Newton County was abuzz with activity this weekend, as thousands raced in the 27th annual Fuzz Run, while hundreds of other residents attended the seventh annual Literacy Festival, the grand opening of Denny Dobbs Park and Sept. 11 memorial services.
The Covington Police Department’s Fuzz Run was the signature event of the weekend, drawing 2,100 racers, according to Lt. Paul Dailey. Felix Kiboiywo, of Auburn, Ala., set a course record of 14:16 in his first attempt in Covington, shattering the previous record of 14:40.
"It feels awesome. I didn’t know I was running that fast. I was aiming for 14:30, but when I turned that first corner I was running at a 14:00 pace," Kiboiywo said.
Both Kiboiywo, 23, and overall female winner Janet Cherodon, 32 of Rome, Ga. said they loved the course and people in Covington. Cherodon matched the women’s course record at 16:40, which had been previously set by Cherodon herself.
"I’m proud of that, but I wish I would have set the course record; I miscalculated," Cherodon said.
Although the top winners were professional runners, several locals participated just for fun. Mother-daughter team Renee, 41, and Mackenzie Mallard, 11, participate in several local races, including the Covington Y’s Cheerios Challenge and the Deer Dash in Monticello.
"I like to come out and get free stuff and see people I know," said Mackenzie. Renee added that the two always go out for a sweet treat afterward.
Several members of the Newton High School Cross Country Team decided to come out for a fun race and the group captured numerous medals. Alex Grady, Gabriel Alvarez and Jamal Green took first, second and third place in the 15-19 age men’s category. Green, 17, said the team had a lot of young talent and was hoping to win its region.
Kaylen Krueger, 24, placed first in the women’s law enforcement category. The Covington resident works for the Griffin Police Department and said she enjoys the annual race.
"It’s good to have something for law enforcement to support them," Krueger said.
Denny Dobbs Park
The joyful yelps of children on the playground were already being heard at Denny Dobbs Park Friday, before the park’s official dedication. On a cloudless afternoon, the park’s namesake was honored for his years of service as a state representative for Newton County and his service to the Newton Recreation Commission.
"I’m glad to see that you all have decided to name this park in his honor because he certainly deserves it," said Rep. Bob Lane (R–Statesboro), one of Dobbs’ best friends. "I’ve always admired him, he’s a person I’d like to be when I get a little bit older. He’s always been conscientious … He never forgot Newton County, I can tell you that. He was always up (at the capitol) fighting for what was due to Newton County."
Newton County Chairman Kathy Morgan said Dobbs belonged to a different generation of leaders, those who were public servants, not politicians. She praised his continued work on the Joint Development Authority and as a trusted consultant to many elected officials; she said he’s probably the most-well known person in the county.
"Denny Dobbs is one of these people. He doesn’t have to know you, all he has to do is see you and see that’s there’s need," said Morgan.
Dobbs said the dedication was humbling. He said afterwards that he was blessed to be good friends with many other elected officials, including Gov. Zell Miller, which helped him accomplish goals for Newton County.
"I did my little part, but (my wife) Cathy is going to shoot me for saying this, but nobody does anything by themselves. And Zell Miller had a way of turning a phrase, he had this corny thing. ‘You’re riding down the road and you see a turtle on a fence post, you can be sure of one thing, he didn’t get there by himself,’" said Dobbs.
Current and former county commissioners, recreation commission board members, Sunbelt Builders employees and others were also thanked for their efforts in making the park a reality.
The seventh annual Literacy Festival took place on the square Saturday and had representatives from several non-profit and for-profit organizations, including The Learning Center, Washington Street Community, the Newton County School System and Kidz in Step dance studio.
Several dance and gymnastics students from Kidz in Step participated in routines for the crowd, including a dance routine performed by two young girls to the "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" song.
Owner Jennifer Andrews-Smith said children can only perform in public if they do community service.
"I want them to learn to give something without expecting something in return," Andrews-Smith said.
While Newton County was named a Certified Literate Community last year by the Technical College System of Georgia, Mollie Melvin, executive director of The Learning Center, said more than 30 organizations are continuing to work toward improving literacy.