It’s almost time for kick off

It’s almost time for kick off!

It’s almost time for kick off!

With the college football season just around the corner, it’s time to start catching up with your team — and their opponents. Don’t forget that Ardmore’s Internet customers have access to the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” online with ESPN3.com. So celebrate your favorite college rivalry and stream the other gridiron grudge matches. Visit ESPN3.com for schedule and details.

National recognition in 2015

TelechoiceAward
Ardmore Telephone Company Operations Manager Georgie Bailey (left) and Chief Marketing Officer Carrie Huckeby hold a prestigious first-place award from NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association for The Ardmore Connection magazine.

Company officials took home two awards, out of six categories, during the annual telecom industry meeting, held in Austin, Texas. The Ardmore Connection magazine impressed several judges who particularly liked the use of customer profiles. “I could read it all day, and I’m not even a customer!” one judge wrote. “Your designs on stories like the profile of “American Pickers” make this magazine feel like a warm cup of coffee on a cold day.”
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Making a ‘smart’ decision

By Trevor Bonnstetter
Chief Executive Officer

Trevor Bonnstetter

Trevor Bonnstetter


When it comes to technology, we want everything to be “smart” these days. We have smartphones and smart watches, smart appliances in our kitchen and laundry room, smart thermostats and smart home gadgets with smart apps to control them.

While all this smart technology is impressive and can make life more convenient while saving us money, the really smart part of it all is the broadband network that so many of these devices and apps rely on to bring us this functionality.

This trend toward devices that are only possible with broadband is not going away. And as broadband becomes the leading infrastructure driving innovation, it is impacting every facet of our lives.

That’s why we decided long ago that improving broadband service in our rural area was the smart thing to do. With access to an advanced broadband network, boundless opportunities open up for our region:

Smarter businesses: Technology allows businesses to reach new customers and better serve the customers they already have. Smart businesses are using data and their broadband connections to learn more about customer habits, streamline supply chains and optimize their operations. Studies have shown that broadband-connected businesses bring in $200,000 more in median annual revenues than non-connected businesses. Our network ensures that these tools are available to our local businesses so they can compete regionally, nationally or even globally.

Smarter education: Local teachers and school administrators are doing amazing things with tablets, online resources and other learning tools. These smart schools are opening up new avenues for students to learn. Experts say that nationally, students in schools with broadband connections reach higher levels of educational achievements and have higher-income careers.

Smarter health care: From bracelets that keep track of physical activity to telemedicine, smart technology and broadband are improving the way we monitor and care for our bodies. Physicians are able to confer with other medical experts, transmit X-Rays and lab results and communicate with patients over our network. Through smart electronic medical records, everyone from stroke patients to expectant mothers is receiving better care because hospitals and doctors are getting “smarter.”

Smarter homes: A host of new devices has allowed users to bring smart technology into their homes. Smart devices allow you to monitor your home, change the thermostat, turn on lights and even lock or unlock doors remotely.

We’ve made smart decisions that put our community in a position to take advantage of this smart revolution. As our devices, businesses, homes, schools and hospitals get smarter, rest assured that your telecommunications provider is smart enough to have the infrastructure in place to handle these demands — plus whatever the future holds.

A picture-perfect place to be

By Matt Ledger

New Market couple Bethany and Whitney Dean have transformed this vintage cottage into a quaint rental getaway.

New Market couple Bethany and Whitney Dean have transformed this vintage cottage into a quaint rental getaway.

The melodic song “Home” is a new folk tune co-written by Whitney Dean of New Market. It delves into the complexity of life on the move and the longing to find a place to call home.

The song might as well be an anthem for Dean and his wife, Bethany, whose pursuit of their passions have led them from photographing beach weddings as far away as Australia, to recording songs in Nashville, to right back home in New Market running a bed and breakfast.

A professional union

Bethany and Whitney Dean were living out of a suitcase long before it became the subject of his song. They began working together as wedding photographers and continued as owners of a bed and breakfast in New Market. The Deans started shooting wedding photos shortly after their own walk down the aisle, nearly six years ago. “We pooled our materials and started chasing that dream,” he says. After honing their skills, they opened Glass Jar Photography, specializing in brightly-stylized wedding imagery. They also create content and imaging for singers and musicians, primarily in Nashville. That side project has since branched out into creating CD cover art and even a few music videos, a project that was made possible after Bethany happened to hear the right vocalist to form a musical duo with her husband.

To achieve this, she started exchanging messages with a stranger from Spokane, Washington. To some, sending that message and following through may have seemed impulsive, but to a couple committed to following their dreams throughout the world, it’s nothing new.

Their photography business primarily catered to destination weddings. This past year, the camera-toting couple traveled to Cape Cod, Destin and New Orleans. They gladly finished out 2014 with a New Year’s Eve wedding back home in Alabama. They already have several location weddings for 2015, including Malibu, Seattle and Cancun. Shooting photos at rustic barns, beautiful beaches and lavish landscapes gave inspiration to the couple. “We began to wonder if we would like to own a destination space that could host weddings,” Dean says.

Bethany and Whitney Dean in front of their 100-year-old home.

Bethany and Whitney Dean in front of their 100-year-old home.

Location, Location, Location!

Bethany’s brother, Darrin Hasley — a local realtor — found the perfect colonial-style building for their new business venture. The fact that it had a massive courtyard was just icing on the cake, providing an amazing natural backdrop for the storybook weddings they liked to photograph. The Deans made a few small repairs to the vintage plaster and spent many days painting a new color scheme on the exterior of the home. The couple also added more brick walkways and trellises for ivy to grow, creating an ideal outdoor nook for nuptials.

They held numerous weddings at the residence for 18 months before making a tough decision. The venture was successful, but it overtook their other pursuits. “We just couldn’t maintain the concept without hiring other people to do it,” Dean says. “We were traveling in and out of the state, and even the country for that matter. It just became too much to juggle.” They came up with a hybrid idea, returning to the road to continue their destination wedding photography and scaling back to simply renting their cottage to vacationers.

A springtime view of the cottage quietly nestled among the bushes.

A springtime view of the cottage quietly nestled among the bushes.

For the Deans, one of the biggest perks of the property had always been the separate cottage. “We decided to pursue it as a bed and breakfast, for the time being,” Bethany says. “It has turned out to work perfectly.” After using it as a honeymoon suite for their brides and grooms, the Deans opened up their 100-year-old Cottage at Winchester Manor to travelers seeking a quaint escape.

After a nearly seamless transition, the rental is booked most weekends. Only 15 miles from Huntsville, the renovated one-bedroom bungalow is more than 400 square feet of plush relaxation, featuring a rare herringbone-patterned brick floor, whirlpool tub and a small kitchenette for that morning cup of joe. The Deans have heard tales from neighbors that their cottage was once used as a dentist’s office and an antique store in more recent years, and was possibly built as servant quarters. The Deans now allow other local photographers to use the adjacent courtyard for photo shoots.

The Deans consider the cottage a “self-catering” B&B, with local menus available in the suite, along with a few recommendations. It’s located in historic downtown New Market, only walking distance from a few local restaurants. A few celebrities have even stayed in the cottage, including Nikki Reed from the “Twilight” movies and Hunstville native Paul MacDonald from “American Idol.”

Music to their ears

Whitney Dean and Cami Bradley during a performance as The Sweeplings.

Whitney Dean and Cami Bradley during a performance as The Sweeplings.

Whitney Dean’s other artistic release is writing folk music, and he has even written for Nashville singers. “Several other up-and-coming artists in Nashville have stayed here, and I have been able to write music with them,” he says.

An evening of watching TV on the couch turned into an unexpected collaboration in 2014. Bethany was merely listening to an episode of “America’s Got Talent” when one rendition caused her to pause the DVR and call her husband into the room. “That’s who you need to write with,” she told Whitney. Cami Bradley was belting out a few bars of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” during her audition for the NBC show.

On a long shot, Bethany contacted the Spokane native on Facebook, and a few exchanged messages resulted in Whitney traveling to Washington state in April 2014. “We needed to see if there was any musical chemistry, and I was fully intending on just writing songs for her to use,” Dean says. During that three-day trip, they found a shared vision of “cinematic folk-pop” and realized that singing and performing as a duo was the direction to explore.

The following month, Bradley flew to New Market, staying in the Deans’ quaint cottage for six days while recording several more songs. Living more than 2,000 miles apart, Bradley and Dean have had online video conversations to continue their project, and they exchange vocal tracks and recordings through emails. Together they formed The Sweeplings, finishing their first few songs and capping off the trip by selling out their first performance at the Merrimack Theatre in Huntsville. The combination of their sweeping melodies and the suffix “-ling”, or small group, is what formed the name for their duo project.

Bethany Dean shot the video for the tender ballad “Across the Sea” during a trip to Atlanta. The song’s bridge is reminiscent of the Deans’ journey: “I could travel a thousand times around the world. But without you, simply unpacking bags won’t make an ordinary place your home.” More recently, they have sold out their last six shows. The Sweeplings have already released a four-track demo in 2014, and those songs will be available on their full-length album planned for release this June.

Slow down in work zones

Fiber0402Linemen have dangerous jobs, and the dangers aren’t always from the heights or the equipment on which they work. These dangers involve motorists and are often fatal.

Crews at Ardmore Telephone are committed to facing these dangers to ensure you have the best and most reliable service available. But they need your help to keep their crews safe.

When approaching a utility work zone, please slow down and, if possible, move to a lane farther away from the crews.

Utility workers are killed each year in the United States due to traffic accidents that occur in street and highway work zones. These accidents are sudden, violent and almost always preventable. Please help keep these hardworking crews safe.

Like us on Facebook and visit us on the Web!

Almost everyone likes to win! So make sure to like Ardmore’s Facebook page. There will be several games throughout the rest of 2015. You could win some of the fun prizes in store for these contests, as well as learn about important new products and service updates. You’ll also notice our new logo, created along with the new, easy-to-navigate website. The new site allows members access to SmartHub, so you can pay bills online with recurring debit/credit cards and bank drafts.

Hosts with the most (mileage)

The Thayer family have been serving as park hosts while living in a fifth-wheel trailer at the park for the last few months.

The Thayer family have been serving as park hosts while living in a fifth-wheel trailer at the park for the last few months.
 

Many families head off on a weekend camping trip as an escape, building lifelong memories while making s’mores over a hearty campfire. However, for one family of six, their experience is about reconnecting while spending months in the cozy comfort of a fifth-wheel trailer.

Since October, Eric and Gabrijela Thayer have stayed at the park along with their kids — Ian, Noah, Zoe and Eli — and 3 dogs. “It’s cozy, but it’s good for us right now and is meeting our needs,” Thayer says.

The Thayers arrived in Huntsville in September, returning to take care of Eric’s mother and uncle in the city where he grew up. They also volunteered as campground hosts at the Sharon Johnston RV Park. The family braved the winter months with a few heaters, as early morning temps sometimes plunged below 45 degrees inside their trailer. “We are blessed with so much in life, so to deal with less helps us not take things for granted,” Gabrijela says.

Thayer deployed four times in six years, with trips to the Middle East and Southeast Asia while in the U.S. Navy. During his time in the service, humanitarian missions were replaced with anti-piracy efforts aiding cargo ships. “I honestly didn’t know that they still had pirates in this world,” he says, chuckling. “They’re not as luxurious as you see in the movies. It was exciting, but that took me away from the family a lot, so that was part of the reason why we traveled around the country.”

Eric returned from his final deployment in January 2014. He used remaining ‘leave time’ to take the family on a cross-country trip to the national parks so he could bond with their kids — ages 8 to 15. They traveled around California for a month until he could officially retire. “We wanted to see the country,” says Gabrijela, who is originally from Novi Sad, Yugoslavia. “It first started as a little joke that we would travel in a tiny trailer, but then that joke turned into a dream. It’s been wonderful.”

Eric is accustomed to the tight quarters of a ship, but his family would get to learn many of those same challenges in the 36-foot trailer. Their eight-month journey took them through 42 states before landing in Alabama. “We wanted to get to Alaska, but we took too much time in some of the other states,” Thayer says, laughing.

The family has found peace while staying at the rustic rural park, providing a greater sense of ease than the Huntsville neighborhood that Eric grew up in. “We can come out at night and not worry about our safety,” he says.

“I was complaining about having to move from San Diego to Alabama, but then we got here, and this is really a nice place, and I don’t mind staying here. We really haven’t seen anything quite like it.” Gabrijela says.

After six months at the campsite, the Thayers are now preparing to move their fifth-wheel trailer to his uncle’s residence to provide continuous care for the ailing man. Eric plans to attend Calhoun Community College this fall, using the GI Bill toward an engineering degree. Soon, a new park host will be selected to begin their volunteer experience at this majestic park.

A family reconnects while helping others

By Matt Ledger

The rustic weekend retreat that James Johnston built for his family.

The rustic weekend retreat that James Johnston built for his family.

James Johnston, the owner of a Huntsville-based concrete company, envisioned family outings surrounded by the unspoiled natural region of Madison County.

He made that passion a reality and eventually shared the land with the public so others could share his vision at the park named after his daughter, Sharon Johnston.

“They bought this land because of their love for the great outdoors,” Park Director Jenny Barrett says. “They would come out here on the weekends to fish in the lake that he built.”

The Sharon Johnston Park is popular among RVers, campers and anyone near New Market looking for a place to get outside, but many don’t know the story behind the park.

Johnston’s 31-year-old daughter Sharon — an accomplished aerobatic stunt pilot — died in 1974 during a performance at a naval air station in Massachusetts. Four years later, the family donated the land to the Madison County Commission in memory of their daughter, to share their love of the great outdoors with other families.

The ironically-named “Play Station” playground aims to keep kids active while staying at Sharon Johnston Park in New Market.

The ironically-named “Play Station” playground aims to keep kids active while staying at Sharon Johnston Park in New Market.

The Johnstons sought to teach their three children how to enjoy the great outdoors, escaping the city for weekend retreats for many years. Johnston also built a prominent fireplace that now bears his name, and their rustic cabin now serves as a caretaker’s house for the 250-acre property.

Park amenities

An avid fisherman, Johnston frequented the 12-acre lake he built on the property, which is stocked with catfish, bass, bream and crappie. The park has 14 rustic sites available for $15 per night, or monthly rates with a limit of a four-month stay. There are 25 full-hook-up sites that go for $18 per night, capable of hosting large motorhomes or fifth-wheel trailers.

The park hosts numerous family reunions each year and has several popular annual events. Senior Fun Day is Tuesday, May 5, with more than 2,000 people attending in 2014. The Scottish Festival and Highland Games happens in October, drawing a large crowd for traditions like the caber toss, Celtic music and ethnic foods. A youth fishing rodeo also takes place each spring, and the 5K running trail hosted the 2014 Div. II Collegiate Southeast Regional Championship. A park pavilion designed for weddings is still being constructed, despite a few weather delays.

The amenities and scenery of the Sharon Johnston Park impressed Eric Thayer and his family upon arrival, after staying in numerous other campgrounds during a 15-month-long journey. “Most of the campgrounds weren’t this nice, and they charged a lot more,” Eric says. “It’s such a beautiful and quiet place, with a really nice playground that is great for families,” his wife Gabrijela adds.

Calendar of Events
May 2 — Community Yard Sale
May 5 — Older American Festival/Spring Fun Fest – Gate 5
May 16 — Madison County Youth Fishing Rodeo – Gate 5
May 30 — Madison County Saddle Club Horse Show
June 6 — Mission Firefly 5K Race – Gate 5
June 27 — Madison County Saddle Club Horse Show
Sept. 26 — TVSS Scottish Festival and Highland Games
Oct. 10 — Car Show

Campground Amenities

  • Olympic-sized swimming pool
  • Twelve acres of lake, annually stocked with catfish
  • Small picnic shelters and large pavilions with open-air barbecue grills
  • Handicapped-accessible playground
  • Soccer fields
  • A 5K walking/running course
  • Primitive arena for horses
  • A skeet and pistol range on a leased portion of the land

For more information regarding upcoming events, please visit www.madisoncountyal.gov/sjpark/.

 

Fiber optics are coming!

Fiber0402On March 16, Ardmore Telephone Company began a fiber project that will bring high-speed Internet to Main Street. Fiber works by sending pulses of light along strands of glass the thickness of a human hair. The network is being installed using a mix of aerial and underground construction, and the project will continue throughout the year. This expansion will include additional nearby areas that have yet to be determined. Check Ardmore’s Facebook page or The Ardmore Connection magazine for future availability.