From the "Once Upon a Time" theme to the top-shelf local entertainment inside, Saturday's gala celebration at the county's soon-to-open library and performing arts center will be like entering a fairy tale.
But it only seems too good to believe. There's no need to pinch yourself: The new library is almost ready for its debut, and it's a dream come true.
Columbia County's new main library is the embodiment of the wishes of the county's voters, who in 1999 approved a new sales-tax proposal with the library as the featured attraction.
Like all good stories, this one has had its share of heroes:
State Rep. Ben Harbin managed to snag $50,000 in state funding to get conceptual drawings of the facility prepared in time to display for voters before the sales-tax referendum.
Jabie Hardin Jr. donated $500,000 toward the facility's construction, greatly improving the quality of what will be known as the Jabez Sanford Hardin Sr. Performing Arts Center in honor of the older Hardin's service as superintendent of Columbia County schools.
Jeff Hardin (no relation to the wealthy Jabie, as much as he jokingly wishes), chairman of the county's library board, has shepherded this library project from before it was a gleam in anyone else's eye all the way through its pending birth. In the process, he's also helped leverage the board's resources into a fund benefiting all county libraries.
The Friends of Columbia County Libraries. This is a small but remarkably dedicated group of volunteers whose used-book-sale fund-raisers have brought in thousands of dollars for current libraries, and which will be critically important to getting the new facility running.
County Librarian Christina Rice and her staff also deserve endless applause; their task of closing down Gibbs and setting up the new library is staggering.
The library doesn't open to the public until March 27, and the facility's grand opening events will be held a month later. The best bet for a sneak preview of the remarkable work in progress, then, is from 7-11 p.m. Saturday.
Tickets to the black-tie gala previewing the facility cost $100 each. The tax-deductible price will provide early access to the not-yet-open-to-the-public library and performing arts center, with entertainment from local artists.
Proceeds from the benefit event go to the Columbia County Gala Endowment, and will be used to purchase a piano and eventually help with the facility's other startup needs.
This is one dream Columbia County citizens shouldn't sleep through. The big event is just a week away, and tickets are still available by calling 868-3484.
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