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Celebrate the Spooky Seask with Family-Friendly Halloween Events at Gwinnett Parks

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Gwinnett County Parks and Recreation has so many ways to celebrate the haunting season. Some are spine-chilling and others are educational but all are family friendly:

  • Walk Among the Stars is on Oct. 24, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Collins Hill Park, 2225 Collins Hill Road, Lawrenceville 30043. Celebrate National Lights on Afterschool at this free event for all ages with costumes, games, crafts, inflatables and more. Visit www.livehealthygwinnett.com or call 770-822-3197 for more information.
  • Gourd Monsters & Mocktails is Oct. 25, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Prime Timers Pointe at George Pierce Park, 55 Buford Highway, Suwanee 30024. Create a spooktacular masterpiece while enjoying mocktails and tasty treats! All instructions and materials provided. Ages 50 and older, $5 per person. Preregister by Oct. 22 online with code GPP41901 or call 678-277-0910.
  • Escape the Room: Teen Edition is on Oct. 25, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Rhodes Jordan Park Community Recreation Center, 100 East Crogan Street, Lawrenceville 30046. Help solve the mystery, beat the clock and escape. Ages 11 to 14, $10 per person. Preregister by Oct. 21 online with code RJP41605 or call 678-277-0890.
  • Super Hero Costume Party is on Oct. 26, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Lilburn Activity Building, 788 Hillcrest Road, Lilburn 30047. Come to this free event dressed as your favorite hero for an afternoon of fun, games, music and more. All ages welcome. Preregister to reserve your spot online with LAB41620 or call 678-277-0875.
  • Fall Into Halloween is on Oct. 26, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Lucky Shoals Park Community Recreation Center, 4651 Britt Road, Norcross 30093. A Halloween festival complete with crafts, games, costume contests and a haunted surprise for everyone. All ages, $3 per person. Preregister online with code LSP41610 or call 678-277-0860.
  • Harvest Homecoming is on Oct. 26, from noon to 4 p.m. at McDaniel Farm Park, 3251 McDaniel Road, Duluth 30096. A free event with a special trip to the farm for games, face painting and tours. See the furry farm friends, enjoy a hayride, visit vendors and sample some tasty s’mores. All ages, preregister online with code MFP41690 or call 770-822-5450.
  • Trail of Terror is on Oct. 26, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Vines Park, 3500 Oak Grove Road, Loganville 30052. Get your chills and thrills as you experience the shadowy and sinister Phantom Village. All ages, $5 per person. Preregister online with code EXT41700 or call 678-377-4010.
  • Underwater Pumpkin Patch is on Oct. 26, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Bethesda Park Aquatic Center, 225 Bethesda Church Road, Lawrenceville 30044. Come find your perfect pumpkin in the pool patch to decorate for our pumpkin contest. All ages, $8 per person. Preregister online by Oct. 18 with code BEP41101 or call 678-277-0880.
  • Spooktacular Skate Party is on Oct. 26 from, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Pinckneyville Park Hockey Rink, 4758 South Old Peachtree Road, Peachtree Corners 30071. Create ghoulish crafts, roast marshmallows, participate in a costume contests and more! Free to attend, bring your skates and have some fun. Additional fees may apply. All ages, preregister online with code PVP41690 or call 678-277-0920.
  • Evening with Edgar Allan Poe is on Oct. 26, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Lawrenceville Female Seminary, 455 South Perry Street, Lawrenceville 30046. Get into the spooky season with one of the most renowned writers to hear tales that will make your blood run cold! Ages 16 and up, $26 per person. Preregister by Oct. 20 online with code LFS41402 or call 770-822-5178.
  • Boo Bingo and Potluck is on Oct. 31, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Bethesda Park Senior Center, 225 Bethesda Church Road, Lawrenceville 30044. Dress up in your best Halloween costume, bring a frightfully good potluck dish and enjoy a round of Boo Bingo! Ages 50 and up, $6 per person. Preregister Oct. 29 online with code BEP41908 or call 678-277-0179. 

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Backyard Escapes Pt. 5: If You’re Lucky, You’ll Discover Happiness in Your Own Backyard Like Bob and Lori Howard in Forest Hills

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What if you could feel like you were in the north Georgia mountains every time you stepped outdoors? That was the inspiration for Bob and Lori Howard’s posh backyard makeover upon settling into their retirement home.

An environmental engineer, Bob designed and supervised the transformation of their yard. A home designed for empty nesters doesn’t come with the largest yard, but every square inch of this one is gorgeous.

Taking advantage of the natural topography — their property slopes towards the back of the home — Bob had a vision of what could be there and brought it to life exquisitely. It’s difficult to believe their yard once consisted of privet and a few short pine and other scrubby trees. “There was no landscaping. It was a cosmetic disaster,” Lori recalled.

They were able to develop their outdoor space into a striking deck, a series of retaining walls and flowerbeds, a marvelous waterfall, koi pond and patio haven which they’ve been reveling in for 12 years.
“It’s a comfortable place to be. We turn music on, have the waterfall going, drink a margarita and life is good,” Bob said.

“We have under decking, ceiling fans, a fire pit and a warming light on the patio, so we can sit out almost year-round,” Lori added.

Color changing landscape lights illuminate the waterfall at nighttime. From the patio, one has a breathtaking view of the waterfall.

Most evenings you’ll find the Howards on their patio, listening to The Bridge on SiriusXM. “Bob also put in a sound system. I’ve had a live-in handyman for 40 years; I’ve been blessed,” Lori smiled.

Bob and Lori Howard

The Howards have been able to share their lovely surroundings with family and friends. Their friends were married here, they host neighborhood parties — not this year, of course. For their 70th birthday, they welcomed a large group of friends. A country western singer came from Nashville to perform for them.

“This is a good party house. It flows very nicely,” Lori said.

Extreme Remodel

The stonework in the Howard garden is impressive. “There are probably 20 or 30 tons of stone and rock on the slope. I laid out where I wanted it with spray paint, bought the stone and the contractor, Nick Carillo, built it,” Bob reported. The tiered, stacked stone retaining walls were built to create flat areas for planting flowerbeds.

Bob conceived the 3,500-gallon koi pond including the pumps, biological filter and UV light. “We have large koi. I designed it so the herons could not get access to fish,” Bob said. “They can stand on the edge, but they can’t get into the water to get any fish; it’s over four feet deep.”

A coyote’s attempt at catching the fish was captured on their security camera. The fellow almost drowned after falling in, but he was able to scramble to safety.

Knock on Brazilian Wood

They originally had a poorly made deck that was falling off the house with nothing but earth underneath it — but Bob had plans to rebuild it. He selected premium Brazilian cherry wood for the new, sturdy deck. “I like the reddish color and it holds up longer than pressure-treated pine,” Bob said. He designed and built the deck with his son’s help.

“On our last deck, we used Trex composite wood. We love the way it looked but it holds a lot of heat in the summer,” Bob said.

The new deck has a stair system with a boardwalk that goes over to the back slope. Steps lead to an area by the waterfall.

Carillo poured the foundation, reinforcing the sandstone patio for the posts. “I didn’t want to have that much weight on the sandstone patio without having a foundation underneath,” Bob said. “It has worked well. Knock on wood.”

Pandemic Relief —Backyards for the Win

The couple hosted an engagement dinner for their youngest son and his fiancée in August. They’ve been able to gather with friends, one couple at a time, socially distanced on their patio. “That’s how we’ve managed to do it, with people our age who have been quarantining and staying close to home like us,” Lori said. “They wear masks when they come in. Outside we serve drinks, hors d’oeuvres and talk.”

Gardening Is a Work of Heart

Amid a backdrop of hydrangeas, ferns, azaleas, Japanese maples and dogwoods, Carillo and his crew return every spring to plant annuals: begonias and impatiens. In the fall, they pull out the gardens and winterize the flowerbeds.

“Yearly, at the beginning of the season, I have to pressure wash and seal the sandstone patio,” Bob said. “It has a water finish look; it’s really quite beautiful.”

The Howards have had four different homes in Peachtree Corners since 1984. This is their last. “You really want to have a nice backyard, a retreat you can enjoy,” Bob said.

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Gwinnett Tax Commissioner awarded CARES Act grant to cover convenience fees for 2020 online property tax payments

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Gwinnett property owners have the opportunity to pay property taxes online using debit or credit cards without incurring added convenience fees, Tax Commissioner Richard Steele announced today.

“We wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to pay their property taxes safely,” Steele said. “Obtaining this grant helps us do that, and I sincerely hope people take advantage of it during the pandemic to pay online from the safety of home.”

The Gwinnett County Office of the Tax Commissioner was recently informed of its successful application for obtaining a CARES Act grant to cover the cost of convenience fees for online property taxes. Taxpayers who have already paid their 2020 taxes and incurred a convenience fee will automatically receive a refund of the fees via the card they used from payment processing vendor Value Payment Systems LLC.

Online payments can be made at GwinnettTaxCommissioner.com/pay and include these options:

· E-check, debit or credit card with no added convenience fees.

· Scheduling payments in advance, as long as the total is paid by the Dec. 1 due date.

Property owners who have questions or need assistance may contact the Tax Commissioner’s Office 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays via email to Tax@GwinnettCounty.com, by phone at (770) 822-8800 or initiate a chat on any device from GwinnettTaxCommissioner.com.

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Backyard Escapes Pt. 4: Come Gather in the Garden of Jay and Jill Lowe in Peachtree Station 

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What if the weather couldn’t ever foil your plans to spend time outside? That’s the case at the home of Jay and Jill Lowe. Little remains of the teal green shuttered house they purchased 20 years ago. Their recent improvements include an architectural pavilion in the backyard— a sheltered center for gatherings and celebrations.

“This was Jay’s vision,” Jill said. “I gave him a hard time about the size of this space. I thought it was a little over the top. Actually, it’s my favorite room in the house. I love it. It’s big but it doesn’t feel overbearing. It’s perfect.”

Jay designed the 30-foot x 30-foot all-cedar structure, acting as general contractor. It’s equipped with LED lights in the ceiling, a granite bar countertop, a refrigerator, living and dining areas, a stacked stone gas fireplace, fans, heaters, outdoor curtains to enclose it, a Sonos surround system, two televisions and security cameras. The Lowes have this stunning space to entertain family and friends all year long.

“We put an aluminum roof above the support beams because Jill likes the pitter patter of the rain,” Jay noted. Insulation in the 17-foot-tall pitched roof helps to keep it from getting too hot in the summertime.

Their four dogs and kitten, Axel, like to spend time here as well. “We’ve had fires out here, watched movies and football games. I like the girls to have friends over, so I know where they are,” Jay said.

A 600 square foot patio extends around the pavilion to meet a large, level lawn which stretches to the back of the long yard. On the left side of the patio, there is a large hot tub, and to the right, another unusual backyard structure.

When Nature Calls

An outdoor bathroom complete with sink, shower, urinal and toilet is available for guests visiting the party pavilion.

This prevents “a bunch of kids running in and out of the house,” Jay said. Regarding using the outdoor restroom in colder weather, Jay said, “I like a wintertime shower; we use the hot tub a lot.”

Fire Pit

The end of the yard opposite the pavilion is rounded out by a fire pit surrounded by string lights and a trampoline, which gets regular use. Orange accents like the Adirondack chairs convey the family’s Tennessee affiliation.

Extreme Remodel

Originally, the Lowes deforested the backyard, removing 65 trees. In 2018, the demolition of a huge back deck and sunroom made way for Jay’s plans. His carpenter of choice is Mimi, a Taiwanese gentleman who has done plenty of work for the family over the years. “He’s the hardest working, most intricate woodworker,” Jill said.

From a muddy plot, to bringing in loads of backfill dirt, to laying the cement pad, the all-season pavilion was underway. Once the frame was up, Jay started building the fireplace. Then the interlocking brick patio was laid. The project was completed last October.

Pandemic Relief — Backyards for the Win

“We are so grateful for this space because it’s made [living through a pandemic] a lot easier,” Jill said. “We can come out here and play games: ping pong, corn hole, basketball.”

Jay and Jill Lowe and Family

She said that their oldest child graduated this year and noted that it was a rough year for seniors. “We were able to host a little graduation party for her. We had tables and chairs spaced out. There’s a lot of room. It’s been great for us. It’s been a blessing,” Jill shared.

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