Top 11 of 2011

A look back at the biggest Savannah stories of the year

Sam Beam and Iron & Wine at the Trustees: The year's best concert

1. City Manager debacle gets even worse

In hindsight, it didn't have to happen this way. The results probably would have been the same with or without the controversy. That's what makes our number one story of 2011 -- such a big story that it also made our 2010 list -- so maddening and strangely compelling.

After the 2010 departures of former City Manager Michael Brown and former Assistant City Manager Chris Morrell, Rochelle Small-Toney was the most senior remaining assistant city manager left in city government.

Someone had to serve as acting city manager until a full-time replacement could be found -- especially considering the other vacancies in upper management -- and the credentialed, experienced Small-Toney was the logical choice, at least on paper.

What happened next was the stuff of Walker Percy novels.

Right after being appointed interim manager, she wanted her office painted (Mayor Otis Johnson initially talked her out of that, but the renovations were begun this past June at a cost of $40,000).

A personal bond -- the amount and circumstances of which weren't entirely clear, even to city government -- could not be secured.

Vendettas, back and forth, came to the forefront in departmental firings and overhauls. (One of them even resulted in the successful candidacy of Carol Bell for City Council, see item #4).

The Savannah Film Office, one of the few bright spots in a down economy, was moved to a tiny building in Daffin Park, far from most scouting locations. Its director, Jay Self, was nailed for a comparatively minor and fairly commonplace unauthorized credit card charge.

City Council saw fit to give Small-Toney a ten percent raise while she was interim manager -- which came on top of a recent 26 percent raise she received from the outgoing Michael Brown.

To find a permanent city manager, the City hired a search firm which, depending on who you believe, either allowed Mayor Johnson to dictate the parameters of the search or just did a simple Google search and collected their $25,000 fee.

Then, as the search process became more acrimonious and confused, Mayor Johnson threw a can of gasoline on the fire with his statement that he wanted a city manager who looked like him. (That was actually only half the quote; he also said he wanted the most qualified person.)

Misquoted or not, Mayor Johnson doubled down after the predictable backlash came. Speaking from the pulpit of one of Savannah's largest predominantly black churches in early 2011, he referred to the "58 percent" African American majority, implying there was no political reason why the backlash would keep Savannah from having its first black city manager.

During the audience feedback portion of the mayor's State of the City address in February 2011, these racial tensions came to the forefront in one of the more demoralizing episodes in the city's recent history. African American speakers said they saw racism in the pushback against Small-Toney, while many white speakers insisted qualifications and actions, not race, had everything to do with it.

Despite the painful racial divide, in March 2011 City Council unanimously voted (with one alderman out of town) to make Small-Toney the full-time city manager. Her salary, including the exorbitant raise granted her by Michael Brown: $190,575 a year, substantially higher than almost all other city managers of metro areas Savannah's size in the country.

In April 2011, the state attorney general came down to reprimand City Council and the City Attorney in person for violating state open records laws during the city manager search.

In May 2011, taxpayers funded a $7500 "welcome reception" for the newly-permanent city manager, one featuring commemorative embossed keepsake wine glasses (alcohol isn't served at City functions).

But perhaps the worst thing about the controversy was that it overshadowed legitimate debate about specific issues, such as harbor deepening, Savannah River Landing, and that perennial local favorite, crime. -- Jim Morekis

2. 'We are Troy Davis'

The murder happened over 20 years ago. But the resulting death penalty case against and eventual execution of Savannah’s Troy Anthony Davis retained a visceral ability to animate people all over the world on a basic level, both pro and con, stirring disturbing questions about racism in the American justice system and the ultimate moral foundation of the death penalty.

We know that a white Savannah Police officer, Mark MacPhail, was shot and killed in brutal fashion in August 1989 in the parking lot of the Greyhound station downtown.

We know Troy Davis, an African American man, was accused of the crime by several witnesses, the bulk of whom recanted their accusations years later.

We know that expert testimony linked shell casings from the MacPhail murder weapon to the wounding earlier that night of Michael Cooper, for which Davis was also convicted.

We know that the prosecution was unable to produce the actual gun.

We know that Sylvester Coles, who was on the scene that fateful night, years later apparently confessed to shooting McPhail. But that testimony was disallowed at a 2010 hearing when Davis’s defense team, strangely, wouldn’t subpoena Coles.

We know — despite later accusations that racism drove Davis’s conviction — that the Chatham County jury which originally found him guilty was majority African American.

Beyond that, we don’t know a lot for sure. With a crime that happened too long ago for DNA forensics, the courts had to adjudicate the case with the evidence they had.

The case wasn’t crystal clear, but the courts’ opinions were: Twenty years of appeals, including two to the Supreme Court and that rare federal evidentiary hearing in 2010 (during which the Davis defense team refused to call on any of the witnesses who’d recanted their testimony via affidavit), all upheld the original verdict.

But Davis's supporters, including his sister Martina Correia, who died of cancer shortly after her brother's execution, never gave up the fight. Amnesty International spearheaded the continuing appeals effort.

Davis himself, in a series of prison interviews, became something of a cause celebre around the world as the face of the death penalty's barbarity and obsolescence.

Despite several last-minute stays of execution, the deed was finally carried out on Sept. 21, 2011. Though the actual execution happened outside Atlanta, the Chatham Emergency Management Agency was on high alert throughout the day for possible civil unrest.

In the end, however, relative calm prevailed. The only documented possible case of retribution for Davis's execution was the spraypainting of graffiti on a sign at Johnson High School later that night, saying "Fuck Them Crackas." -- Jim Morekis

3. Rock ‘n' Run, Savannah

Nobody here at Connect officially hit the pavement, but all the other kids with the pumped-up kicks who ran the first-ever Savannah Rock ‘n' Roll Marathon and Half-Marathon have our utmost respect.

Twenty-three thousand people signed up to run the full and partial courses while being serenaded by live bands at every mile on Saturday, Nov. 5. (Incidentally, that's several more thousand than the amount of voters who voted in local elections the following Tuesday.)

The Competitor Group opened registration in April, and by mid-August the race was sold out-the company's only musical marathon to reach capacity outside its San Diego hometown. Which tells you Savannah loves its shin splits and sweaty rock ‘n' roll.

The 26.2-mile course shut down parts of downtown, eastside neighborhoods and the Truman Parkway, leaving some locals in a snit about the inconvenience. But most marveled that the organization by race coordinators, city employees and police was spot-on, save a pre-marathon traffic jam on the Talmadge Bridge caused by those crossing the river to get their race numbers at the Trade Center.

The big day brought out tens of thousands to witness the spectacle of so many people running without being chased as well as the smorgasbord of local music. From the crack of the pistol at Bay St. to the finish line in Forsyth Park, 40 bands performed along the route for the fleet-footed, including downhome favorites A Nickel Bag of Funk, Free Candy, Crazy Man Crazy and KidSyc@Brandywine. Savannah's own Train Wrecks opened for Carolina Liar, the promised "national headliner" that few had ever heard of before the event, but Charleston, S.C.-born lead singer Chad Wolf and his Swedish bandmates charmed the elated-yet-exhausted audience.

Earlier in the planning stages, some Savannah musicians balked at the Competitor Group's initial reluctance to compensate the local bands. Confusion abounded whether this was a charity event, and the group's website implied that bands agreed to play for free would get first consideration.

After a scathing reaction from the music community, the for-profit company eventually relented and offered it up as paying gig. (The group did partner with local chapters of the American Cancer Society, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and other Savannah charities.)

There was one death during the marathon: Ulysses "Tom" Thomas was pronounced dead on arrival at Memorial Hospital after collapsing on the Truman Parkway just shy of mile 23.

While lauded as an overall success in terms of its execution and enjoyment among participants, the marathon didn't bring the expected cash injection to Savannah's local economy. A poll released by the Downtown Business Association last week reveals that its members were split down the middle in terms of rating the race as a positive or negative experience.

Hotels and restaurants benefited from the extra visitors, but retailers and bar owners complained that this crown didn't come to shop or drink, and the usual local patronage was spooked by all the hype.

But there's plenty of time to tweak the economic strategy: The Competitor Group has committed to at least two more rockin' Savannah marathons with the option to come back through 2015. The next race is Nov. 3, 2012-we'll be cheering y'all on from our lawn chairs.--  Jessica Leigh Lebos

4. The Thirty Percent Solution

The 2011 City of Savannah elections could almost be folded into our number one story about the City Manager, since so much campaign rhetoric revolved around that issue. But looking ahead, these elections had import all their own -- and not just because you can now buy booze at the store on Sunday!

By the time of Rochelle Small-Toney's infamous wine glass debut, voter anger seemed to be at an all-time high. Alderwoman-at-large and Mayor Pro Tem Edna Jackson, once considered the presumptive shoo-in favorite to be Otis Johnson's handpicked heir apparent, was being challenged by five other candidates: former mayor Floyd Adams, former state rep and senator Regina Thomas, Alderman Jeff Felser, former alderman Ellis Cook, and perennial gadfly James Dewberry.

But when the smoke cleared, it appeared that voter anger had been severely overestimated. As with the national Tea Party, which some of the local opposition seemed to gain its impetus from, the initial ardor wasn't enough to keep the passion alive.

In an election marked by absymally low 30 percent turnout, every City Council incumbent that ran for reelection won with the exception of Larry Stuber, who lost by 14 votes.

Much ballyhooed challenges to incumbents Van Johnson and Mary Osborne from Ruel Joyner and Gretchen Ernest, respectively, fizzled.

Small-Toney nemesis Carol Bell easily won an at-large seat.

The mayoral race boiled down to a runoff between the two longest-serving council incumbents in the race, Edna Jackson and Jeff Felser.

Jackson won fairly easily -- just as political observers would have predicted over a year before.

The election of the first African American female mayor of Savannah means that it's highly unlikely that Small-Toney's job will be in jeopardy anytime soon. With an African American in nearly every key City government position and an increased African American City Council majority of 6-3 -- and the likely cooperative vote of former state representative-turned new city alderman Tom Bordeaux really means a 7-2 working majority for Mayor-elect Jackson -- black political power in the City of Savannah has consolidated to full effect.

It will be interesting to see how local anti–poverty measures and efforts to address Savannah’s wealth disparity will be affected by the almost total removal of every vestige of old–guard white control — and hence the removal of any real reasons or excuses for them not to happen.

Side note: Another result of the election was that Chatham County Commission Chairman Pete Liakakis wouldn't be permitted to run for a third consecutive term in that office -- nor, given the wording of the referendum question, will anyone else! -- Jim Morekis

5. #SavannahStopover #winning

We'll be the first to argue that Savannah has a healthy music scene, with a dozen or so reliably great bands and artists. Our clubs regularly bring in the best regional music, too, from the likes of Charleston, Columbia, Atlanta and Asheville.

For a sheer rush of musical adrenaline, however, the inaugural Savannah Stopover Festival was the event of the year, a concentrated dose of top-drawer tuneage and talent that worked like a potent shot of B-12.

Kayne Lanahan and Summer Teal Simpson and their dedicated volunteer team gave us more than 50 indie acts over four days - March 9-12 - concentrated into five hipster clubs and five "alternative" venues. The acts - from dance/electronica to hip hop to Americana to punk - were all traveling to the massive SXSW music fest in Austin, and it was Lanahan and Simpson's lightbulb to offer them each a "stopover" gig in Savannah.

"They basically are driving down 95; any band that's going to SXSW generally packs up the van and drives," Lanahan told us. "And generally tries to put a couple of gigs together on the way. And Savannah's not a hard sell, in terms of the city."

Among the many highlights: Country Mice, Gringo Star and Cheyenne Marie Mize selling style, bop and twang in a single night at the Jinx; Milagres transcending all hypnotic time and space, at the end of a full day of music at Live Wire Music Hall; Greenland's Nive Nielsen & the Deer Children sharing a Tantra bill with We Are Trees and Little Tybee; spectrally spectacular performances the dance diva Class Actress and hip hop rebel Astronautilus.

Let us not forget The Shaniqua Brown (hey, they're back in town this very week!), Twin Tigers, X-Ray Eyeballs, Loch Lomond, Murder By Death, Oryx & Crake, Sonia Leigh and the amazing Young Buffalo (three incredible rock players from Mississippi, including a guitarist who looked as if he was no older than 12).

Savannah's best were represented, too, as Cusses, Lady Lazarus (who's now, sadly, packed up and moved to California), KidSyc@Brandywine, Niche, Dare Dukes, General Oglethorpe & the Panhandlers, Aux Arc, Word of Mouth and others were paired with the touring acts for one boffo bill after another.

The 2012 edition has already been inked in, for March 7-10 (tickets are available now at Lanahan plans to announce the lineup in January.

Look for it to become a spring tradition. "It's a beautiful time of year," she told us in March. "It's a week before St. Patrick's Day and it builds up to the Savannah Music Festival. So it ends up creating our own March Madness." -- Bill DeYoung

6. A deeper love hath no ports authority

You'd think a story that's been bubbling for 13 years -- pun intended, folks, you'll get the joke shortly -- could potentially be on our Year in Review list every year.

But the reason Harbor Deepening makes the list this year is because so much has gone on, though so much more remains to be seen.

The basic facts are that the Corps of Engineers has finally issued a study laying out the allowable parameters of a proposed deepening of the Savannah River shipping channel to 48 feet from the current 42.

The goal of the deepening's sponsors -- the Georgia Ports Authority, the Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia congressional delegation and by extension many large companies based in Georgia -- is for Savannah to continue to be a competitive port when the new generation of ultra-huge cargo vessels comes on line after the widening of the Panama Canal, set for 2014.

(That's a long shipping channel for taxpayer money to deepen -- about 30 miles from dock to ocean. And those new ships are big -- about three times the volume of the current monsters plying the river.)

Significantly, what the Corps doesn't say is:

There will be no environmental effects (there definitely will be, and apparently huge, expensive Scrubbing Bubble machines in the river are part of the solution).

They know the money will be there (that's up to Congress and the president).

More jobs will be created (not necessarily; the opposite might be true with increased efficiency.)

And everyone will play nicely together (oops).

On that last note -- and this is really why harbor deepening makes our 2011 list -- the inevitable, apocalyptic showdown with port rival South Carolina has finally come to a head.

In addition to Charleston's perennial port competition with Savannah, the Palmetto State has multiple, often-dueling interests of its own, and there are many parts to play in the drama: SC Gov. Nikki Haley is good cop to the Port of Charleston's bad cop, the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control is playing both ends against the middle, and global corporations and shipping concerns want to see every port deepened for their own convenience and don't care who has to pay for it, as long as it's not them.

As if that weren't enough, there's the added wrinkle of a possible brand-new port in Jasper County, S.C., that simultaneously weakens the Port of Savannah's case for deepening while at the same time strengthening Savannah's case by undercutting the Port of Charleston.

And did we mention the multiple lawsuits?

Uh, yeah. Got it?

Hey, we barely get it ourselves and we supposedly make our living covering this stuff. Suffice it to say that the way things are going, harbor deepening has a very good chance of making our 2012 Year in Review list as well... -- Jim Morekis

7. Fishkill ain't just a town in New York state

It was bad enough that about 40,000 fish were wiped out by toxic discharges into the beautiful Ogeechee River by King America Finishing. What was perhaps worse was the fact that King America had been dumping toxic crap into the Ogeechee for five years without state regulators noticing.

After the largest fish kill in Georgia history in May 2011, which also resulted in skin rashes on some swimmers, the euphemistically named state Environmental Protection Division — actually for the most part a catastrophically underfunded entity which is generally relied on by big business to avoid stringent regulation — slapped King America’s wrist with a tiny million–dollar fine.

Had they wanted to, they could have slammed them with a nearly $100 million fine.

The incident and the incredibly lax enforcement -- EPD took a month to tell King America to pretty please stop raping the environment -- provoked howls of outrage from usually corporate-friendly right-of-center Georgians.

But we're still betting that many of those folks failed to see that the whole debacle was a direct result of the "small government" philosophy endemic to Georgia politics since the total Republican takeover of state government. -- Jim Morekis

8. Savannah Comes Alive!

If you've noticed a marked increase in the number of popular music shows at the Savannah Civic Center, says thanks to new director Cindy Ogletree. She's been making a concerted effort to make the Johnny Mercer Theatre more ... well, musical.

Despite the fact that R. Kelly canceled his show - twice - in 2011, the Civic Center had a happening year, and we're not talking about Ringling Brothers and the Harlem Globetrotters.

We saw Widespread Panic, Merle Haggard, Vince Gill & Amy Grant, John Mellencamp, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Styx, Joe Bonamassa, Sugarland, Darius Rucker, Lady Antebellum, Corey Smith and Miranda Lambert in the Civic Center in 2011.

Arguably, the two best Civic Center concerts of the year were Band of Horses (April 4) and the Avett Brothers (March 30), and these two were part of the Savannah Music Festival and its goal of presenting something exclusively for younger Savannahians, i.e. those who aren't crazy about acoustic jazz or Indian classical music.

These two triumphs proved that the SFF is onto something. In the case of Band of Horses, in particular, we got to experience a band at the very peak of its creative powers.

Here's what our review said: "Band of Horses' hybrid rock ‘n' roll - a sort of electric Americana with country-tinged harmonies and sweeping U2 grandeur - filled every corner of the sold out (or very nearly so) hall.

"A stage-wide screen behind the band projected images - starry skies, rolling waves, wheat fields, western chaparral vistas with mountains, puffy clouds and blue horizons - making every song seem like a music video, with the five (occasionally six) guys playing in a different setting.

"Yet this wasn't distracting, nor did it feel like shtick. At its core, it was still a band on a stage. The bass rattled in your chest, the electric guitars made molar-fillings buzz. The rotating visuals only augmented the imagery of the atmospheric music."

Citizen Cope played Savannah again, as did the Whigs, Dex Romweber (twice), the April Verch Band, Mother's Finest, Cold War Kids, Drive-By Truckers, and others. Bela Fleck headlined the Savannah Music Festival (again), playing a brilliantly experimental and eclectic set with Zakir Hussein and Edgar Meyer.

Still, the year's best concert had to be the April 23 performance by Iron & Wine at the Trustees. With an exquisite band of 11, singer/songwriter Sam Beam played nearly every song from his astonishing Kiss Each Other Clean album, many of them dramatically re-arranged, and demonstrated that he'd outgrown the simple, plaintive DIY-folk of the early Iron & Wine records.

According to our review: "How's this for a long sprint off a short emo-folk pier: One song turned into a piledriving mambo, with the three horn players blasting a smoking dance riff over and over until even the ushers couldn't help but sway." -- Bill DeYoung

9. Alt.festivals

The word "festival" can be deceiving. You need to look carefully at the wording. Anything called "Festival of Savings" or "Frozen Bagel Festival," there's probably not going to be much there in the way of fun.

Sure, Savannah's got a whole slew of festivals - book, art, music, jazz, Irish, Asian, Jewish, etcetera etcetera - and most of them have been around for a while. In 2011, three relatively new festivals, all in the name of culture and creativity, found their footing (for the Savannah Stopover Festival, you'll want to look under Concerts). These may well be the festivals of the future.

Pulse: Art and Technology Festival. The Telfair Museum's third annual celebration of "creativity through new media" took place Jan. 20-29 at the Jepson Center and environs. Pulse is a combination of visual art, music and imagery, presented in myriad forms by some of the world's most forward-thinking artists, performers and thinkers.

This year featured the incredible New York experimental multi-instrumentalist, composer and performer Bora Yoon, kinetic robot-art creator Bjorn Schulke, the technician/artist/musician twosome Zachary Lieberman and Golan Levin and beat-box innovator Adam Matta. Among many others.

Savannah Urban Arts Festival. Presented by AWOL (All Walks of Life), the longstanding local organization dedicated to keeping young people out of trouble by introducing them to the arts, the third annual SUAF packed four days - April 17-24 - with concerts, dance and spoken word performances, workshops, lectures and even film screenings. The headliner, who put on a rich, inspirational performance, was Marc Bamuthi Joseph, a California-based dancer and choreographer who blends dance, spoken word, theater and hip hop. R&B singer Anthony David also appeared.

Taste II. Meddin Studios played host to this three-ring circus of art, music and creativity (described by organizer Rachel Raab as "a cultural indulgence") on April 30. The first one had taken place in 2009, after which it took a year off - but it came back swinging, with more than 30 visual artists (some doing live painting at the event) and 25 bands and DJs. All local, all free, all terrific.

"It's just independent people getting together to make something happen, to merge all sorts of people and art forms," Raab said in April - and she could have been talking about Pulse and SUAF as well. -- Bill DeYoung

10. Still Occupied

2011 is the year the disenfranchised and unemployed finally got annoyed enough to stand up and be heard. Back in late September, when people began converging on Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan in NYC, cynics and pundits were quick to dismiss the Occupy Wall Street Movement as "disorganized bunch of whiners" without a cohesive message. But plenty of Americans got the memo.

Within weeks, the OWS community swelled to the thousands, and other non-violent protests popped up in Atlanta, Oakland and a hundred other cities. And it wasn't just a bunch of post-college slackers, either-it was teachers, veterans, grandmas and all kinds of citizens, all denouncing the corrosive power that banks and multinational corporations have over hard-working Americans.

For anyone who's ever had to worry about paying the bills, the message is pretty freakin' clear: The people are mad as hell and we're not gonna take it anymore.

"We Are the 99 Percent" is the clarion call, a demand for liberty and justice for all, not just those who can afford it. Americans who have joined the Occupy movement are confronting a broken system where the richest one percent skates out of its fair share of taxes, corporations are people and SWAT teams pepper spraying old ladies and college kids is completely acceptable.

In November, New York police evicted the Zuccotti Park protesters and destroyed the ersatz village that included a library, soup kitchen and first-aid center. However, the movement continues to grow and organize via online and social media, and there are plans for a national assembly on July 4, 2012 in Philadelphia, PA.

Now that the initial rush of revolution has waned (and its headquarters destroyed,) OWS has backed off its attention-grabbing protests to work on a political strategy to take into the ring. Illegal home foreclosures and the pathetic use of bank bailout money are two most prominent issues, bringing together liberals and Tea Partiers as conversation supersedes partisan politics.

Here in the Savannah, the Occupy Movement planted its four-poled nylon tent Oct. 9 in Emmet Park on Bay Street and is still going strong. Occupy Savannah remains a small but mighty group that continues to represent every day with signs and twice-weekly marches to Johnson Square to show their presence to the local representatives of Bank of America, Suntrust and Wells Fargo. Mostly retirees and students, this merry band of protestors cheers for every honk and has a friendly relationship with local police.

"We're not going anywhere," says Bratt Dykes, who's been at Emmet Park since day five. "We're here until we get change."

Dykes points out that change begins at home, and he promises regular visits to City Hall in the new year. He says he's already made several attempts for an audience with newly-installed mayor Edna Jackson, to no avail, but will keep leaving messages. "She ran on an open door policy, and we plan to take her up on that."

The Occupy Movement certainly got our attention in 2011. With another national recession looming and housing foreclosures still heading through the roof, the question is whether the collective disgruntlement will find footing in real revolution.-- Jessica Leigh Lebos

11. Foodie Invasion

There's no shortage of Savannah on the epicurean airwaves, thanks to our very own Food Network diva Paula Deen. The Lady's obviously tempted her TV foodie colleagues to taste the Hostess City for themselves: Three different food show crews made the rounds in 2011.

In September, swarthy Adam Richman swept through town to film an episode of "Man v. Food Nation," popping in for peach-glazed chicken at Sweet Potatoes on Waters Ave. and fried shrimp at Tubby's Tank House on River Street. This certainly wasn't Richman's first time on the old cobbled streets; he devoted an entire chapter to Savannah's flavors in his best-selling food journal, American the Edible.

"Man v Food Nation" always features a local challenge, and Richman paid a visit to Angel's BBQ to present one-pound pulled pork sandwiches doused in "stupid hot" Voodoo Juice to twin brothers Jamil and Jamal Williams. The issue will air sometime in March on the Travel Channel.

The Food Network's Andrew Zimmern also stopped at Angel's BBQ as he ate his way through Savannah in October for an episode of "Bizarre Foods." Easily recognized by his portly profile, Zimmern dined on Lowcountry seafood al fresco at Teeple's and oxtail stew at Marandy's with Connect's own Tim Rutherford -- and still managed to tuck in a full meal that evening at Elizabeth on 37th that evening.

Zimmern also discovered a bizarrely delicious new trend in Savannah: Southern kosher cuisine. He and his crew filmed at B'nai B'rith Jacob Synagogue during the holiday of Sukkot and sampled black bean falafel kreplach and fried pastrami grit cakes from chef Matt Cohen, pronounced by Zimmern as "remarkable."

Finally, in November, Fox's "Master Chef" invited locals to show off their kitchen prowess with a casting call at Savannah Technical College. STC's award-winning culinary program attracted the series' producers, who are conducting a nationwide search for contestants for the show that pits them against each other in gastronomical challenges. The show's main host, the notoriously cranky Gordon Ramsay, was not in attendance. No word on whether any locals have made it to the next round. -- Jessica Leigh Lebos

Honorable Mention:

-- Girl Scout a Go-Go: Overzealous City bureaucrats decided to shut down the long tradition of Girl Scouts selling cookies on the sidewalk, outside the place where the Girl Scouts were founded. In her first act as city manager that wasn't greeted with widespread derision and disbelief, Rochelle Small-Toney crushed the crushers and allowed the cookie sales to continue.

--  St. Patrick's Police Smackdown: Savannah went viral big-time with an amateur video of a Savannah cop basically beating the crap out of a belligerent but tiny drunk girl on Broughton Street. The officer was suspended briefly and is back on the force.

--  Robert Plant visit: The Led Zep frontman and Alison Krauss collaborator visited the Owens-Thomas House in April and had a nice conversation with staff members about his own experiences with historic properties in the UK.

-- Clarence Thomas: The Supreme Court Justice visited his boyhood home at Pin Point to celebrate the opening of the Pin Point Heritage Museum. He stomped his feet and shouted along with the McIntosh County Shouters.

-- Muppets? WTF?: OK, so the hotly-anticipated mystery flick at the Savannah Film Festival turned out to be The Muppets, which resulted in a deluge of bitchy Facebook posts (the film, which had its world premiere in Savannah, went on to be a critic's rave and a box office success). Otherwise SCAD’s Hollywood-Goes-South event (Oct. 29-Nov. 5) lived up to its well-greased hype. Again.





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