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Thumbs Up! - April 30, 2012

While not necessarily successful, the art of blowing upwards to deter the settling of a commune of pesky gnats is one learned early in life ... at least in South Georgia. In Camilla, residents celebrate the insects with a festival. The 25th annual Gnat Days Festival is coming this weekend with activities for the entire family. There will be a 5K race, a bike race, vendors galore, music, a pet show, pony rides, Bible Bingo, live animals, food, a chicken wing eating contest and more. As the day winds down, there will be an "Under the Oaks" dance with a live band. As with many of the events that fill the calendar this time of year, Gnat Days is a fun, safe and affordable way to spend time with friends and families, AND there is no need to bring your own gnats. There will be plenty on hand.

Congratulations to the 17 Dougherty County School System seniors who will be attending Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) in the fall on Presidential Scholarships totaling more than $1 million. DCSS Superintendent Joshua Murfree contacted the institution about the financial situations of academically outstanding students within the system, and obviously the right people were impressed. These scholars now have an opportunity to continue their education and become pillars of the community in which they choose to settle down. Hard work and clean living has once again proven to be the best route in life.

Thousands and thousands of "American Idol" hopefuls showed up at a variety of venues throughout the United States in search of a place in the television show's Season 11. Slightly more than 300 coveted "Golden Tickets" to Hollywood were issued during the auditions. And now, only five contestants remain. The talent has undoubtedly been far better this season than in several of the past, and south Georgia can boast that one of the remaining competitors hails from none other than Leesburg. Phillip Phillips has proven he is a very talented young man and has left no doubt about his future. Phillips has remained true to his love of music and continued to show he is an artist first and foremost, never swaying into the hype of stage and costume. Good luck, Phillip, on "Idol" and all the years to follow.

Students at Albany High School, about 100 of them, participated in the Liberty House-sponsored Helping Hands Project last week. The young people signed a contract pledging not to participate in physical or sexual abuse and then made an imprint of their hand on a poster. In addition to this project, students placed 98 pinwheels near the school's front entrance to represent the number of juvenile victims of crime in the Dougherty and Lee County area Jan. 1-March 30 of this year. These activities were part of the areawide Crime Victims' Rights Week and time well spent by the young people and adults involved.

Staff members at Merry Acres Middle School were recently treated to neck and shoulder massages during their lunch break. The Parent-Teacher Association, along with Albany Therapeutic Massage, provided the relaxation as a show of appreciation for all their hard work throughout the year. What a great way to say thank you!

Annette Bowling, the Executive Director of the Albany Area Resource Center, has been awarded the 2012 Liberty Bell Award by the Dougherty County Circuit Bar Association. The award was bestowed upon Bowling for her tremendous impact on the legal system as an advocate for people with disabilities, a fact well-known in this community.

-- The Albany Herald Editorial Board