Segra Stadium hosts Friendship Series

18Get ready baseball fans, because USA Baseball is making a triumphant return to Segra Stadium this summer! That's right, mark your calendars for June 29, because it's going to be a night filled with excitement and thrilling matchups.
This game will feature the USA Collegiate National Team vs. Chinese Taipei as Game 1 of the 21st USA vs. Chinese Taipei International Friendship Series. Team USA and Chinese Taipei will resume a series that started in 1987. It's going to be an epic showdown between two talented teams, showcasing the very best of baseball on a global scale.
The Collegiate National Team International Friendship Series roster will be led by Alabama State’s José Vázquez. The three-time SWAC Coach of the Year was an assistant coach for Team USA last summer and guided Alabama State to the NCAA tournament in 2022. He has over 20 years of college baseball coaching experience, starting as a graduate assistant at Bethune-Cookman in 2003.
Vázquez took over the Hornets’ program in 2017 and has achieved a winning record every season, including a 41-win season in 2023.
The USA Baseball Collegiate National Team consists of the best non-draft-eligible college baseball players in the nation.
The summer season kicks off with the Collegiate National Team Training Camp from June 25 to June 28, where over 50 players will compete in a two-game intrasquad series before the final 28-man roster is revealed on June 29.
The remaining five-game series will take place at different venues across North Carolina, including Cary, Greensboro and Kannapolis.
Tickets for the Friendship Series at Segra Stadium can be purchased at https://www.milb.com/fayetteville/community/specialevents. There will be post-game fireworks for this event.
Get ready to witness some high-stakes baseball action at Segra Stadium this summer. Whether you're a die-hard fan or want to simply enjoy a good game, this event promises to deliver thrills, excitement, and a true display of talent on the field.
Let's come together to support these incredible athletes as they represent their countries and showcase the very best of baseball.

(Photo: Hamilton, a player for the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, bats during a game in 2022 at Segra Stadium. Segra will be hosting the USA Collegiate National Team vs. Chinese Taipei in game 1 of the 21st International Friendship series. File photo)

Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity Presents Homecourt: A Conversation with Coach Roy Williams

12aWhen Brandon Price answers the phone, his voice is low and kind. He doesn't announce himself or even offer up his title as CEO for the Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity. He asks how he can help and says he's pretty sure he can be of assistance.
His team says he answers the phone like this a lot and that he's a "great guy." Price started working at Habitat and became CEO about three years after he began. Now, after COVID-19 and years of the lack of events for most non-profits, Price and the members at Habitat are ready to host a large event. They are ready, he says, to get the community involved and to give back.
This time around, they'll bring the team-making, talent-building skills of Roy Williams, Hall of Fame former coach for UNC-Chapel Hill to the table. Coach Williams will do a presentation over lunch and a Q&A during Homecourt: A Conversation with Coach Roy Williams on June 27 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. The event, hosted at Fayetteville State University, will take place at Felton J. Capel Arena and be a venue where the audience can interact with Williams.
"He's really going to open himself up," said Price. "We aren't collecting questions in advance. He's going to answer questions [post presentation] like a post-game interview."
Williams, like Price and others, will focus on "the importance of a good home."
For Price, this is a beautiful tie-in for Habitat for Humanity and for Fayetteville. The average home cost in the Fayetteville area is around $250,000, according to Price.
"That means you have to earn a household income greater than $80,000. Do you want to live somewhere safe and affordable? Yes, you do."
Price says that to do so, home buyers have to look in certain zip codes and often those zip codes come with a price tag. Often, he says, the organization assists teachers, fire fighters, EMS workers and more individuals in public servant career fields.
"People who need affordable housing are not your impoverished community.
These are hard-working
individuals ... where we live shouldn't change life expectancy, but it does."
This is a subject that seems deeply personal to Price. He says the entire goal of the organization is to bring awareness to the need for affordable housing. The upcoming event will hopefully raise money for Construction Campus where Habitat workers will be teaching youth multiple trades.
"We want to spark something in them," he says. "We want to get younger individuals in the trades. It contributes to housing affordability."
The housing market, Price says, is losing that apprenticeship as many of the skilled trade workers are reaching beyond 60 years old. The young worker isn't looking into trades as a viable option for income or a career.12
"A plumber makes just as much as the average district attorney ... or more. Those are the facts," Price says. "They don't see it as a first-tier option."
Coach Williams will be available to the public for about one and a half hours during the June 27 event. Tickets are $125 each and include lunch and a commeorative t-shirt. They can be purchased at https://www.fayettevillenchabitat.org/homecourt.
Williams will be able, Price hopes, to shed light on how people can get the best out of their teams and how homes play a factor in the lives of the athletes Williams has gotten to train and mentor.
After the event, Price invites the public to stick around and learn more about Habitat and how to get involved. For a lot of people, he says, they think Habitat for Humanity gives away homes. Typically, the organization helps secure a mortgage with a low interest rate for its buyers.
By building the homes themselves, Price says they can pass along these savings to the buyers. Anyone can sign up and volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. Price says multiple times he hopes more people do.
"It contributes to the building of our future ... We build homes. We don't build houses."

(Photos-Top: Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity will be hosting Coach Roy Williams, former UNC-Chapel Hill coach, for Homecourt: A Conversation with Coach Roy Williams on June 27. Bottom: Volunteers for the Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity help build a home. Habitat for Humanity helps those who need affordable housing. Photos courtesy of Fayetteville Area Habitat for Humanity)

Student-curated exhibit reveals the hidden heroes of Berlin

10A captivating new exhibit called "Hidden in Plain View: United States Army Special Forces Berlin, 1956-1990” sheds light on the covert operations of the Green Berets during the Cold War. It is curated by six students from Jack Britt High School in Cumberland County. The exhibit uncovers the untold stories of U.S. Army Special Forces who worked in the shadows of divided Berlin during the Cold War.
After World War II, Berlin became the epicenter of Cold War tensions, divided into East and West zones. The Soviet Union controlled the East, while the United States, England, and France governed the West.
In this intense environment, a secret unit of Green Berets carried out some of the most classified operations of the era. Disguised in civilian clothes and fluent in German, these soldiers remained on high alert, ready to take action if the Cold War turned hot. Their mission, in the event of war, was to infiltrate East Germany and neutralize key Soviet targets.
The idea for this collaboration began at the end of the 2022 school year when the museum staff at the U.S. Army Airborne Special Operations Museum and the Jack Britt Social Studies Department decided to work together.
The goal was to mentor students in exhibit development, with the plan to display the final product at the school. As the project progressed, it became clear that the students' work deserved a larger audience. Thus, the exhibit found its home at the ASOM, with the first student-curated exhibit opening in April 2023, focusing on Task Force DAGGER, America’s military response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The success of this initial exhibit led to the formalization of the program into an annual partnership, now known as the Curatorial Apprentice Program or “CAP.”
Curating the current exhibit on Special Forces Berlin presented significant challenges. Jim Bartlinski, Director of Fort Liberty Museums, explained that the topic covered the period from 1956 to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The Special Forces Berlin unit operated clandestinely to deter communism, wearing civilian clothing to blend in, which made artifacts scarce. The ASOM had no related artifacts in its collection, so the students collaborated with Special Forces Berlin veterans to secure loaned items and the stories behind them. The students also borrowed artifacts from the JFK Special Warfare Museum on Fort Liberty, adding depth to the exhibit.
Bartlinski highlighted the exhibit's profound significance, noting that it provides visitors with a crucial insight into a lesser-known but pivotal aspect of Cold War history.
These highly trained soldiers operated about 100 miles inside communist East Germany, in the Allied-controlled sector of West Berlin. Their primary mission was to conduct unconventional warfare against the Soviet Union and its allies if the Cold War escalated into open conflict.
Now declassified, this exhibit recognizes the critical role played by the United States Army Special Forces during this turbulent period in American history.
"Hidden in Plain View" will be on display through September 1. It offers a great opportunity to uncover the secrets of the Green Berets and their pivotal role in Cold War Berlin.

(Photo:"Hidden in Plain View: United States Army Special Forces Berlin 1956-1990" can be viewed at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in downtown Fayetteville until Sept. 1. Photo courtesy of the Airborne and Special Operations Museum Foundation Facebook page)

Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra, City of Fayetteville present an Independence Day concert

11The Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra and the City of Fayetteville will present a free-admission Independence Concert on July 4 in Festival Park. This event is sponsored by Fayetteville PWC, Fayetteville Parks & Recreation, and is supported by the Arts of Council of Fayetteville and Cumberland County. The concert will conclude with fireworks.
FSO is excited to perform alongside the 82nd Airborne Division Band. Their mission is to provide music to Fort Liberty and the local area ‘Telling the Army Story’ in support of soldiers and their families, community and recruiting initiatives, and music education programs. Director, Major Joel DuBois, will conduct several pieces as well.
FSO's mission is to educate, entertain, and inspire the citizens of the Fayetteville region as the leading musical resource. Praised for its artistic excellence, the symphony leads in the cultural and educational landscape for Fayetteville and the southeastern North Carolina region. The symphony performs a variety of concerts each year, including subscription concerts, free admission community concerts, and a laid-back Symphony on Tap series.
Cumberland Choral Arts will also take the Festival Park stage. CCA strives to be a premier
symphonic chorus through the outstanding performance of choral works.
A special performance from the Fayetteville Symphonic Band, a community of instrumentalists who are serious about keeping good wind band music in Fayetteville will also occur.
FSO Assistant Conductor, Daniel McCloud said, "I am so honored to conduct both, the Fayetteville Symphonic Band and the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra, for the July 4th Independence Day Concert this year. For my entire music career, there has been a strong connection between music and community, and this concert beautifully encapsulates that ideal. The band and orchestra will perform a healthy dose of patriotic favorites and several popular instrumental fan favorites, which will be the perfect conclusion to the celebration."
Vocalist, Ayana Washington will be performing as well. She is a multifaceted creative, who was born in Fayetteville. Washington is a seasoned entertainer and has performed in many theatrical productions. When she is not on stage she fosters connections with various artistic communities, serves on several committees, and curates culturally significant community events through her business, Book Black Women Inc.
Washington has held the role of director at Gilbert Theater, Costume Designer at Cape Fear Regional Theatre, Broadway World’s 2020 Vocalist of the Decade, and Creative Director and Producer for original productions and contracted productions. Every endeavor adds fuel to the ‘Stay and Play in Fay’ fire and she is determined to continue fanning the flame!
Gates open at 6 p.m. and the concert begins at 7:15 p.m. Food truck vendors will be on-site and beer will be available for purchase (cash only with an ATM on site.) A children's play area will also be available.
Only service animals are permitted. Please no skateboards, bicycles, personal tents/canopies, or outside food/beverage.
For a full list of Independence Day events happening in the area, see the June 26 edition of Up and Coming Weekly.

Dinosaur World comes back to Sweet Valley Ranch

18As summertime approaches, so do Sweet Valley Ranch’s dinosaurs! SVR’s Dinosaur World, an exciting attraction with over seventy-five life-size dinosaurs, opened June 1st and will remain open until August 3rd. Dinosaurs aren’t the only amazing sight to see at Sweet Valley Ranch. They offer an Ice Age Cave, which brings you back in time to the icy tundra, a fossil museum, the Land of Enchantment and much more.
Sweet Valley Ranch offers several activities and attractions year-round, such as their Hills and Thrills Adventure Tour of the ranch and its woods, an ATV Express Tour and Go Kart Nature trails. Guests of all ages have plenty of activities inside and outside of the famous Dinosaur World!
Dinosaur World is more than just an attraction; it’s an educational experience created for curious guests of all ages. Nestled in the back corner of their expansive farm, Sweet Valley Ranch has life-sized dinosaur replicas that continue to awe guests each year.
According to their website, “Guests will enjoy a walk down our quarter-mile paved path where they will see over forty dinosaurs in a natural habitat.” Guests can participate in a Fossil Dig, play in giant bouncy houses and playgrounds, go on Dino Rides, and even fish in one of the farm’s ponds. Guests can even meet Sweet Valley Ranch’s Mascot “Tiny,” a massive Brahman Bull.
Dinosaur World offers two time frames to pick from, Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or the nighttime experience from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Adult tickets start at $20 and bump up to $30 to have access to both the daytime and nighttime experience. For children under the age of 12, tickets start at $12 and are $20 for both.
With a general admission ticket, you, your friends, and your family can explore the impressive farm and interact with over 350 animals. To have even more fun, buy a bag of animal feed from the farm and bring a little extra joy to the animals you get to visit!
Adults can enjoy some friendly and competitive cornhole, horseshoes, basketball and “water” pong at Tiny’s Outdoor Game Court.
To locate a map of the farm, ticket purchase, and any additional information, visit sweetvalleyranchnc.com.
Want to take this Dinosaur fun up a notch? You can help find Dr. Surgeon and the missing scientist in the Dinosaur World Rescue Mission. After obtaining a copy of the clue worksheet from the ticket booth, use your keen scavenging skills and solve a series of clues to lead you to Dr. Surgeon, his wife, and the other missing scientists. Don’t get too comfortable, the clues and locations change every week!
The guests who participate in the Dinosaur World Rescue Mission are entered in a drawing to win a 2025 all-season pass to all four Sweet Valley Ranch attractions. Learn all about the dinosaurs and lore that Sweet Valley Ranch has to offer.
Sweet Valley Ranch is open year-round, but their Dinosaur World is only here briefly, so don’t miss your chance to see this year’s spectacular Dinosaur World.

(Graphic courtesy of Sweet Valley Ranch)

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