Summerville’s 9th Annual Sweet Tea Festival has been re-imagined this year due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
The most popular attractions of the annual festival have been scaled down into a series of micro events meant to celebrate Summerville art, culture and hospitality. The festival begins Monday, Sept. 14 and continues through Friday, Sept. 18.
Dubbed “The Sweetest Week Ever,” the event provides an opportunity to bring modest size groups to the downtown over a longer period of time. Participants are encouraged to continue practicing social distancing, washing hands, and wear masks as they check out all that the week has to offer.
On Monday evening the Summerville Orchestra’s Jazz ensemble will perform in Hutchinson Square. Live music performances continue on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings with performances by Eric Barnette, Michael Freund, Dan Riley, and Joshua Jarman.
Summerville’s community art center, the Public Works Art Center, is organizing a community art project in Hutchinson Square every evening. Additionally, the center is participating in other events throughout the week.
The town’s parks and recreation department is hosting a yoga session Tuesday evening in Hutchinson Square. The Flowertown Players will perform on Wednesday evening followed by live music performances.
Sweet Tea tastings will take place on Thursday evening in various stores in the downtown area as well as Hutchinson Square.
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A scavenger hunt takes place on every day of the Sweetest Week Ever, along with unique sales and deals in Summerville’s locally owned businesses.
The Greater Summerville/Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce has its monthly Food Truck Friday at lunchtime on Friday at the Chamber office located at 402 N. Main St.
Nina Belle’s Boutique is hosting two demonstrations throughout the week; one about essential oils and another on vinyl products. Katie Mae’s Klassy Flea & Antique Market is hosting a Farmhouse Paint Workshop at 11 a.m. on Friday.
To learn more about the week, visit summervilledream.org .
In the rural farming community of St. George, surrounded by fields of nearly-mature cotton and peanuts, the state’s first and only malt house operates around the clock to create a malt made from locally-grown barley.
Malted barley is used by brewers to make beer. Malting is the first step in the process of making those widely-consumed fermented beverages. Until recently, South Carolina’s breweries sourced their malted barley from out of state companies. But now the Palmetto Malt Company is providing South Carolina-grown, harvested and malted barley.
Owned and operated by Jared Weathers, the Palmetto Malt Company is located on the very land that Weathers’ family has farmed for more than 50 years. Last month Weathers and his business partner, Alex Reeves, completed their first batch of malted barley and Wide Awake Brewing Company, a start-up craft beer microbrewery in Berkeley County, is brewing the first beer made from the batch.
‘Farm to Froth’
When Weathers, 27, first proposed growing malting barley on his family’s farm, the idea was not received well; it can be difficult to grow the crop in South Carolina due to the high humidity. But Weathers, a craft beer enthusiast, recognized an increased demand for malted barley as more local breweries open across the region. And perhaps more importantly, as a young farmer, Weathers was looking for opportunities to diversify.
“It took a lot of persuasion to convince my dad to give up some of his land to plant barley instead of cotton,” Weathers said. “Barley yields in the South are about half of what they are in the North.”
Neither his father nor many others in his family knew much about the craft beer scene happening in the Palmetto State. Weathers himself was also new to exploring the brewing process but his interest was piqued by the agricultural side to beer making — or as he likes to say; “taking it from farm to froth.”
“The farming side is my favorite part of the (beer making) process,” Weathers said. “Getting to see barley in a field and then going into a brewery and getting to taste what you grew…”
At first Weathers considered opening a farm brewery in St. George but he quickly learned that breweries are quite competitive and he talked himself out of that idea. Instead, with his knowledge of growing and harvesting grains, Weathers decided to research the malting process. He flew to Texas to shadow a professional maltster and then he was hooked. After earning a malting certification from Colorado State University, Weathers and his business partner, Alex Reeves, planned what machines to buy and install in St. George.
Having an established farm with a seed cleaner and a bagging line in place made it easier for Weathers to try a new crop. His family’s 2,000-acre farm already grew corn, wheat, oats, rye, and soybeans. Because barley is planted in November and harvested in April, it can be grown through the off season of other crops.
“We could plug it in where land would have been laid out,” Weathers said.
He used a special variety of barley seed called Violetta. The two-row winter barley originates in Germany and is known for its malting quality attributes, early sprouting, and resistance to disease.
Weather’s first attempt at growing the seed proved successful. He began malting his first harvest just a few weeks ago. He uses an Intelligent Malting Unit with a 5-ton capacity. The machine is the only one of its kind used in South Carolina. It is controlled with an ipad; the software allows Weather’s to build his own recipes, schedule batches and provide real-time feedback.
Malting barley involves steeping, germinating and kilning the grain. The Intelligent Malt system uses a vertical design and is modular to grow with a maltster’s operation. The steeping tank allows for control over timing and air applications before grain moves down to the germination and kilning vessels. Once in germination and kilning, Weathers can adjust the system to create custom malts.
The entire process takes about a week to complete. Weathers said the most labor-intensive part is cleaning; he has to clean constantly.
After harvesting 200 acres of barley, Weathers has enough grain to malt 10,000 pounds of product each week until the next cycle. He’s currently selling malted barley to 15 breweries and said he hopes to expand his operation soon.
“Business has been very good, we’ve gotten a great reaction from the local breweries,” Weathers said. “It’s really great to see the community of South Carolina support South Carolina farmers and South Carolina agriculture.”
After completing their LEAP Week activities on Friday, several fifth-grade students at Beech Hill Elementary packed up their district-issued laptops, applied hand sanitizer, and lined up ‘five (cinder) blocks apart,’ in the hallway. Wearing masks, the students bid farewell to their teacher and filed out of the building; without knowledge of when they might return to in-person instruction.
LEAP week took place last week for Dorchester District 2 students, teachers and administrators. Students received their new district-issued electronic devices and were trained on how to operate them. LEAP week also gave teachers a brief chance to get to know students and establish a connection before launching into an academic year unlike any other due to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve made a lot of videos to teach children how to space themselves, how to login to their new devices — reiterating those routines and procedures — everything is new, we’ve never done any of this before,” said Shannon Ingram, a fifth-grade teacher at Beech Hill.
Students throughout the district are “pioneers,” in a new world of education, she said.
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Ingram will serve students in the Virtual Academy this year. Her students are among the 276 Beech Hill students currently enrolled in the Virtual Academy. More than 8,000 students district-wide have opted to attend the Virtual Academy while their peers are going with a hybrid model which includes School Based eLearning and the potential for in-person instruction.
“I’m more comfortable with in-person teaching but learning is a lifelong process and so I am modeling that for my students by embarking on a new challenge,” Ingram said.
Meeting her students face-to-face during LEAP Week provided Ingram with an important opportunity to get to know them before the start of Virtual Academy on Tuesday.
“Any little bit of information that I can gather about them when I have them during LEAP Week will help guide my instruction and guide the school year since it is unprecedented,” Ingram said.
While it was helpful to welcome students to the classroom, even for one week, Ingram said there was still something missing: hugs.
“It’s hard because I’m a hugger but it’s important to keep them safe and healthy and make sure they feel comfortable and feel good about coming back to school,” Ingram said.
All Dorchester District 2 students began the school year virtually on Tuesday using Microsoft Teams.
The district decided to start with all students learning online for the first two weeks and then make an announcement on Sept. 9 on whether to transition from eLearning to the hybrid model on Sept. 21.
The hybrid model uses a cohort system where half of the students who want face-to-face instruction will attend school on Mondays and Tuesdays while the other half attends on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Kindergarteners and first graders attend school every day but half attend in the morning and half in the afternoon.
On Fridays, all students will receive eLearning lessons at home. In the classroom at Beech Hill, this system is demonstrated by labeling desks Cohort A, and Cohort B, so that students always have an empty desk beside them while in school.
Masks are required for DD2 students, faculty and staff while inside the school building.
The district has a 1:1 student to technology device ratio this year. Students received their own devices during LEAP week.
Lindsey Grow, a third grade teacher at Beech Hill, and also teacher of the year, said one of the greatest challenges is going to be monitoring the students to make sure they do not give into the temptation to break social distancing practices.
“This is the first time they’ve been in the classroom since March; they want to talk to each other and hug each other,” Grow said. “We have to remind them to stay six feet apart.”
During LEAP week, Grow welcomed students back to her classroom and said every student was excited to be in school and learning.
She added that teaching virtually comes with unique challenges but that teachers are more prepared now than they were in March.
“We have new technology that (teachers) are using and it’s going to get kids more engaged with their virtual learning,” Grow said. “(Teaching virtually) gives us teachers a chance to practice what we tell kids to do every day; try something new, challenge yourself, be brave.”
Students will eat breakfast and lunch inside their classroom, and also have some physical education courses in their rooms as well. Adam Mullins, a physical education teacher at Beech Hill, said staff members prepared simplistic exercises that students can do near their own desk.
“Our number one concern is going to be safety and how they’re going to be able to space out,” Mullins said. “We’ve had to really change the way that we’re approaching (physical education) because you can’t use certain equipment because students can’t share it.”
Mullins created the “five (cinder) blocks apart,” concept for the children to count five cinder blocks on the wall to be sure they are a safe distance from others in line.
He said in addition to using exercise as “cathartic relief,” he also encourages students to stay focused on good nutrition, getting a healthy amount of sleep, and taking mental breaks.
Teachers, too, could use a mental break because many of them have been working non stop throughout the summer in order to prepare for the start of school.
Beech Hill Elementary Principal Rene Harris said teachers worked over the summer in order to get “as much legwork and front-loading done to try and ensure success.”
“I would say that the teachers are stressed,” Harris said. “Teachers work hard everywhere — it’s the nature of who they are.”
She added that teachers are mostly stressed because of the unknown circumstances of this school year.
However, she said all of the staff members are prepared for every model of instruction. Staff members have also worked to ensure that parents are up to speed as well.
“I think the one thing that happened in the spring was there was little time to train parents on what to expect,” Harris said. “We have spent an extensive amount of time in staff development and in professional growth to give our teachers a reflective look at ‘if you could do it again, what would you do differently.’ That perspective helped us learn those gaps.”
While many back-to-school rituals are on pause due to the global pandemic, Harris said her team has tried to make sure every student feels connected to Beech Hill. She said welcoming students back to the classroom during LEAP week was “rejuvenating.”
“(Seeing students) was almost like seeing a rare jewel- you were in awe,” Harris said.
The construction had to be delayed because of the efforts to stop the work but soon there will be a ceremonial ribbon cutting marking its completion.
It’s 1.4-miles of new roadway connecting North Maple Street to Sheep Island Road as well as the improvement of Sheep Island Road out to N. Main Street. The project is set to be completed in about a month.
“Basically it’s another way for motorists to get from N. Main Street and Sheep Island into the shopping area hear by Azalea Square,” said Russ Cornette, Public Works Director for the town of Summerville.
The project which had a lot of opposition at its start had to be delayed for nearly two years but one the town won the battle and to the permits to proceed. The work began in July 2019 and soon all the construction barrels and signs will be gone. The $6-millon project is on schedule.
“Most feedback I have heard has been positive there are still a few folks that are against it but it is what it is. But for the most part people are supportive and look forward to it being completed,” said Cornette.
Cornette said recent study showed there are about 7,000 vehicles that travel on Bear Island Road so the more outlets to help with congestion on N. Main Street will be a welcomed change. And there are more changes to come to some roads in Summerville. Maple Street in the next project to come.
“The Maple Street Extension transitions from two lanes to four lanes near Highway 78 We’ll be expanding that to four lanes and improving that intersection and extending that section all the way back into Parsons Road across West Richardson,” said Cornette.
That project is expected to begin early next year.