Tifton Gazette

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March 19, 2014

Dinner theater to benefit United Way

TIFTON — Tifton, the Reading Capital of the World, will get a pure shot of Americana during Friday evening’s United Way Dinner Theater performance of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus Conference Center, says Mike Brumby, executive director of the Tift County Foundation for Educational Excellence.

According to United Way Executive Director Greg Millette, Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn and other memorable Mark Twain characters will grace the stage of the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center during the 11th annual United Way Family Dinner Theater, set for Friday.

Now that Tifton readers have reached the 5 million Accelerated Reader points goal and United Way is hosting a performance of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” Brumby says he had the idea to partner up by having the theme for the celebration in reaching their goal be centered around the character, Tom Sawyer. He said the book was one of his personal favorites.

After the foundation launched the effort to become the RCW in 1997 and reached their million AR points goal in 2000, as well as accomplished other goals, a big celebration has taken place for the community each time that they have earned a million AR points.

Brumby said the TCFEE and United Way teamed up last summer at the United Way Center where once again, readers (ages 3-90) read tons of books and demonstrated comprehension through passing supervised computerized tests.

“Not only are reading skills enhanced during the often academically barren summer months, but readers earn money for the school of choice to buy books for its media center,” he said.

He said the foundation has applied for the 2014-15 Big Read grant to help with their efforts in celebrating reaching 5 million AR points. Reading Angel Terri Nalls will be plotting details for the celebration with fellow media specialists. The final plan will be announced in May.

“[Reading Capital of the World mascot] Ricki Reader, always the optimist and opportunist, plans to show up [Friday] in hopes of meeting Tom and hatching a plan to celebrate Tift County’s latest reading milestone, 5 million AR points,” Brumby said. “Ricki, ever alert to maintaining Tifton’s firm hold on the RCW title, will show up at 5:45 p.m. Friday at the conference center in hopes of meeting Tom and conspiring with him to bring the ‘Big Read’ to Tifton. Ricki will be meeting and greeting the banquet/play attendees as they arrive, while keeping a sharp eye out for Tom Sawyer, the perfect host character of the 2014-15 Big Read efforts.”

At Friday’s event, dinner will be served at 6 p.m. for those who purchased dinner/show tickets in advance. The show will follow at 7 p.m. Tickets for the show only can still be purchased in advance or at the door for $10 (all ages). They are available at http://www.familydinnertheater.org (with a small processing fee) and at the United Way office on Fourth Street. The event benefits United Way of South Central Georgia, which serves Ben Hill, Cook, Irwin, Tift and Turner counties.

“It’s great to welcome back the actors of Birmingham Children’s Theatre for another great show,” said Erika Johnson, president of the local United Way Board of Directors. Birmingham Children’s Theatre last provided the entertainment in 2011, presenting “Beauty and the Beast.”

“This show is filled with lots of great action and lots of memorable scenes,” said Millette. “I mean, who can forget Tom’s trickery at the whitewashed fence or Tom and Huck secretly attending their own funerals?”

The meal is being catered by B.J. Smith in the ballroom of the conference center. It’s themed around Lower Mississippi River cuisine with some child-friendly additions. Main dishes include chicken fingers, catfish and gumbo with sides of red beans and rice, a grits bar, cole slaw, green beans, macaroni and cheese and bread. Millette says, “Add in pecan pie, brownies and a couple of surprises, and you’ve got something to please everyone.”

The show will begin at 7 p.m. in the John Hunt Auditorium and will run approximately 50 minutes in one act — a great length for the attention span of most children, he said. The actors will be available for pictures, in costume, at the conclusion of the show.

United Way of South Central Georgia seeks to advance the common good across a five-county region through broad engagement with a variety of partners to drive positive impact in the areas of educational success for children, income stability for families and healthy living for all. Current partners serving Tifton include American Red Cross, Kids’ Advocacy Coalition, Literacy Volunteers of Tifton/Tift County, Meals on Wheels, Needy Children’s Fund, Santa’s Helpers, The Salvation Army, the Tift County Commission on Children & Youth and the Tifton Soup Kitchen.

“As public resources continue to shrink and the slow economic recovery keeps charitable giving at low levels, we are working hard to make every dollar and every minute count,” said Millette. “We hope the good folks of south central Georgia will come to the show not only expecting a great night of family fun, but also knowing that they are helping to build stronger communities and a stronger future for their children.”

For more information about the show or United Way of South Central Georgia, contact Millette at 382-2881.


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