Grease Festival’s 2017 Athena stands tallest when stooping to help others

By  | September 4, 2017 | Filed under: News

This year’s Queen is also known for making scrumptious fried water bread

ATHENS-This year’s Athena-Grease Goddess points to the message she once saw on a church marquee as a way to explain why her free time is devoted to helping the community.


The marquee said, “You stand tallest when you stoop to help others.”


“My uncle from New York asked me, ‘Why do you do all this?’” said Martha Jo Leonard. “When I saw that message on the marquee, I called and told him that it summed up the reason why. I just appreciate this town and her people.”


Leonard will serve as the 2017 Athena-Grease Goddess for the Sept. 30 Athens Grease

Martha Jo Leonard

Festival in Downtown Athens. The festival’s top sponsor, Regions Bank, chose Leonard among the Limestone County women nominated for the title.


The mythical Athena was known as a wise Greek goddess who loved and protected the City of Athens, could be a warrior, and had a creative side and interest in the arts, crafts, and agriculture. Likewise, Athena–Grease Goddess demonstrates similar qualities through her willingness to give back to the city. She must be a Limestone County woman who works to improve the city. This could be through volunteering with non-profits, with the arts, with youth, on a city board, or through environmental efforts.


“I am truly thrilled because Martha Jo has been an amazing, tireless and selfless servant to this community for as long as I have known her,” said retired judge Jimmy Woodroof, who serves in Athens Rotary with Leonard.


Woodroof nominated Leonard and attached an additional sheet of information to the nomination form to have space to cover all of Leonard’s volunteer activities. In addition to serving with Athens Rotary, she serves as executive director of the Limestone Area Community Foundation. Leonard’s volunteer interests include March of Dimes, American Red Cross, United Way, Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce, Limestone County Foundation for Aging, Athens High School Alumni Association and many others.


“I learned about giving back in school,” Leonard said. “Nancy Martin, my English teacher at Athens High, encouraged me to volunteer. Then I became involved through my job. When I was working at Central Bank, Billy Rich Christopher, whose middle name was “Delegate,” turned to me to assist with whatever endeavor he was supporting, and I enjoyed it.”


Leonard will receive a toga, battery-operated torch and burlap sash so she can lead the opening ceremonies for the Athens Grease Festival, which has been dubbed “One of the Oddest Festivals in Alabama.” Downtown merchant Hendricks-Patton-Rancl will provide a tacky throne upon which Leonard can observe the festivities.


Holly Hollman

Athens Main Street hosts the Athens Grease Festival that is a celebration of all things fried and the Greek origin of the city’s name. Organizers encourage event goers to eat responsibly the other 364 days of the year.


“Southern cooking is an art form because it is about blending flavors and making a culinary presentation that tempts all the senses from smell to sight to taste,” said Athens Grease Festival Promotions Chair Holly

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