Pee Dee State Fair offers ‘something for everyone’

By: Andrew Boardwine, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. — Pee Dee residents began flooding the Florence Center on Thursday afternoon and into the evening for a chance to be the some of the first people to experience The Greater Pee Dee State Fair & Expo.

Florence Center officials celebrated the opening of the inaugural fair with a brief ceremony and a ribbon cutting that included confetti cannons.

The fair will run every day until Saturday, Sept, 16, opening at 4 p.m. during weekdays and 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Paul Beard, general manager of Florence Center, said the staff was excited to see the fair finally kick off.

“It’s been a lot of work,” Beard said. “Our entire staff has already been burning the midnight oil, but it will be worth it. Hubert Bullard [fair manager] and I have run and seen a lot of fairs, and this one is by far the biggest. I’m excited to work with him, and he’s done a fantastic job.”

Admission for the first day was free. For the remainder of the fair, admission is $7 and children two and under get in free, but the Florence Center will have several promotions, including Scrubs Night, 4-H Day at the Fair, Military and First Responders Night, student nights, as well as a Faith & Family Day. Visit for more information and details.

Residents had the chance to experience more than 50 rides and attractions, including the world’s largest portable roller coaster, as well as entertainment shows, games and tasty treats.

“Other than the state fairs in Columbia and Raleigh, this is the biggest fair in all of the Carolinas,” Beard said. “We’ve got something for everyone, young or old. If you’re into thrill rides, we have thrill rides. If you have kids, we have stuff for them. If you like to be entertained, we have plenty of shows and vendors. That’s not even mentioning the all the fun fair food.”

There will be free parking in the lower deck of the Florence Center, but there will also be two overflow parking lots: At G.E. Healthcare across the street at 3001 W. Radio Drive and at the old Winn-Dixie parking at 124 S. Cashua Dr.

Those free parking lots will be available on Friday, Saturday and Sunday with trolley and shuttle services running from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on those days. Seniors and ADA drop-off will be available in the lower deck of the Florence Center. For more information on parking, visit

“A lot of kids growing up have never gotten to experience something like this,” Beard said. “For some, Columbia is a lifetime away. This fair will give families and kids a chance to create memories and have a great time right here in Florence.”

Pee Dee Realtor Association host Business After Hours

By: Andrew Boardwine

Hundreds of business and community leaders gathered at the Pee Dee Realtors Association office Thursday, September 6th for an evening of networking and fellowship.

The Pee Dee Realtors Association, at 1375 Celebration Blvd., held a Business After Hours event in conjunction with the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce.

Jennifer King, CEO of the association, said the Business After Hours gives members of the business community a chance to network.

“We are members of the chamber and we value that partnership,” King said. “This is sort of coming off the high point of buying season, so we thought this would be a perfect time to get together, mix and mingle and for all the people in the business community to come out and have a great time.”

Attendees were treated to live music, free refreshments and a chance to win some door prizes.

The association links real estate people together, provides education for those in the field and looks to support the community.

Mindy Taylor of Duke Energy will serve as the 2018 – 2019 Chairman of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce

By: Andrew Boardwine

Mindy Taylor of Duke Energy will serve as the chairman of the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce board of directors for the 2018-19 term.

Taylor, the district manager for government and community relations, said the chamber of commerce is the “front door” to any community.

“One part of my job is to understand the community,” Taylor said. “The Florence Chamber of Commerce does such a great job and they’re so focused on supporting the local business community and providing relevant programs to businesses in an effort for them to be successful.

Fresenius Kidney Care expands in Florence

By:  Matthew Christian, Morning News

Shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dr. John Pittard cut the ribbon to mark the expansion of Fresenius Kidney Care in Florence.

Fresenius Kidney Care has expanded into a new facility that will allow more patients to be cared for individually. It had more clients than it could handle at its previous location.

The new facility is at 1453 Pamplico Highway.

Fresenius Kidney Care trains patients with end-stage kidney failure how to perform dialysis at home except for one visit per month to a kidney center. Dialysis is the process that attempts to replicate the removal of poisons from the human body that the kidneys normally perform. Fresenius Kidney Care offers patients with failed kidneys the opportunity to learn how to perform one of two types of kidney dialysis depending on their needs.

Being able to dialyze at home offers patients with end-stage kidney failure the freedom to continue to live their life.

“It’s tough,” Pittard said. “One of my favorite stories: I was coming back from Wyoming about four years ago, and I went to turn in a car at 4:30 in the morning. There’s a couple, a man and his daughter from Galveston [Texas], because of the flood problems, he has to travel 45 minutes to Houston to dialyze.”

Pittard said the man’s situation was even worse on vacation in Wyoming. In that state, near Jackson Hole, the closest place for him to go was in Idaho, an 85-mile trip across the southern end of the Teton Mountains.

“On top of it, the clinic he was supposed to go to messed up,” Pittard continued. “He didn’t have a spot. His vacation got canceled after four days. Had he been on home dialysis, there would have been no problem. He could have enjoyed his vacation.”

For more information on Fresenius Kidney Care, visit


Incubator on display at Florence Business After Hours event

By:  Andrew Boardwine

Florence-Darlington Tech officials showed off their Charles W. Gould Business Incubator office space Wednesday evening as part of the organization’s Business After Hours event.

Hundreds of ambassadors from the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce joined business and community leaders for a night of networking, fellowship and touring the facility.

The Gould Business Incubator offers a clean and modern environment for office-based and manufacturing ventures with affordable work spaces, free phone and internet service and the most modern shared support amenities.

Ashley Deaza, executive director of the SiMT Gould Business Incubator, said the business incubator is a great resource for those wanting to start or grow their business.

“I thought the Business After Hours would be a great way to make the community aware of the resource we have here at the SiMT in the business incubator,” Deaza said. “Many are still wondering what purpose the business incubator serves. It’s very simply put: We’re a great place to grow your business with all the resources you need. We’re open to working with all types of industries and it’s really exciting.”

The Gould Business Incubator was established as an extension of the Southeastern Institute of Manufacturing and Technology in 2012 to help ensure the success of new business ventures in the Florence-Darlington area, according to its website.

The incubator includes seven modern, furnished office spaces and 17 multi-use bays. All spaces are expandable and many offer large roll-up doors and 480 volt, 3-phase power.

Deaza said the incubator had four new companies, including female-owned companies, join this summer.

“There’s quite a variety of different business that have joined,” Deaza said. “We’re just really excited and things really tend to kick up in the fall and the spring. We do have a few spaces left ranging in sizes, so we may be the right fit for a company looking for a place.”

For more information, visit

Active Day of the Pee Dee joins Florence Chamber, snips ribbon to celebrate

By Andrew Boardwine, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. — Active Day of the Pee Dee joined ambassadors from the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce Wednesday to celebrate the organization’s new chamber membership with a ribbon cutting.

Active Day of the Pee Dee, at 2120 Enterprise Drive, has been around for more than 18 years and serves disabled adults and seniors through many different services.

Tyra Jefferson, center director for Active Day of the Pee Dee, said the Pee Dee location is one of 13 centers in South Carolina. Nationwide, the organization operates more than 100 centers in 14 states and has been open for more than 20 years.

“We provide respite services and are a community resource for individuals who have Alzheimer’s, dementia, autism and special needs,” Jefferson said. “Our members are here for socialization. When they’re come here, they’re able to meet people and it helps with their care, health and living.”

Jefferson said joining the chamber will allow the organization to be more actively involved in the Pee Dee community. She said the organization plans to build and expand within the next few years as it continues to increase its footprint in Florence.

“I’ve seen the chamber do so many things in the community,” Jefferson said. “They do awesome work for community engagement and I think that fits our mission and our vision of where we’re going.”

Active Day cares for more than 7,000 members.

“The members are personal to me,” Jefferson said. “My son is autistic, so I get to come to work and do what I do at home. I’m a caregiver myself, so I get it both ways. I know what it’s like to provide the service and receive the service. I really love the members and our great staff.”

Active Day will be celebrating National Adult Day Health Services Week Sunday, Sept. 16, through Saturday, Sept. 22. The organization has a list of events on its Facebook page and welcomes volunteers.

For more information, contact Active Day at 843-665-1919 or e-mail You can also follow Active Day of the Pee Dee on Facebook or visit

Chamber’s 2018 Annual Membership Luncheon

By:  Matthew Christian, Morning News

A speech given Thursday by former S.C. Gov. David Beasley at the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Annual Membership Luncheon inspired an anonymous donor to help start a fund in Beasley’s honor.

Sarah Shelley, the executive director of the Eastern Carolina Community Foundation, said Thursday afternoon that the donor was so inspired by Beasley’s description of his work as executive director of the United Nations World Food Program that after the speeches and ceremonies ended, she was approached by the donor.

Beasley was appointed to the food program in 2017 after being nominated by Nikki Haley, the current ambassador to the United Nations and also a former governor of South Carolina.

The donor asked if the foundation could do something, and Shelley was able to get it done.

“The donor was struck by how so little can help so many,” Shelley said.

In his speech, Beasley said it took less than 50 cents to feed a person a single meal. Children can be fed with approximately 25 cents.

Shelley added that the donor hadn’t previously considered the connection between international security and food security, the ability of individuals to access food, that Beasley spoke of in his speech to those attending the luncheon.

Beasley described conversations with mothers who said their husbands joined organizations classified by the United States as terroristic as a way of providing food for their families. With food provided by the food program, the recruiting tactics of those organizations are lowered.

He also mentioned that food-security problems cause many people in the Sahel, the transition zone between the Sahara Desert and the rainforests of southern Africa, to leave their homelands in search of better opportunities in Europe. Organizations classified as terroristic by the United States can use these migrations to enter those areas as well. With no migrations, the likelihood of an terroristic attack would be lessened.

Shelley also said the donor was inspired by Beasley.

“It shows that we can grow pretty good people here in the Pee Dee,” she said.

Beasley, a Darlington County native, was the governor of South Carolina from 1995 to 1999. Prior to being elected, he served as a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives. After being defeated by Democrat Jim Hodges in 1998, Beasley served as a fellow at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government and was awarded the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for his request to the South Carolina General Assembly to remove the Confederate battle flag from the Statehouse. Beasley lost to Jim DeMint in a 2004 Senate election.

He also was a co-incorporator of the Center for Global Strategies.

Schipp Johnston named Business Person of Year at Florence Chamber’s Annual Membership Luncheon

By: Andrew Boardwine, Morning News

FLORENCE, S.C. – Schipp Johnston, the owner of Crown Beverages in Florence, was named the 2018 Business Person of the Year during the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce Annual Membership Luncheon on Thursday.

Johnston, a Florence native, said he was thankful for his staff, his family and those who gave him an opportunity in his career.

“It’s a humbling honor,” Johnston said. “I want to thank everyone who works at Crown Beverages and all of our partners. I also want to thank my family and the support they’ve given me.”

Johnston graduated from South Florence High School before attending the University of South Carolina. After working in Charlotte for a few years, Johnston returned home in 1991 to work for DuBard Beverages. He worked in several capacities, including controller, sales manager, general manager and partner. In 2006, Johnston purchased the business and formed what is known today as Crown Beverages Inc.

At the time of the purchase, the company had just one supplier — Anheuser-Busch, Inc. — but has since grown to more than 40 suppliers, employs about 80 people and serves over 800 customers in seven counties in the Pee Dee.

“Mr. DuBard means everything to me,” Johnston said. “He gave me a chance and fortunately, I’ve been surrounding by great people, great friends and a great family. It’s been awesome and I really appreciate it.”

Recently, Johnston reached an agreement with Southern Eagle Distributing Co. based in Charleston and the two companies now represent 51 counties and employ more than 500 people.

In addition to his job, Johnston loves to spend time with his family and volunteer in the community.