THUMBS UP: To Wild Adventures Theme Park for continuing to invest in what's become the biggest tourist attraction in these parts. Park owner Kent Buescher announced a $20 million water park to be built over five years. The first phase will open this spring with a wave pool, slide and play area. He also announced a new roller coaster for the park. Attendance at Wild Adventures has gone from 100,000 in 1996 to about 1.25 million guests last year. It's become an important part of the local economy, fueling sales tax dollars to local governments and schools. And most of all, it's just a whole lot of fun.



THUMBS UP: To Bob Ator for all he's done for the Valdosta Regional Airport while executive director since 1998. Ator announced his retirement this week, and airport authority members praised his service. Many improvements were made during his tenure, and the airport is well-positioned to continue improving. A well-run airport is an important asset to the local economy and adds convenience to the lives of residents throughout the area. Good luck in your retirement, Mr. Ator.



THUMBS UP: To the emergency personnel who quickly responded to the unusual accident Wednesday when a motorist ran his vehicle into the back of Harvey's Supermarket on Bemiss Road. The sports utility vehicle hit a liquid petroleum tank, which could have been an extremely dangerous situation. Personnel secured the scene and evacuated hundreds of people from the supermarket, other stores and Georgia Military College.



THUMBS DOWN: To outgoing Gov. George Ryan of Illinois who commuted the death sentences of everyone on Death Row in Illinois. Although ethical and legal arguments could be made against the sentences for many of these 156 inmates, Ryan's gesture was too sweeping and unfair to those prosecutors and jurors who made the difficult decisions to sentence the inmates to death. It's even more unfair to the families of their alleged victims. If you extend Ryan's argument to all matters of justice, that the death penalty system is arbitrary and capricious, Illinois might as well close its courtrooms, fire its district attorneys and hang it up.



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