LISTEN: On the Monday Dec. 26 edition of Georgia Today: Where to recycle your Christmas tree, positive news for Alzheimer's patients, and a look at the Savannah Bananas.

GA Today Podcast



Peter Biello: Welcome to the new Georgia Today podcast from GPB News. Today is Monday, Dec. 26. I'm Peter Biello. On today's special holiday episode, we have information on how you can recycle your Christmas tree. And as we move closer to the year's end, we'll take a look back at some of GPB News's most memorable stories that you may have missed, including one about Georgia's unique independent baseball team, the Savannah Bananas. These stories and more are coming up on Georgia Today.


Story 1

Peter Biello: Today. Monday, Dec. 26, is both a state and federal holiday. Many offices and services are closed today as it is the recognized day off for Christmas. And that doesn't just go for state and federal offices. Plenty of local businesses, restaurants, doctor's offices and more will be closed today. So we hope you are enjoying the day off, if you are one of those who doesn't have to work.


Story 2

Peter Biello: With Christmas Day behind us, you may be starting to look for where to recycle that live tree. GPB's Grant Blankenship reports that Keep Georgia Beautiful has some solutions.

Grant Blankenship: It happens every year. You love the glow and sparkle of your Christmas tree, but now you're asking, "What am I supposed to do with this tree in my house?" For that, take it to one of about 200 sites around the state set aside for "treecycling," which mostly means chipping and mulching. Asha Ellen of Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful says there are really good reasons to treecycle.

Asha Ellen: Well the number one thing is we want to definitely protect and preserve our landfills. Our landfills are already overflowing.

Grant Blankenship: All the Keep Georgia Beautiful recycling sites will mulch together on the 7th of January. Most will still take trees before and after that. You can find links and a map of drop off sites at For GPB News, I'm Grant Blankenship.



More than 1,000 people age 50 or older took one of four versions of the SAGE test.

Story 3

Peter Biello: And as we move closer to the end of the year. We're taking a look at some of our newsroom's most memorable stories from 2022 — stories you may have missed. First up, researchers followed 25 patients with mild cognitive impairment over nine months, looking at all the different contributors to cognitive decline. GPB's Ellen Eldridge reports on the results.

Ellen Eldridge: A new study finds it may be possible to reverse early stage Alzheimer's disease. Rather than treating patients in clinical trials with a specific drug, doctors are taking a more personalized approach by understanding and treating diseases impacting cognitive decline. Dr. Dale Bredeson is one of the study's authors. He says all 25 patients with dementia or mild cognitive impairment in this study improved.

Dr. Dale Bredeson: We look to see what is driving this. Is this related to insulin resistance? Is it related to systemic inflammation, specific toxins, specific — specific infections of vascular disease, sleep apnea, leaky gut, etc., etc.

Ellen Eldridge: Bredeson says the next step is recruiting for a larger clinical trial focused on personalized care. For GPB News, I'm Ellen Eldridge.


PBS NewsHour Why this small, Black-owned bookstore is hallowed ground for some

Story 4

Peter Biello: Next up, independent bookstores are growing in number and diversity. The American Booksellers Association says its national membership stands at more than 2,000, its highest total in years, and about 100 more than last year. In Georgia, at least 10 new bookstores have opened up in the past two years. GPB's Orlando Montoya reports their owners come from different backgrounds but face challenges familiar to many businesses today.

Orlando Montoya: About 20 parents and their young children are sitting in comfy chairs waiting for Sherri Dillard to begin Storytime at Virginia Highlands Bookstore in Atlanta.

Sherri Dilliard: So our first story today is one of my favorite storytime books. It's called Is Everyone Ready for Fun?

Orlando Montoya: The bookstore opened last year in an empty storefront next to a women's clothing store on a busy, walkable block. Bookstore owner Sandra Huff came from a marketing background but had a love of books. She says she saw the for lease sign in January and opened her bookstore five months later.

Sandra Huff: So it was very fast. We opened super quickly because the neighborhood is just the perfect environment for a bookstore.

Orlando Montoya:  Huff had to move quickly because Atlanta's real estate market is red hot right now. She got the space quickly enough but couldn't fill it for months.

Sandra Huff: Just opening, getting these bookshelves in was an incredibly long process and they could not give me the date that they were going to receive them because they had no idea what, when they'd get shipped. And so then we couldn't open. It was kind of just a waiting game.

Orlando Montoya: Real estate and supply chain issues are concerns that Georgia's new booksellers share with other businesses. Still, after her hurried startup, Huff's shop is now so busy that she asks authors to speak at events twice so more people can attend. A little further south, new bookseller Erica Atkins is also reporting a strong start.

Erica? Great to meet you?

Erica Atkins: It's a pleasure meeting you as well. Welcome In.

Orlando Montoya: Atkins' Birdsong Box is located in a small shopping strip flanked by subdivisions in Locust Grove. Atkins comes from a human resources background. She sells a variety of books, but has a large selection of Christian books.

Erica Atkins: There's a lady, she loves to buy Bibles from us, and she bought a Bible, I want to say, back in December, January timeframe. That Bible costs her about $45. She bought that same Bible because she likes to pass Bibles out. Maybe four months later, that Bible had increased from $45 to $55.

Orlando Montoya: With a 9% Inflation rate dragging the national economy. Atkins has hiked prices on her used books by a dollar. Atkins is one of four women of color to open bookstores in Georgia since the beginning of last year, and that's on par with national trends. The Industry Trade Group says its new members are more diverse than ever.

Cynthia Chambry: All right, $23.76 is your total. Cash or card? 

Orlando Montoya: Cynthia Chambry rings up a sale, including the children's book Woke Baby. Her bookstore, called Elda, is inside the New Black Wall Street Market, a former Target store in Stonecrest, east of Atlanta that's been turned into a mall to uplift black owned businesses. Chambry embraced journey to bookselling, started when she was an educator.

Cynthia Chambry: The classroom where the school wasn't actually providing the level of representation as I wanted to teach from. So I just sort of went on a quest to find books that looked like the children in my classroom.

Orlando Montoya: The pandemic brought Chambry to Georgia to be with family, right when the new Black Wall Street market was getting started. Her business is doing so well that she recently moved into a larger space in the market. Overall, Georgia's new booksellers are worried about a possible recession, but the industry survived the Barnes and Noble type superstores of the '90s, the Amazon type online stores that followed and now the past two years of challenges — demonstrating the resilience of books and the people who sell them. For GPB News, I'm Orlando Montoya.


Wearing his signature yellow tuxedo, Savannah Bananas owner Jesse Cole dances with players and fans in between innings at Grayson Stadium. Cole and two players are dancing on top of the home dugout. The players are wearing kilts with a yellow-and-black plaid pattern, in addition to their white home uniforms.

Wearing his signature yellow tuxedo, Savannah Bananas owner Jesse Cole dances with players and fans in between innings at Grayson Stadium.

Credit: Benjamin Payne / GPB News

Story 5

Peter Biello: And finally GPB's Benjamin Payne reports on how Georgia's Savannah Bananas are influencing not just fans but the business of baseball as a whole.

Benjamin Payne: By now, there's a decent chance you've heard of the Savannah Bananas, even if you haven't been to a game. The team has been profiled in national media outlets from The New York Times to The Today Show, and it's no wonder why. At their exhibition games, the Bananas play by their own set of zany rules, like this one.

Play-by-play Announcer: Is he trying to bunt? Oh, no, no.

Umpire: I think you're out.

Play-by-play Announcer: Oh, my goodness gracious. And we have an ejection. He's going to be tossed from this ballgame for trying to lay down a bunt. That's rule No. 4 in Banana Ball: If you try to bunt, you're gone.

Benjamin Payne: Plus, there's the on-field antics, like the first base coach grilling up burgers in the third base coach waving and runners with one of those wands used to guide airplanes on the tarmac. But what you might not know is that the Bananas are making an impression well outside Savannah.

Sam Boyd: What the bananas have been able to do for us at the Paddleheads is challenge us to be uniquely us.

Benjamin Payne: That's Sam Boyd, who works for the Missoula Paddleheads, a minor league baseball team in Missoula, Montana. He's in charge of fan experience at the ballpark as the team's Director of Wow.

Sam Boyd: That's my official title. I like to say my job is just to make people say "wow."

Benjamin Payne: Much of that involves writing skits for the team's moose mascot, Paxton The Paddlehead, as well as the mascots superfan. Ryan the Moose Tracker.

Sam Boyd: I see every single game as a different storyline that we create with the characters that we have in the ballpark.

Benjamin Payne: This ballpark buffoonery is in the same vein as the Savannah Bananas' — and that's no coincidence. Ever since Boyd graduated from college, he's looked up to Bananas owner Jesse Cole. In fact, he considers Cole his mentor. They text each other and talk over the phone a couple times a year to check in.

Jesse Cole: Our mission is "Fans first, entertain always." So everything we do, we think about what is fans first and how do we entertain our fans at every touchpoint of the entire experience.

Benjamin Payne: That's Cole sounding as serious as can be, even as he wears his signature yellow tuxedo and yellow top hat. To him, creating fans every step of the way means way more than just the on-field product.

Jesse Cole: The breakdancing coach, the dancing players, the Banana Band, the Banana Baby, players playing in kilts, players playing in stilts, you name it, we tried it.

Benjamin Payne: All of this has led to a massive online following.

Tyler Skinner: If you look at their TikTok following, for example, they have four times the amount of followers as the Atlanta Braves, and they have more followers in every single Major League Baseball franchise.

Benjamin Payne: That's Tyler Skinner, a doctoral student of sports finance at the University of Georgia. He says that the big leagues are starting to take notice of the Bananas.

Tyler Skinner: I don't think Major League Baseball is going to implement any of the really out-there rules, like if a fan catches a ball, it's an out. You know, that's never going to happen in Major League Baseball. But just looking at how the Bananas are able to really fashion the pace of play in their games, that's something that I think organizations and leagues are really going to start looking at.

Benjamin Payne: Skinner also says teams are looking at how the Bananas are drawing in fans who otherwise wouldn't care about baseball, like Julie Gibson, a registered nurse who lives near Savannah on Wilmington Island.

Julie Gibson: I would go to a ball game with my husband and it was boring and I just never got into the sport. So I'd take a book and read. But the first time I went to a Bananas game, it was fun. There was something to look at all the time.

Benjamin Payne: Gibson has since created a Facebook group that acts as a ticket exchange for fans. It has about 20,000 members.

Julie Gibson: I get people from literally the entire world. So people are like, "I'm coming from Australia to see this." So it's just a lot of fun. There's just so much going on.

Benjamin Payne: Back in Montana, Sam Boyd shares his favorite thing about the Bananas and the culture that the team's owner has created.

Sam Boyd: What Jesse has created is he encourages people to be uniquely themselves. And being uniquely yourself makes you stand out and be different. And that in itself is just a beautiful thing.

Benjamin Payne: For GPB News, I'm Benjamin Payne in Savannah.


Peter Biello: And that is it for today's edition of Georgia Today. For more news, sign up for our newsletter, You can also check our website for the latest headlines: We love hearing listener feedback, so tell us what you think. Tell us a little bit about what you'd like to hear in this podcast. Send us the note by email. The address is

I'm Peter Biello. Thank you so much for listening. We'll see you tomorrow.