Friday, June 19, 2009

19 JUN 09: Forward March

Talk about a big and busy weekend in Columbus! A new museum officially opens during the morning. A weekend of "outdoor sports" begins in the afternoon. Yet the event likely to draw the biggest crowd will have the least amount of parking.

Let's take the events in order - beginning with today's grand opening of the National Infantry Museum. Well, the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center. Well, the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Patriot Park. Welllll.... maybe we should create a good Army acronym, and call it NIMS-CAPP.

The museum complex actually opened in March. Then retired General Jerry White grumbled attendance was low. That may explain all the promotional hype for today's grand opening. There's a special section in the newspaper, an hour-long special on TV tonight - and I'm a bit surprised there won't be a military parade down South Lumpkin Road.

The main museum is what actually opens today. Other sections have been open since March, such as the IMAX Theatre - so if you can't attend today's ceremony, the footage from WLTZ's high-definition cameras may be shown there next week for six dollars a ticket.

Project managers admitted to WLTZ Thursday the National Infantry Museum had to do its own version of a "big switch" during construction. It switched from analog video to digital - although you'd think an analog TV showing soldiers trudging through Vietnam would be much truer to the era.

(Which reminds me: did you see WRBL's live report from the museum Thursday night? It was sent over the Internet via Skype - but the video quality was so poor, I was left thinking Skype rhymes with cheapee.)

The guest speaker at the National Infantry Museum's grand opening is retired General Colin Powell. Hopefully his visit includes a drive down Colin Powell Parkway in Phenix City - where the locals can point to everything that's changed in recent years. Most of it was due to the April tornado, but still....

At my Thursday night poker game, I asked the table if anyone planned to go to the National Infantry Museum grand opening. No one seemed interested, and one man said he'd wait because today would be too crowded. It wasn't too crowded to have eight players around a poker table, but that's another matter.

The museum staff promises to have shuttles and trams available, to transport people from overflow parking lots to the grand opening ceremony. Shoppers who expect such things at Columbus Park Crossing simply will have to walk for a day.

Peter Bowden of the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau told WRBL the city is trying to promote the National Infantry Museum as a tourist attraction. It can be used for military reunions, wedding parties - and I can't wait for them to borrow an idea from Port Columbus, and hold a weekend Humvee show.

After you walk around the National Infantry Museum, you can head to South Commons for the start of the second annual Aflac Outdoor Games. I'm not sure exactly when cooking barbecue chicken became a "game," but that's beside the point....

One highlight of the Aflac Outdoor Games will be "timbersports" events, which will be recorded by ESPN and shown later in the year. One of these events is the "Hot Saw Competition" - and if it's not kept in the shade, any saw is likely to be hot this weekend.

The schedule for the Aflac Outdoor Games also includes daily demonstrations of something called "flyball." This obviously was a concession to displaced softball players, who had their league seasons disrupted.

The Aflac Outdoor Games even has a guest appearance by "Bob and Sheri" from WCGQ-FM. After all those years on the radio, it's nice to see they're finally making a public appearance in Columbus - after hiding from all those offended church pastors.

So which event is likely to draw the biggest crowd of the weekend? I'm guessing it will still be Davis Broadcasting's "Family Day in the Park" Saturday at Cooper Creek Park. Before Aflac brought in "agility dogs," this event had people calling each other "dawgs."

Family Day in the Park is so huge that businesses near Cooper Creek Park have to make special preparations for it. A few charge exorbitant parking fees, to make extra money. And one year, I noticed Shooters on Milgen Road was closed - perhaps out of fear "gangsta rappers" might show up.

True confession: I'm not familiar with the star acts scheduled for Family Day in the Park. One of them is named Twista - so I'm assuming he/she/they will be introduced by meteorologist Bruce Lee.

The other events happening in Columbus this weekend will have a hard time competing with all this. The Lions have a key indoor football game. The Woodbats are playing at Golden Park. And hopefully local dads won't mind if their children don't remember Father's Day until Monday.

But it occurred to me that city planners are missing a golden opportunity here. Shouldn't some of the weekend events be combined, to maximize attendance? For instance, have infantry soldiers chant in cadence during the log rolling contest - or have the "agility dogs" run through a shooting range for the Army marksmanship unit.

BLOG UPDATE: Hooray! Nearly a week of "scanning and rescanning" finally brought success Thursday night. My HDTV finally found WTVM's digital signal. Maybe some key component had to melt when the temperature topped 95 degrees F.

The return of WTVM means all the wandering TV stations in the area have come home to my digital set - except Georgia Public Broadcasting. Children relying on over-the-air television in Columbus South might grow up thinking the "Cookie Monster" is hiding at the Lance Foods plant.

Now that we've looked ahead to the future, let's look back on some Thursday news headlines:

+ Rep. Vance Smith of Pine Mountain was named Georgia's new transportation commissioner. Do you realize what this means? Within five years, Smith's influence could widen Interstate 185 to six lanes throughout Harris County.

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported construction work has been suspended at the new Rob Doll Nissan location on Whittlesey Road. Doll explains the delay is due to lengthy negotiations with Nissan's financing company. If someone suggested Doll hire Bill Heard's legal team, this could be real trouble....

(Radio ads during the spring indicated the new Rob Doll Nissan would be open about now. But Thursday. the Rob Doll web site only said "soon." Regular car-buyers know this approach as the stare-down.)

+ A judge in Birmingham ruled former HealthSouth chief executive Richard Scrushy owes shareholders nearly three billion dollars, due to fraud and mismanagement. Since Scrushy still is in federal prison, shareholders may have to settle for receiving compensation in cigarette packs.

+ Instant Message to the city crew which put up a "MEN WORKING AHEAD" sign at 12th and Veterans Parkway: I only have one word to say to you - sexist.

COMING NEXT WEEK: An election "off-year" suddenly is on, and could get wild.... and this blog marks another milestone....

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