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October 19 2020

Pandemic Keeps ABAC from Sunbelt Expo for First Time Ever

TIFTON—Since an event called Dealer Days on the banks of Lake Baldwin in 1964, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College has always been a part of the Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition.  But not this year.  Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Expo will not be held.  Plans are for North America’s Premier Outdoor Farm Equipment Show to return to its Spence Field site near Moultrie in 2021. “ABAC and the Expo have certainly changed over the years but we both still have a commitment to agriculture, which continues to be Georgia’s largest industry,” ABAC President David Bridges said.  “The Expo has always represented a great opportunity for me to connect with our ABAC alumni, many of whom are on site as exhibitors.” ABAC faculty and staff members from the Division of Agriculture began the Dealer Days farm equipment show to connect students with possible future employers.   Dealer Days turned into the Sunbelt Expo when it moved to Spence Field in 1978.  ABAC personnel were front and center when the change was made, helping to lay out the exhibit areas and prepare the former air base for thousands of visitors and exhibitors.  Ironically, ABAC had students at Spence Field after World War II so it was a homecoming of sorts when college personnel returned to the site. Dr. Frank McCain, Jesse Chambliss, Wright Crosby, Jimmy Grubbs and many others helped to prepare the Expo site.  Grubbs, a former ABAC student who then became a longtime ABAC employee, is still an annual visitor to the Expo. “ABAC students did a lot of work down there to make the Expo what it is today,” Grubbs said.  “We have come a long way since Dealer Days.” The Sunbelt Agricultural Exposition opened at its new Spence Field site near Moultrie on Oct. 10-12, 1978. ABAC had a stage featuring student entertainment in front of the air traffic control tower.  ABAC students distributed gold stickers with ABAC #1 on them, signifying the claim as “Georgia’s Number One Junior College.”  Helen Strickland designed the ABAC exhibit.  The ABAC AET Club helped exhibitors with set-up and take-down, and the Home Economics Club members assisted with the information booths. ABAC invested in a green-and-gold tent in later years and showcased its student performing groups on a stage inside the tent.  From the Travelin’ Stallion square dancers to the ABAC Cloggers to the Fabulous Golddusters dance team, the students attracted record crowds for every show during the three days of the Expo every year. Dr. Fred Reuter and Ed Hawkins performed the patter for the square dancers, and Betty Mealor led the ABAC Cloggers.  Andrea Willis choreographed the Golddusters’ performances.  Bookstore Manager Emory Johnson often took the stage with his guitar when he wasn’t selling ABAC hats and t-shirts in a specially designed store just outside the tent. Through the years, Don Coates, Wayne Jones, Woody Leonard, Dr. Susan Roe, and others brought their student performers to the Expo site with featured slots for the Jazz Band, Jazz Choir, and the Thundering Herd Pep Band.  Occasionally, the ABAC Bluegrass Band also made an appearance, much to the delight of Expo audiences. In 1999, Lanier Carson and Kelley Manufacturing donated the funds for ABAC to construct its own building at the Expo.  The building made for a much nicer performing area for the students and allowed for merchandise sales of ABAC gear inside the structure. “The building changed everything for the better,” ABAC Director of Public Relations Emeritus Mike Chason said.  “We were protected from the weather, we had dressing rooms for the performers, and we had a better way to display our ABAC apparel. We still thank Mr. Carson every year.” When ABAC took over the operation of the Georgia Museum of Agriculture in 2010, a Museum exhibit was added to the ABAC building.  It proved to be a big hit with everything from tea cake sales to a blacksmith demonstrating his prowess. Under the direction of Director of Marketing and Communication Lindsey Roberts, the building underwent a total revamp in 2015.  Porches were added along with huge pictures and exhibits detailing success stories involving ABAC alumni and students. “We are really proud of our ABAC alumni, and Expo visitors get to find out more about them and their contributions to agriculture,” Roberts said.  “We also get to showcase our bachelor’s degrees.” Now a four-year college instead of a two-year college, ABAC offers 12 different bachelor’s degrees for its enrollment of nearly 4,000 students. Alumni Director Lynda Fisher sees more alumni at Expo than just about any other event during the year except for Homecoming. “We love to see our alumni at Expo every year and catch up with what’s happening in their lives,” Fisher said.  “It’s a great environment where alumni can re-connect with ABAC and with each other.” Prospective students also get a taste of ABAC from the ABAC Ambassadors who are key personnel when it comes to hosting all facets of activity at the building. “We’ll miss being at Expo this year, but we can’t wait until 2021,” Roberts said. ###
October 12 2020

ABAC Welcomes Prospective Students for Stallion Day on Nov. 14

TIFTON—With COVID-19 guidelines in place, Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College is inviting prospective students to campus on Nov. 14 for Stallion Day. Check-in will begin at 12:30 p.m. on the front of the campus at Tift Hall. The event will be limited to high school seniors and transfer students accompanied by two guests.  Face coverings will be required for all participants, faculty, staff, and current ABAC students. Brooke Jernigan, Assistant Director of Enrollment Management, is excited to be hosting an in-person Stallion Day this year. “When families visit during Stallion Day, they comment on the beauty of the campus and the friendliness of faculty, staff, and students,” Jernigan said. “The experience they have while visiting is often the deciding factor when choosing a college.” Following check-in, campus tours guided by ABAC Ambassadors will be available every 15 minutes. Sessions on financial aid and scholarships are also on the agenda. Visitors will be able to stroll down the ABAC pedestrian mall in the heart of the campus to visit with current ABAC students and learn about ABAC’s 60 different clubs and organizations. From 1:30-3:30 p.m., attendees can visit the Stallion School Showcase.  ABAC’s four schools which include Agriculture and Natural Resources, Arts and Sciences, Stafford School of Business, and Nursing and Health Sciences, will offer information sessions on the 12 different bachelor’s degrees and various associate degrees available inside the schools of study. ABAC bachelor’s degrees include Biology, Agribusiness, Environmental Horticulture, Agriculture, History and Government, Agricultural Education, Natural Resource Management, Business, Agricultural Communication, Rural Community Development, Nursing, and Writing and Communication. Prospective students are required to register ahead of time for Stallion Day at www.abac.edu/visit or by calling (229) 391-5000, option 1. There is no charge for the event.  If there are any questions regarding Stallion Day, prospective students can contact the admissions office via email at admissions@abac.edu. ###
October 22 2020

ABAC’s Donna Kay Sledge Named NATA Head Athletic Trainer of the Year

TIFTON–Donna Kay Sledge, Head Athletic Trainer at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, has been named Junior College Head Athletic Trainer of the Year by the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Intercollegiate Council for Sports Medicine. The qualifications for this award include having professional experience in a collegiate setting as well as being actively involved in the community on and off campus. “Donna is committed to helping her athletes be healthy and succeed both on and off the field,” the Georgia Athletic Trainers’ Association said. “This is a well-deserved honor for an incredible athletic trainer.” The Tifton native has been serving ABAC athletics for 15 years. She currently serves as the Southwest co-representative for the Georgia Athletic Training Association and is the Region 17 Athletic Trainer representative for the NJCAA Athletic Trainers. Sledge followed her love of athletic training to Valdosta State University where she received a Bachelor of Science in Sports Medicine and Physical Education. She then attended Austin Peay State University to receive her master’s degree in secondary education with a minor in community health care administration. Before landing at ABAC, Sledge worked at Centennial Medical Center Office where she was the Clinical Coordinator for the Sports Medicine Outreach Program. She has also worked with many professional sports teams including the Tennessee Titans, Nashville Knights, Nashville Predators, Nashville Kats, Nashville Metros, and the Nashville Sounds. Sledge has even covered events such as Olympic water polo and National ice skating. Dr. Alan Kramer, ABAC’s Director of Athletics, is proud to have Sledge on his team. “Donna works tirelessly to treat and care for our Fillies and Stallion student athletes as well as guests on our campus,” said Kramer. “She likes to stay in the background but is always front and center as the need arises.” ###