A new page in the history of Columbia County was turned Saturday night as nearly 400 guests dressed in their finest were given a grand preview of a new library and performing arts center in Evans.
"I never thought we'd have something like this in Columbia County," said Columbia County school board member Mike Sleeper, as he looked around the cavernous main lobby inside the new building.
The night had a fairy tale theme as guests were welcomed into the new facility, which is near the Evans Government Complex, by those dressed as Cinderella, Prince Charming and fairies. The theme continued with ice sculptures of a castle, a glass slipper and even a storybook that read, "Once upon a time in Columbia County ..."
"Of all the things I have been a part of in public service, what I am so proud of is this library," said County Commissioner Diane Ford. "The taxpayers have something to be proud of for years to come."
The list of the area business and civic leaders for the evening included U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, R-Ga.; state Sen. Jim Whitehead, R-Evans; state Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans; and all members of the county commission.
"This place is going to be the focal point of the county for many years to come," said Ron Cross, the county commission chairman.
Guests sipped wine and enjoyed heavy hors d'oeuvres as they listened to the sounds of area performers including the Columbia County Choral Society, the Augusta Players, Air Apparent and the Augusta Opera Ensemble.
The performing arts center also was graced with its first performances by the Augusta Symphony Trio, the Ron Jones Academy of Ballet and the Augusta String Quartet.
Proceeds from the $100 admission price and tickets for door prizes such as a North Carolina mountain vacation and jewelry from Windsor Jewelers will go toward the purchase of a grand piano and the library's endowment fund.
"I'm overwhelmingly pleased," said Stacie Adkins, the county's community events manager. "I think it proves the citizens of Columbia County are excited the library is here and we finally have a place for our artists and performers."
The $13 million, 51,000 square-foot facility features the library, a 296-seat performing arts center, a memorial garden and an outdoor amphitheater.
The official public grand opening is scheduled for mid to late April, and county officials have said they have invited first lady Laura Bush as an honored guest. County officials say they have not yet received a response from the first lady's office.
Click here to see more photos from the opening celebration of the new Columbia County Library and Performing Arts Center.
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