not a trend yet but certainly good news.
Homeowners were lent a hand this week by the Obama administration's newest effort to help families remain in their homes. The "Making Home Affordable" program was created to help as many as 9 million homeowners who want to stay in their homes, but are struggling with their finances. There are two important elements of this program.
One part of the program will be available to 4 million to 5 million homeowners who have a solid payment history on an existing home loan owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Many of these homeowners have been unable to refinance and take advantage of lower interest rates because their homes have lost value. This plan allows for rate and term refinances up to a 105 percent loan-to-value, which will help many homeowners take advantage of today's lower rates or refinance an adjustable-rate home loan into a more stable product, such as a 30-year fixed rate loan.
To qualify, the home must be your primary residence and have a loan balance not exceeding $729,750. While there are still a few unknowns in the mix, this program will help a large number of homeowners cut their monthly expenses and benefit from the lower home loan rates available today.
The second part of the program will help as many as 3 million to 4 million at-risk homeowners avoid foreclosure by reducing monthly home loan payments. This program lets home loan servicers modify eligible loans for those who have experienced financial hardship. The plan is designed to help these at-risk borrowers decrease the payment amount on their existing loan.
The housing and job markets continue to be hard hit by the contraction in the economy. But combined with earlier measures, such as the $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers, the Making Home Affordable program may actually have some legs to help the housing market and economy overall.
MARCH 12, 2009 -- Imagine that you live in Toronto. It's the first week in March. The high temperature most days is hovering around 0 degrees. Skies are winter gray and landscapes are snow white.
Then you come to Charleston. Your plane lands on a sky-blue day with cotton-ball clouds dotting the sky. The temperature is in the mid-70s. Azaleas and tulip trees and redbuds are blooming along the city streets. The sun is bright. And awaiting you as soon as you can pick up a fork is your choice of more fantastic food and wine than you could consume in years, much less a single weekend.
Welcome to the BB&T Charleston Food + Wine Festival. What a terrific experience last weekend's festival was - not just for local participants like me, but for visitors such as the Toronto writer I talked with over dinner at Tristan last Friday. I think she had something in common with many people I spoke to last weekend: The city and the festival couldn't have made a better impression if they'd written out a script.
After four years, the Food + Wine Festival is clearly hitting its stride. Executive Director Angel Postell, Marketing Director Erika McMillan and the festival's staff, planners and volunteers have found a great way to keep interest high for popular events from years past while also spicing things up with new additions to the schedule. The two events I attended were perfect examples.
On Friday night, I was a lucky guest at the Dine-Around wine dinner at Tristan. Each year the Dine-Around pairs local chefs with visiting chefs to collaborate on special menus. The Tristan dinner had a twist this year: It was the Dine Around's first vegetarian dinner.
I'll be the first to say that life wouldn't be worth living without plates of barbecue and juicy ribeyes on a regular basis, so I was a little uncertain about how a vegetable-oriented menu would play out. But Tristan's executive chef Aaron Deal and visiting chefs Jeremy and Deanie Fox from the restaurant Ubuntu in Napa, Calif., came up with an amazingly creative and satisfying menu that won them an ovation from the crowd.
The dinner proved that part of the fun of the festival is having a chance to try new and unexpected food, and it also reminded me of what extraordinary culinary talent we have in Charleston - not just in accomplished young chefs such as Deal, but also because of the national reach that a number of our local chefs have. Jeremy Fox is an example: One of the most talked-about young chefs in the national food press, he studied at Johnson & Wales University when it was here in Charleston and worked in the kitchens of two of the city's finest chefs, Mike Lata and John Zucker. That's pretty cool.
As nice as Friday's weather was, Saturday's was even prettier. My husband and I had bought tickets for one of the new events on the Food + Wine schedule, "Pinot Envy Uncorked" (Pinot, as in Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris wines). It was held at Bridgeside, an event venue at the foot of the Cooper River bridge in Mount Pleasant, which was a picture-perfect locale - sun sparkling off the water, a cool breeze, sailboats in the harbor, winemakers pouring samples, and chefs from The Boathouse and Carolina's fire-roasting fresh fish and hand-rolling sushi on the patios. If this event is on the calendar for the 2010 festival, we'll be back - and we'll be bringing friends.
Sometimes I think those of us who live here tend to see local festivals - the Wildlife Expo, Food + Wine, the house tours, Spoleto, etc. - as events that are designed primarily to bring tourists to town. While that's certainly a very important part of what they do, I think they also help us residents see the Lowcountry through a new set of eyes. That's the experience I had listening to the Toronto writer talk about her impressions of the city.
When these festivals roll around on the calendar, pick some events you're interested in and get involved as a participant or a volunteer. It's sure to give you a new appreciation for the Lowcountry.
Ann Thrash is editor of CharlestonCurrents.com. She can be reached at: email@example.com
The public spiritedness of our underwriters and nonprofit partners allows us to bring CharlestonCurrents.com to you at no cost. This issue's featured nonprofit partner is the Lowcountry Food Bank, which was founded in 1983 as a clearinghouse for donated food items. The Food Bank, which receives more than 10 million pounds of donated food annually, seeks to feed the poor and hungry of the ten coastal counties of South Carolina by soliciting and distributing healthy food and grocery products to nonprofit agencies serving the poor, and to educate the public about the problems of and solutions to domestic hunger. For more, visit the Food Bank online at: http://www.lcfbank.org.
Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ will be opening a Sullivan's Island location this spring at the site of the old Bert's Bar, 2209 Middle St.
the Bert's space became available, we knew it was a perfect place to expand
our concept," said Home Team executive chef and owner Aaron Siegel.
"We're renovating a building with great history, and our goal is
to carry on the spirit of Bert's with emphasis on the community while
providing a fun and lively place which locals can call their own."
to the traditional barbecue dishes and sides that have won over fans at
Fiery Ron's West Ashley restaurant, the new location will offer a larger
menu of appetizers, ribs, chicken, pulled pork, barbecue quesadillas and
tacos. The atmosphere will be "down home" but will feature table
service inside and on the patio instead of walk-up service.
Fiery Ron's was founded in 2006 by Siegel and co-owner Randy Abraham. The restaurant offers large party takeout orders, full service catering and delivery, nightly entertainment including live music, and TVs for game-watching. For more information, go to http://www.hometeambbq.com.
Local architects win design award for pavilion
SGA Architecture LLC of Charleston has earned a commercial wood design award from WoodWorks Southeast for the firm's design of the pavilion at Pepper Plantation. "The winning projects are exactly what we look for; they push the limits of designing with wood," said Patrick Schleisman, regional director of WoodWorks Southeast.
WoodWorks is an initiative of the Wood Products Council, a cooperative venture of all the major wood associations in North America, as well as research organizations and government agencies.
Pepper Plantation is a private, gated, 50-acre equestrian community near Awendaw, about 8 miles north of Mount Pleasant Towne Centre. The property includes 65 home sites and a planned 30-acre commercial village. The pavilion is an open-air facility designed to have rustic appeal, including sliding barn doors, wrap-around porches and both indoor and outdoor fireplaces.
City's Cultural Affairs office launches new arts Web site
CharlestonArts.com will be updated daily with information and features, including an arts calendar that users can search by date, artist, presenting group or venue; social networking widgets; and a directory of local arts and cultural organizations and venues.
are hopeful that CharlestonArts.sc will be a major benefit to local artists
and arts organizations by disseminating information about their events
with the most up-to-date information to a broader public," said Ellen
Dressler Moryl, director of the Office of Cultural Affairs.
Web site also hosts connecting pages for general information on the Office
of Cultural Affairs and its projects: the Charleston Farmers Market, the
City Gallery at Waterfront Park, Holiday Magic, Happy New Year Charleston!,
the Holiday Parade of Boats, the Lowcountry Quarterly Arts Grant Program,
Piccolo Spoleto and the MOJA Arts Festival.
Award-winning actress Jane Alexander, former chairperson of the National Endowment for the Arts, will be the host and honorary chairperson of the Spoleto Festival's 2009 gala on May 23. The celebration will honor Charles Wadsworth, the festival's longtime artistic director for chamber music, who is in his farewell season as director, pianist and host for the festival's popular Bank of America Chamber Music Series.
The gala will feature the opening performance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, along with cocktails, tributes to Wadsworth, an elegant seated dinner, and dancing. Tickets are $400 and are available here.
Women in Business Conference to offer networking, more
The Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Center for Women will present the fourth annual Women in Business Conference March 27 at the Francis Marion Hotel at the corner of King and Calhoun streets. The conference, which runs from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m., draws hundreds of local businesswomen each year with programs designed to help them advance professionally.
Pamela P. Lackey, president of AT&T South Carolina, will give the keynote presentation, and last year's popular "speed networking" session will return. Breakout session topics include "Succeeding in an Economic Downturn: A CEO's Perspective," "Career and Life Transitions," "The New Generation of Online Marketing," "Stay Competitive in the Current Reality - Don't Get in Your Own Way" and "Refreshing Your Professional Image."
During lunch, there will be a fashion show featuring women of all ages, shapes and sizes modeling professional attire provided by Belk.
Register by March 13 and the conference cost is $75 for members of the chamber, the Center for Women or Charleston Young Professionals; $100 for nonmembers; or $50 students. After March 13, the cost for anyone is $100. To register, go to http://www.charlestonchamber.net.
The Center for Women is a nonprofit partner of CharlestonCurrents.com.
Born in Aiken County near Salley on Oct. 22, 1890, Benjamin Mack Sawyer received undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of South Carolina. After a brief teaching stint, he enlisted in the army in 1917 and rose to the rank of first lieutenant before his discharge in 1919. In 1918 he married Ruth Louise Simmons, and they eventually had three children. After departing the army, Sawyer became the first secretary of the State Budget Commission. In 1921 he also became clerk of the South Carolina House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee. In 1925 Sawyer became secretary-treasurer of the Highway Commission.
Politically astute, Sawyer became chief highway commissioner in 1926. During his remarkable tenure in office, Sawyer survived many political controversies while superintending the steady growth of the Highway Department. In his fourteen years as chief commissioner, Sawyer successfully laid the underpinnings for the modern State Highway Department. He lobbied for bond funding to construct a statewide network of highways, survived the ensuing controversy, resisted the efforts of Governor Olin D. Johnston to deprive him and his commissioners of their offices, and defended the highway fund from diversion by Governor Burnet Maybank.
The 1929 bond controversy concerned legislation that made the state of South Carolina one district for issuing highway construction bonds. Moving from local funding to statewide funding was a quantum leap for highway construction in South Carolina. Bond bill opponent Olin D. Johnston became governor in 1935. Johnston initiated a lengthy period of unrest when he attempted to remove commission members, used the National Guard to bar Sawyer from office, declared the department in a state of "insurrection," and tried to replace Sawyer and the commissioners with his own appointees. Numerous court challenges and legislative maneuverings left Sawyer in office and local districts electing the members of the commission.
With the dust barely settled from the Johnston challenge, in 1939 Governor Burnet Maybank and the General Assembly attempted to divert highway funds to pay teachers, balance the state budget, and fund other New Deal projects. Twice the legislature enacted such legislation, and twice the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled that the highway fund was a special fund created by license fees and gasoline taxes paid by users of the highways and could not be diverted to the general fund.
Despite these challenges, Sawyer remained focused on his department and on improving South Carolina roads. During his tenure, the miles of roadways doubled and two out of three of those miles were paved.
As a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, Sawyer was on active service in 1940 at Fort Jackson as an ordnance officer. Despite his military duties, Sawyer continued to serve as chief highway commissioner. On December 22, 1940, Sawyer, pursuing a weight-loss regimen in the office of a Columbia chiropractor, was accidentally asphyxiated. He was buried in Elmwood Cemetery.
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The Reference Department at the Charleston County Public Library has compiled a list of Web sites that offer information, resources and other news involving the U.S. economy and the government's stimulus efforts. Here are five of those sites; for more, go here.
"Before we set our hearts too much upon anything, let us examine how happy those are who already possess it."
CALENDAR: THIS WEEK
Film Series on Jim Crow: 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays, March 10-April 4, Charleston Museum, 360 Meeting St. In conjunction with the exhibit "From Slave to Sharecropper: African Americans in the Lowcountry after the Civil War," the museum will host a four-part documentary film series, "The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow." The Peabody Award-winning documentary, offers a comprehensive look at race relations in America between the Civil War and the civil rights movement. Cost: Free with general museum admission of $10 for adults, $5 for children 3-12. For details on specific shows and schedules, call 722-2996 or go here online.
RiverDogs Job Fair: 9 a.m. to noon March 14, Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park. Apply for game-day working positions, including ushers, ticket-takers and Kidz Zone staff, with the RiverDogs, the Class-A affiliate of the New York Yankees. More info: Jake Terrell, 723-7241.
Gibbes Community Day: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. March 14, Gibbes Museum of Art, 135 Meeting St. Free admission and family activities, including art projects, music and beverages. Sponsored by the Junior League of Charleston. More info.
Gospel Choir Fundraising Concert: 5 p.m. March 14, Ashley River Baptist Church, 1101 Savannah Highway. The Charleston Symphony Orchestra's Gospel Choir, featuring new music director Sandra Barnhardt, will present African-American sacred songs. Tickets: $10 per person. Available at the Gaillard Auditorium Box Office (cash only), 77 Calhoun St., from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, or at the church beginning one hour before the performance.
Photographing Your Baby: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. March 15, Charleston Center for Photography, 654 King St., Suite D, Charleston. Portrait photographer Julia Lynn will lead this workshop, giving demonstrations and teaching students how to choose the right location for shooting, properly position the baby and get a great exposure every time. Aperture, shutter speed, ISO and lens selections will be discussed as well. Cost: $125. Register here.
CALENDAR: ONGOING AND SOON
Nature Photography Workshop: March 18-March 21. Through the Charleston Center for Photography, nature photographer Kenny McKeithan will lead a workshop called "Nature of the Lowcountry." Participants will travel around the greater Charleston area photographing various sites. Sessions include hands-on instruction for each student along with critiques. Cost: $300. Details/registration: http://www.ccforp.org or 577-0647.
Human-Resources Workshop: 7:30 a.m. to noon March 19, Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, 2750 Speissegger Drive, Suite 100, North Charleston. "Tough Economic Times Never Last, Resilient Companies Do!" is a human-resources workshop to teach businesses about organization design, proper and legal employment practices, new labor-related legislation and the impact of changes in government leadership. Cost: $95 for chamber members, $125 for nonmembers. Details/registration.
Small Business Fair: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 19, Charleston County Main Library, 68 Calhoun St. For owners of small businesses or those thinking of starting a business, the fair offers free workshops, an exhibition hall with vendors, tours of the library's business resource center, and professional counseling that focuses on low-cost ideas to help businesses run more efficiently and attract more income. More info: http://www.ccpl.org or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Charleston Foundation Festival of Houses and Gardens: Ongoing March
19 through April 18, various sites. Tours feature the interiors
and gardens of approximately 150 historic private homes in 10 colonial
and antebellum neighborhoods during the peak of the city's springtime
blooms. Other events include Plantation Picnics at Drayton Hall Plantation,
daily walking tours through the Old and Historic District, "Eat and
Run" luncheons, harbor tours, book signings, etc. Proceeds benefit
the work of the Historic Charleston Foundation. Tickets/more info: 723-1623
or by clicking
Penguins 'n' Pajamas Family Sleepover: 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. March 20, S.C. Aquarium, 100 Aquarium Wharf, Charleston. Sleep with the penguins at the aquarium on the night that the new Penguin Planet exhibit opens. Family sleepover will offer special chances to watch the penguins dive underwater, learn about penguin colonies and discover what makes them march. One adult required per two children attending the event. Reservations and advance payment required. Cost: $30 per member child, $40 per member adult; $40 and $50 for nonmember child and adult, respectively. Reservations: 577-3474. More info.
Palmetto BBQ & Brew Festival: March 20 and March
21, Prospect Hill Plantation, Edisto Island. Sponsored by the Olde
Charlestowne Sertoma Club as a fundraiser for charities. Events begin
with the Brew-A-Stew Contest at 6 p.m. March 20, in which cooking teams
will serve a stew, soup or chowder. Gate price ($10 adults, $5 ages 4-7,
free for age 3 and under) includes all you can eat. Evening ends with
fireworks. On March 21, gates open at 11 a.m. for guests to spend the
day on the banks of the Edisto tasting all the cooking teams' barbecues.
Gate price same as above; once inside, buy tickets for $1 each to get
barbecue samples and drinks. More info: 766-5576 or at this
Mom to Mom Sale: 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. March 21, National Guard Armory, 245 Mathis Ferry Road, Mount Pleasant. Sponsored by three Mount Pleasant MOMS clubs (Moms Offering Moms Support), the sale will offer new and gently used children's, baby and maternity items from 80 different consigners. Ten percent of proceeds will go to Windwood Farms, a local group home for boys ages 5 to 16 who have been removed from their homes because of unstable family situations. Cost: $1 entry fee for sale. Details.
Walk for Water: 9 a.m. March 21, Cannon Park, downtown Charleston. Join Water Missions International for an educational, 3.5-mile walk inspired by the experience of women and children who are responsible for fetching water for their families every day. Walkers are encouraged to form teams and recruit as many supporters as possible. After the walk, enjoy refreshments and family-oriented activities and entertainment. More info.
Mount Pleasant Arts Festival: Noon to 4 p.m. March 21, Mount Pleasant Towne Centre. Festival is sponsored jointly by the town and Towne Centre to celebrate the arts in Mount Pleasant. Features live entertainment, performing arts, a juried art exhibit, Mount Pleasant Artists Guild entries, roving entertainment, games and activities for kids. Free admission and parking. More info: 884-8517.
(NEW) Old St. Andrew's Tea Room: 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, March 23 to April 4, Old St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, 2604 Ashley River Road. Tea room features local favorites for lunch and an array of homemade desserts. Proceeds benefit the mission and ministry programs of the Episcopal Church Women of Old St. Andrew's and the church's Preservation Fund. More info.
Economic Outlook Conference: 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 26, Charleston Place Hotel. The Charleston Metro Chamber's Annual Economic Outlook Conference and Luncheon includes the 18- to 24-month forecast for the key economic sectors of the region. Keynote speaker Jeffrey M. Lacker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, will present the views of the Federal Reserve on the state of the national recovery and the outlook for future economic conditions. Also speaking will be College of Charleston President P. George Benson, who will speak about the challenges facing South Carolina and our ability to compete in the global economy. Cost: $95 for Chamber members, $125 for nonmembers. Details/registration.
Garden Club of Charleston House and Garden Tours: 2-5 p.m. March 27 and March 28, various sites downtown. Tours of historic homes and gardens, including the Heyward-Washington House garden, whose parterre is planted only with flowers and shrubs known in the city in 1791. Proceeds benefit ongoing projects of the Garden Club of Charleston, including maintaining the gardens at the Joseph Manigault House, the Heyward-Washington House, the Gateway Walk and the Healing Garden at MUSC. More info: E-mail email@example.com.
Pet Fest: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 28 and noon to 4 p.m. March 29, Palmetto Islands County Park, Mount Pleasant. Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission's annual pet event expands to two days this year. Dock diving will be featured for the first time, along with past fest favorites such as Lowcountry Dog magazine's "cover model contest," a dog show, Frisbee dogs, a microchipping clinic and several dog contests. Cost: $5 or three Greenbax for adults, per day; free for kids age 12 or younger, leashed pets and Gold Passholders. More info or 795-4FUN.
Founders' Day: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 11, Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site, 1500 Old Towne Road, west of the Ashley. Celebrate the 339th anniversary of the "Birth of the Carolinas" during Founders' Day. Living-history programs, demonstrations of the firing of black powder cannons and muskets, re-enactments and other activities showing how Charleston's first English settlers lived in 1670. Cost: $5 adults, $3 ages 6-15, $3.25 for S.C. seniors or disabled. Details are online.
"Run Forrest Run 5K": 4:15 p.m. April 11, beginning at Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park. Sponsored by the Charleston RiverDogs, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Coburg Dairy, the race is a fundraiser for the Storm Eye Institute at MUSC. The race finishes at home plate, where runners are greeted by the RiverDogs' players before the start of that evening's game against the Rome Braves. Registration: $25 if received by March 27 (includes T-shirt, one ticket to baseball game and post-race party with dinner from Bubba Gump's); $30 after March 27. Registration forms available at the RiverDogs Box Office at Riley Park, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., The Extra Mile Running Shop and online at www.riverdogs.com or www.active.com.
In this section, we offer a list of good reads that you might want to consider reading:
New local music CD
to old clunker
know you're from...