Year in Review 2023: July, August and September
Published 12:14 pm Monday, January 1, 2024
Editor’s Note: Over the next few issues, we will publish our annual look back at some of the top stories, newsmakers and images that shaped the year. Following are several of the top stories published in the Bulletin during July, August and September of 2023.
The Columbus Fire Department held its 50th Anniversary Columbus Firehouse BBQ at Veterans Park. The four-day event featured food from Foothills Mountain BBQ while locals enjoyed the gospel stylings of Fields of Grace, Brian Birchfield, New Chosen and the Atkins Family.
“It’s just a great community event,” said music director James Metcalf. “Everybody really enjoys it.”
On July 5, a Green Creek man was arrested on assault and animal cruelty charges.
John Victor Russell, 75 of Green Creek, was charged with assault on a person with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill and felony animal cruelty causing the death of an animal, according to police. Deputies determined that a dispute had occurred between a father and son, resulting in the firing of a gun and the death of a horse that the son had been riding. Russell, a horse trainer and show jumper, is a prominent member of the local equestrian community.
Saluda celebrated its legendary Coon Dog Day on Saturday, July 8. In its 60th year, attendees enjoyed food and art vendors, the dog show and the traditional Coon Dog parade. Beginning with the Saluda Elementary School 5K Fun Run, the celebration also featured Polk County School’s superintendent Aaron Greene acting as DJ, along with the musical stylings of the Stipe Brothers and Dan Ruiz later that night.
Wesley “Bob” Bessell, a White Oak Village resident and a World War II veteran, was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal by Congressman Chuck Edwards. Bessell, who turned 102 a few days before the ceremony, served as a Merchant Marine from 1942 to 1945.
Officials had to evacuate businesses on July 17 in downtown Columbus after a large natural gas leak was reported on Ward St. Columbus Fire Department and Tryon Fire Department worked to contain the leak that led to two streets being completely shut down for several hours. All businesses in the area were evacuated. Officials say a gas line was damaged while landscaping was being done near the former Red Cross Building.
On July 13, part of I-26 was shut down after a gasoline tanker rolled over and burst into flames.
Nearly 8,000 gallons of gasoline spilled and spread into the woods which caused hazmat specialists to respond to the scene. A statement was released warning the public to stay out of nearby waterways. The driver of the gasoline tanker was conscious and airlifted to Spartanburg Regional with burn injuries.
A Mill Spring man was arrested on July 17 after a fatal shooting that occurred at a home on Fox Mountain Rd. Qualon Konter Sutton, 21, was arrested for the alleged murder of his father, Robert “Bo” Forney. Deputies were dispatched to the scene after receiving a call about shots being fired. When police arrived, Forney was pronounced dead at the scene due to multiple gunshot wounds.
Tryon IGA’s Donnie Jolley celebrated his 66th year on the job.
“I was comfortable here, so I just stayed here,” says Jolley, who handles ordering and stocking in the store’s dairy and freezer sections. “I’ve always enjoyed it, just working, pure work.”
Jolley, who turned 84 in August, goes in five days a week working around 20-30 hours.
On August 1, a multi-vehicle accident occured on I-26 westbound near mile marker 63.
Two tractor-trailers and a pickup truck collided with each other, temporarily closing all lanes of westbound traffic. There were no injuries reported.
Traffic was heavily impacted throughout the day in the area as vehicles were rerouted.
On August 2, “Bob the Giraffe,” a colorful wooden statue first installed in 2015 on the grounds of Lanier Library was replaced with a new and improved version.
“Bob the Giraffe had fallen into ill repair, and so Karl Schwartz generously agreed to build a new one,” said the library’s executive director, Jenny Purtill.
Schwartz, a retired computer programmer who teaches woodworking, also handcrafted the original Bob from plywood layers. His design was based on a 14-inch high carving discovered by the late Harry Goodheart, a vintage handmade toy created at Tryon Toymakers and Woodcarvers.
Bo Reid of Mill Spring and Ben Thompson of Tryon participated in the Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship in Hurricane Falls, Tenn. The championship was held at Loretta Lynn’s family ranch and is known as the world’s largest amateur motocross race.
The new Aldi grocery store in Landrum kicked off its grand opening on August 10. Hundreds showed up and braved the pouring rain to attend the ceremony and be some of the first shoppers to visit the store. Aldi is known for its low prices and unique warehouse-style shelving.
Brooks Tavern held its grand opening at on August 17. The new restaurant is located at 10 Oak Street in downtown Tryon, occupying the former premises of Harper Eatery.
“We’re excited to be here in Tryon. I’ve lived in this community two years already and I love it,” said Verri, who is also an actor and jazz singer that previously sang in New York City.
The Polk County football team brought a penchant for thievery to G.M. Tennant Stadium, intercepting four passes to spark a 33-7 victory over Madison in the Wolverines’ home and season opener.
Tryon attorney Andy Haynes marked 50th year practicing law at a weekend event held at the Sunnydale building. Throughout his career, Haynes has been a prominent figure in the community, often involved in charitable and cultural events in the area, and his family’s connection with Tryon dates back 135 years.
Thousands of fans turned out for the second annual Earl Scruggs Music Festival at the Tryon International Equestrian Center, which kicked off September 1, for a weekend of world-class bluegrass music.
The massive event showcased over 40 acts across three stages, and there were also workshops and classes where attendees could learn more about the history of bluegrass and the legacy of Earl Scruggs, a North Carolina native whose innovative banjo-picking style revolutionized the genre.
A local historian who passed away last year had a section of Highway 11 renamed in his memory. On September 10, friends, family and collaborators joined together to dedicate a one-mile stretch of the highway to Dean Campbell, the “Squire of the Dark Corner.”
Campbell, a long-time resident, author and historian, passed away in December of 2022. The dedication included the unveiling of two commemorative road markers.
The Singing for Maui event on September 15 raised $2,331 for the victims of the wildfires in Hawaii. Hosted by Saluda Moon Glass Studio, the fundraiser saw the Hendersonville Ukulele Group and the Greener Pastures Band hold a sing-along, performing songs by Bob Marley, Neil Diamond and Johnny Nash.
“The Saluda Community came out in full force to show support at this sing-along fundraiser. They brought so much joy and love,” said organizer Nancy Higgins.
At the Saluda Board of Commissioners meeting on September 20, City Manager Steven Orr and Hunter Marks of WaterMark Landscape Architecture presented the first phase of the upcoming expansion to McCreery Park.
The park expansion is set to include enlarging the playground and adding an amphitheater, garden terrace and other outdoor amenities. Phase 1 of the project will end by April 2024, and phase 2 will begin in May 2024 and conclude by August 2024.
On September 19, a large fire destroyed a home and multiple other structures on Lake Lanier. The fire completely destroyed one residence, as well as two boat houses, two ski boats and an additional boat dock. The heat from the blaze was so intense that there were reports of damage to homes up to 70 yards away. There were no injuries.
Officals say the fire began in the main residence before spreading to the other structures. Firefighters from Tryon Fire Department led the initial attack on the blaze but had to turn back due to a wall collapse.
The Carolina Foothills Chamber of Commerce’s third annual Harmon Field Music Festival took place on September 23, in conjunction with the Feed the Foothills food drive.
Held at Harmon Field, the family event had a craft fair and kid’s zone, with face painting, bouncy houses and raffle prizes, and treated fans to musical acts such as Tony Slaughter, the Rich Nelson Band, Misdemeanor and Diamonds and Whiskey.
Hundreds showed up to honor those who lost their lives to addiction and suicide at the ninth annual Do Not Lose Hope event on September 30 at Harmon Field, and to participate in a Walk of Rememberence. Prior to the event, 178 sunflowers were set up in Stearns Park in Columbus to represent lives lost to overdose, addiction and suicide.