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Vol. 18 No. 3 • Display until March 18, 2018

NORTHEAST GEORGIA VIEWS Melissa Herndon Publisher/Chairman/Editor-In-Chief




A.W. Blalock Brenda Ritchey CONTRIBUTING WRITERS

A.W. Blalock Brian Cooke Jackie Sheckler Finch Mollie Herndon Sydnah Kingrea William D. Powell M.J. Sullivan M.C. Tufts CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS

A.W. Blalock David Cannon Brian Cooke Jackie Sheckler Finch Sydnah Kingrea William D. Powell M.J. Sullivan

Let there be peace on earth. When I was a child there was a song that I loved to sing called “Let There Be Peace on


Earth.” I sang it for the first time when I was in elementary school, playing the role of

Mollie Herndon

“Mother Nature,” and for weeks now that song has seemed to resonate in my mind,


Mollie Herndon

body and spirit. I looked up the lyrics, which were written back in the ’50s, and I


thought of how much the world has changed since then and continues to change day

Mollie Herndon

by day and realized it is a really great song to keep in your heart always and forever. ◆


Sydnah Kingrea

For the time when the temperature drops and the holiday adornments begin, this issue

time after the holidays, we offer even more ideas for enjoying the winter season, including First Day Hikes at Georgia state parks, Museum Trails and spectacular soup recipes to keep you moving and eating healthy. ◆ It is my sincere hope that this Christmas season will be merry and bright and that the new year will be a year of peace for us all. Thank you for sharing your time with us! ◆


Melissa Herndon

2 Northeast Georgia Living

Photo of Melissa Herndon by David Cannon; barn by Melissa Herndon

is full of festive ideas for hot chocolate, gifts, travel destinations and more. ◆ For the

We invite you to share your views on Northeast Georgia Living. Please mail your comments to P.O. Box 270, Franklin Springs, GA 30639, or email us at Visit us at NortheastGeorgiaLivingMagazine. Northeast Georgia Living, ISSN 1545-5769, is published quarterly in Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter by Marketing & Media Resources at 454 College Street, Royston, GA 30662. 706-246-0856. Subscription price is $14.00 annually. USPS Number 021-578 at Royston, GA 30662. Postmaster: Send address changes to Northeast Georgia Living Magazine, P. O. Box 270, Franklin Springs, GA 30639-0270. The cover and contents are copyrighted and may not be reproduced without written consent of the publisher. Reader correspondence and editorial submissions are welcome. However, we reserve the right to edit, reject or comment editorially on all contributed material.

SUBSCRIPTIONS BRING NORTHEAST GEORGIA home! A oneyear subscription of four issues – Spring, Summer, Fall and Holiday-Winter – is only $14, and gift subscriptions are only $12. To subscribe, visit or call 706-246-0856 today.

BACK ISSUES CATCH UP ON Northeast Georgia. Back issues of Northeast Georgia Living for Fall/Winter 2000 through Fall 2017 are available in limited quantities for $5 per copy. (Sorry, Spring/Summer 2002 is no longer available.) Send your name and mailing address along with a check or money order payable to Northeast Georgia Living, P.O. Box 270, Franklin Springs, GA 30639. Please specify the issue(s) and the quantity of each issue desired.

4 Northeast Georgia Living




EACH HOLIDAY SEASON, WE carefully select an

assortment of distinct and meaningful gifts to make shopping for special loved ones and friends simpler and more enjoyable. This year, choose from our “Gifts Made in Northeast

46 Arts: Robert Benton

Trails: Museums

owners and artisans, and “Gifts From Afar.” Plus, make one of our recipes for Crock-Pot hot chocolate to keep on hand for holiday and winter guests. By Sydnah Kingrea

Soup’s On!


NOTHING SATES THE SOUL and body during chilly winter evenings quite like classic hot and savory soups. Our selection of four soups – both quick to prepare and satisfying – makes it easy to fill up out-of-town guests when you are short on prep time. Encompassing a wide range of ingredients and flavors, these are soups you will want to eat again and again throughout the winter months! By Sydnah Kingrea

First Day Hikes

40 6 Northeast Georgia Living


THE TEMPERATURE OUTSIDE HAS dropped, with a windchill making it feel even colder. But inside one of Northeast Georgia’s museums, the weather is always nice! Fine paintings and drawings, furniture and pottery, granite and gold – all can be found in our museums, along with a heaping helping of history and heritage. So come on in where the weather – and the art – are beautiful. Wish you were here! By A.W. Blalock

Georgia,” for those who wish to shop locally and support Northeast Georgia business


ROBERT BENTON PAINTS BECAUSE it makes him happy. His primary interest is to show, through his paintings, the Georgia he has come to love and call home. By William D. Powell



NEW YEAR’S DAY IS bittersweet. The holidays are over, winter is settling in and resolutions must begin. For many, it’s a day for recovering and resetting. For Georgia state park and historic site enthusiasts, however, New Year’s Day is about lacing up a pair of boots and hitting the trail for First Day Hikes, a simple idea to encourage organized hiking events at state parks across the United States. By Brian Cooke



Made in Georgia Holiday/Winter Favorites


ENJOY OUR SHOWCASE OF wonderfully crafted food, art and more created in Georgia. This issue features Sunny Hill Greenhouse & Nursery, Logan Turnpike Mill and Buffalo Gal Grassfed Beauty. By Sydnah Kingrea

Spotlight Northeast Georgia Holiday/Winter Hits



CHECK OUT OUR TOP picks for the holidays and winter, which include parades, markets, lights and music. By Sydnah Kingrea

Gardening Southern Highlands Reserve


SITUATED HIGH ON THE Blue Ridge Escarpment in North Carolina, the Southern Highlands Reserve comprises a lodge housing classrooms and a research station, woodland paths through forests of towering rhododendrons, and a habitat for native animals. By M.C. Tufts

Antiques Brass Buckets


BRASS BUCKETS, PRIZED FOR their beauty and functionality, have a long history of practical – and more recently, decorative – uses. By M.J. Sullivan

Vines Mercier Orchards


AN APPLE ORCHARD IN Fannin County grew into a fruit farm of several hundred acres, where the owners offer wines, ciders and pies made from the fruits of their labor. By M.J. Sullivan



Eat, Drink & Be Merry Cali-n-Tito’s

A LIVELY MARKETPLACE ATMOSPHERE and outstanding food make Cali-n-Tito’s in Athens a destination restaurant. By Mollie Herndon


Books Murder at Broad River Bridge

JOURNALIST BILL SHIPP TELLS a wrenching tale of racism and violence in his recounting of the 1964 cold-blooded murder of U.S. Army Reserve officer Lemuel Penn on a bridge over the Broad River. By M.C. Tufts

Destination Santa Claus, Indiana


THE TALE OF THE naming of this Indiana town, where every day is a holiday, is legendary, and its name has become its theme. By Jackie Sheckler Finch

Let’s Go Somewhere Today Day Trip


THE STORY OF GEORGIA is written into literary history. Some beloved characters are larger than life, but the talented writers are often private and modest. Along the Southern Literary Trail, front doors are open for a peek into the lives of great writers. By Brian Cooke

Let’s Go Somewhere Today Events


HOLIDAY & WINTER EVENTS include holiday markets, musicals, lights and laughter. By Sydnah Kingrea

Reflections ... on the Christmas gift


BARE AND UNADORNED, SITTING a safe distance from the fireplace, the little tree held the promise of things to come. By M.J. Sullivan




Holiday/Winter 2017-2018 7


holiday &winter



Georgia has an abundance of human and natural resources. Here are a few of our favorite examples of entrepreneurship that result in products you will want to become familiar with this holiday and winter.

Logan Turnpike Mill

Sunny Hill Greenhouse & Nursery

No flower says it’s the holiday season quite like poinsettias. While this cheery flower is a traditional Christmas decoration, it can also be cared for and kept in bloom throughout the entire winter and even repotted for future blooms. The poinsettias at Sunny Hill Greenhouse & Nursery in Canon are some of the most gorgeous we’ve ever seen and are a great choice for personal home decor or as a special holiday gift. Sunny Hill Greenhouse & Nursery is known for their healthy plants and their wide variety of foliage options. In addition to purchasing flowers for the holiday and winter season, check out their large selection of landscaping options and adorn your home and garden year-round. Visit them in person at 1510 Ridgeway Road in Canon or call them at 706-245-8383 to find out when the poinsettias will be available for your holiday enjoyment. You can also look up Sunny Hill Greenhouse & Nursery on Facebook.

Logan Turnpike Mill in Blairsville is a charming traditional mill that offers a wide variety of freshly ground grains, delicious baked goods and cooking necessities. The mill was purchased from George and Becky Rogers in 1986 by George and Cecilia Holland. In addition to making homemade baked goods in their store every day, the owners visit county fairs and use an antique Williams grist mill and a Fairbanks Morse

Founded by Shalley Carrell in 2012 and located in Monroe, Ga., Buffalo Gal Grassfed Beauty is your route to more naturally beautiful skin. Sourced only from Carrell Farms Inc., Buffalo Gal’s goods are created with nutrient-dense Grassfed Water Buffalo Tallow. These toxin-free products, which include lip balms, body balms and butters, facial balms, body scrubs, cleansers and toners, provide high-quality skin care and are made from organic, certified-Paleo and ethically sourced ingredients. To order your Buffalo Gal Grassfed Beauty skin care products, visit or find Buffalo Gal on Facebook to learn more.

8 Northeast Georgia Living

hit-and-miss engine to demonstrate the art of corn grinding. Freshly ground grains produce tastier and more nutrient-dense food, and the difference is noticeable in their products, as in our personal favorite, the Whole Wheat Pancake and Muffin Mix. Readers can visit the store in person at 255 Beasley St. in downtown Blairsville, or a variety of products can be ordered online at products.html. Serve all of your out-of-town guests these great goods during the holidays. Call 800-84-Grits to learn more. ◆

Special Photos

Buffalo Gal Grassfed Beauty


holiday &winter



The Jingle Market

Dec. 2, 2017 Come to Dawsonville for your last-minute Christmas shopping and a full day of family fun! Find local vendors and a wide selection of crafts, handmade products and more excellent gift options at the Jingle Market, which will be set up from 3 to 8 p.m. Attendees can also visit with Santa and enjoy an array of Christmas treats. While you are in downtown Dawsonville, stay for the Christmas Parade, which begins at 5 p.m.

Nov. 23-Dec. 30, 2017 Bring your entire family to the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds in Hiawassee for a holiday event to remember! Enjoy this magical light show with Christmas music, delicious foods and drinks and arts & crafts vendors. Visit with Santa and get your picture taken. Enjoy a steaming cup of hot cocoa. The event begins Thanksgiving night, and it will carry on until Dec. 30. Each Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the winter wonderland fairgrounds will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. Entry is $5 per person or $4 per person for groups of 15 or more. Children under 12 enter free. To learn more, visit www.georgiamountain

10 Northeast Georgia Living

Hart County Christmas Parade Dec. 10, 2017 Starting at 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 10, holiday-themed floats, cars and pedestrians, all decorated in the spirit of Christmas, will flood the streets of downtown Hartwell. The parade will commence in the parking lot located at U.S. Highway 29 and Georgia Highway 77 and travel down Franklin Street until it reaches Hart County High School. For more information, call the Hart County Chamber of Commerce at 706-376-8590.

Rocky Mountain High Christmas

Dec. 15, 2017 Attention John Denver fans! Come enjoy a Rocky Mountain High Christmas at the Anderson Music Hall at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds in Hiawassee. Chris Collins and Boulder Canyons will be performing all of John Denver’s classic hits, beginning at 7 p.m. The Return will then play all of the Beatles’ best Christmas songs. Reserve your tickets now by visiting

25th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

Jan. 11-15, 2017 Honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. in Elbert County this year. From Jan. 11-15, events at various locations in Elberton will both educate and celebrate. The events will include the showing of a movie titled “Our Friend, Martin,” the annual MLK Ecumenical Banquet, a celebratory parade and an academic bowl and oratorical contest. To learn more, visit ◆

Special photos; Mountain Country Christmas by JLB Photography

Mountain Country Christmas in Lights



f you’ve ever enjoyed a drive up to the Cashiers, N.C., area, you know the rise out of the Piedmont and into the mountains is a dramatic one. Taking highway 11 (SC 11) to Walhalla and then cutting up into North Carolina, the incline has one’s ears popping, and the views to the east are so spectacular that it’s tempting to pull over at every pullout to look back and down on the landscape being left behind. The air gets noticeably cooler, the vegetation changes – rhododendrons start to dominate the understory – and the road curves in steeper and steeper hairpin turns. This dramatic landform we are traversing is the transition zone between the Blue Ridge of the Appalachians and the Piedmont to the south. This transition zone’s upper boundary coincides with the Eastern Continental Divide. Geologists believe the Blue Ridge Escarpment, as it is known, was produced by Cenozoic tectonic uplift and the erosive force of waterways some 65 million years ago. This dramatic drop to the Piedmont produces some of the most spectacular waterfalls in the U.S., as well as thousands of smaller streams and spray cliffs that support many rare and endangered plants. 12 Northeast Georgia Living

Not far from Cashiers and about 50 miles southeast of Asheville, the Southern Highlands Reserve sits almost at the top of Mount Toxaway, some 4,500 feet above sea level. This garden and educational center overlooking Lake Toxaway is the project of Robert and Betty Balentine and their family. A stunning site for a vacation home, the 120-acre site has evolved into much more: it is now a nonprofit educational and research facility, complete with greenhouses, a display garden and a lodge housing classroom and research stations. Scholars and the general public are allowed to visit for pleasure as well as to do research and attend conferences. Southern Highlands Reserve also supports educational hands-on programs designed to get school children outside, and its staff is involved in various long-term research projects concerning the endangered plants and trees of the area. The site is comprised of two distinct areas: the core park and lodge, which contains the educational research center, and the woodlands, which are left natural but lightly managed. The core park is 22 acres,

Situated high on the Blue Ridge Escarpment in North Carolina, the Southern Highlands Reserve comprises a lodge housing classrooms and a research station, woodland paths through forests of towering rhododendrons, and a habitat for native animals.

Lodge courtesy Southern Highlands Preserve

Southern Highlands Reserve

while the woodlands comprise approximately 100 acres. The core park is a designed landscape that utilizes the native flora and fauna while providing things to facilitate human interaction: walks on gently sloping curvilinear pathways, places to sit on the pond’s edges, and a stone labyrinth to walk in contemplation. Hundreds of colorful perennials, including Baptisia, Rudbeckia and native grasses, put on a dramatic show much of the summer and fall and can be experienced in the labyrinth. The woodlands contain hickory, oak and locust trees, the occasional remaining Eastern hemlock, and towering rhododendrons, among other species. The staff works to keep this area free of invasive exotic plants so that it will remain a good habitat for native animals and provide connective corridors for the native foxes, bears and bobcats and for warblers and other songbirds. Late winter is a good time to appreciate the care and thoughtful consideration that go into a landscape design that respects the natural lay of the land and its biota. What stays green – doghobble, rhododendron, mountain laurel, Christmas ferns, galax and carpets of moss – reveals the structure of the landscape, while the stones that edge

the paths laid out by landscape architect Gary Smith include large boulders that create sitting areas, keeping the visitor feeling anchored in the mountainside forest. In spring and early summer, the evergreens take a back seat to the dramatic pinks and whites of the rhododendron and laurel. In the fascinating stone labyrinth, the blues of false indigo, the magenta of phlox and, later, the brilliant yellows of Rudbeckia paint remarkable swaths of color that draw butterflies, bees and hummingbirds, among other pollinators. ◆ For information about visiting the Southern Highlands Reserve, contact Executive Director Kelly Holdbrooks at 828-885-2050. See also The Southern Highlands Reserve Mission (as stated on their website): “The Southern Highlands Reserve is dedicated to sustaining the natural ecosystems of the Blue Ridge Mountains through the preservation, cultivation and display of plants native to the region and by advocating for the value of these fragile ecosystems through education, restoration and research.”


BRASS the bucket


ince ancient times, man has been molding, pounding and shaping brass for both functional and decorative purposes. A gold-colored alloy of copper and zinc, brass differs slightly from its cousin bronze, which is formed by combining copper and tin. When nickel is introduced into the brass formula, the result is a brass that polishes to a bright silver color. Commonly found in antiques stores and markets, brass containers still exist in a variety of sizes, from the smaller buckets that were originally used to make apple butter to the large kettles that were often used for laundry. Long prized for their beauty and functionality, they have a history both in the United States and in many other countries around the world. Because of their practicality, European brass kettles were highly valued by early American Colonists. And they weren’t alone. Native Americans also have a long history of using brass pails, buckets and kettles. It is recorded that LaSalle sold brass buckets to the native tribes as early as 1684. Indigenous people valued the buckets because of their durability and ease of transport. Ever resourceful, they used buckets until they were no longer serviceable and then fashioned them into arrowheads, knives, saws and ornaments. Although no clear explanation is given, records indicate that it was a common practice for both Europeans and Native Americans to hide or bury buckets along well-traveled routes. It is thought that this practice may have allowed them to 16 Northeast Georgia Living

retrieve their cookware on a return trip without having to carry it the entire distance. From time to time these buried buckets are still being unearthed. It is generally held that brass manufacturing in the United States began around 1802 in Waterbury, Conn., a town that would eventually be known as Brass City. Their motto to this day is Quid Aere Perennius (What Is More Lasting Than Brass?). It was in 1802 that Abel and Levi Porter joined with pewter button makers Henry, Silas and Samuel Grilley to form Abel Porter & Company, the first brass rolling mill in the United States. Rolling

Brass buckets, prized for their beauty and functionality, have a long history of practical – and more recently, decorative – uses.

brass enabled manufacturers to get the alloy into a malleable form. When making buckets, the metallic alloy was then pounded or battered on a mold to form the desired shape. Hiram W. Hayden of Waterbury, Conn., refined the bucket-making process by

developing a technique to create spun brass. This made it easier to work the metallic alloy. His method was patented on Dec. 16, 1851, a date that is sometimes stamped on Hayden’s products. Collectors look for this and/or subsequent dates on the bottom, around the rim or on the handle of a bucket. Hayden’s pails, buckets and kettles are recognizable because they were made without a seam. After the bucket was shaped, the rim was folded over a thick iron band using iron stock similar in size to the handle. Then, two metal plates called “ears” were riveted to opposite sides of the bucket and an iron handle was looped through a hole in each ear. The familiar upswept look of the looped forged handle is called a rat tail because of its shape. Although these interesting relics of the past may be considered primarily decorative in modern homes, when they are used to hold firewood, magazines, plants and craft projects, they continue to fulfill a functional role. Auctioneer Bryan Snyder of K&B Auction in Mountain City (www.kandb has been calling auctions since 1998. He says that these old buckets and kettles are not coming through the auction as often as they once did. However, depending on condition, they still maintain a high antique value, even today. “It is not uncommon to see a large outdoor kettle command a price of between $300 and $700,” says Snyder. “The smaller apple-butter sizes usually sell around $150 to $200. Also popular are buckets made circa 1800s crafted with dove-tailed seams.” These antique brass buckets may also be found in antiques stores, flea markets, estate sales and at online auction sites such as eBay, Etsy and Ruby Lane. They are an affordable way to collect a durable part of history, and many are still available for under $100. Some names to look for when shopping are Waterbury Brass, Ansonia Brass, Bates Brass of Birmingham, Randolph Clowes Co. and the aforementioned H.W. Hayden Brass Co. While most collectors prefer the natural patina of oxidized brass, brass is not difficult to clean. But be aware. Using the wrong method can devalue a piece. Avoid caustic acids or ammonia. Recipes for gently cleaning brass and copper abound online. Simply search with the phrase “how to clean brass.” As always, Happy Hunting. ◆ Holiday/Winter 2017-2018 17



A Fruitful Way to Spend a Day


n France, the Mercier Company is known for exceptional champagne. In Georgia, Mercier Orchards (pronounced “mer-seer”) in Blue Ridge is known for its exceptional apples, produce, hard cider, fruit wines and fried pies. This 74-year-old family business is the largest privately owned orchard in the state. Their remarkable adventure began in 1943 when Bill and Adele Mercier decided to purchase 27 acres of land in Fannin County on which to grow apples. Today their farm has expanded to 300 acres with 100,000 dwarf and semi-dwarf apple trees. They produce 52 varieties of apples, as well as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and nectarines. Bill also planted a peach orchard on the property in 1972. The fruit is sold in a variety of ways. In addition to on-site sales, they use distributors throughout the state and ship using their own system, which covers most states in the United States. Their farm store in Blue Ridge, which encompasses approximately 15,000 square feet, houses an extensive produce section, a bakery, a cafe and a wine tasting room, all of which feature fruits grown on their farm. When the farm store opened in 1965, Adele began serving visitors her homemade fried apple pies. According to Rita Suiter, marketing and training coordinator for Mercier Orchards, “That’s when Adele’s

legacy began. She was a hardworking truegrit Southern woman. We still use her fried pie recipe, but now our bakery serves the pies in twenty different flavors, with over a million sold annually.” The pies are so popular they are sold at SunTrust Park in Atlanta, home of the Atlanta Braves. In addition, they may be found at Chick-fil-A’s Dwarf House restaurants and at the Varsity restaurant, also in Atlanta. Suiter says, “In October, Mercier’s opens the farm to cider tours and tours of the orchards. At that time, our regular staff of 200 grows to approximately 250. The activity on the property is like watching Disney World on steroids.” During this annual harvest season, an astounding 10 million apples are picked. As might be expected with such an abundance of apples, cider and hard cider cannot be far behind. Ian Flom is the creator of Mercier Orchards’ eight flavors of hard ciders. Each has its own distinctive name and flavor, like “Just Peachy” and “Grumpy Granny.” The newest additions are “Jalapeacho,” which has a smooth, sweet, peachy aroma with a light jalapeño pepper kick at the finish, and “A Cold Day

Rita Suiter (at left in photo), marketing and training coordinator for Mercier staff are ready to guide visitors through their vast selection of wines, ciders and bakery items. 18 Northeast Georgia Living

Special Photos

Orchards, and members of the Mercier

in Hops,” which will be sold in cans rather than bottles. In addition to the hard ciders, Mercier Orchards also offers their own selection of wines, which currently include peach and apple. These wines range from dry to semisweet and sweet. Eric Hiltz, winery manager, oversees the tasting room, which offers not only Mercier Orchards’ in-house wines but a selection of regional wines as well. “We like to feature only Georgia Grown products,” says Hiltz. “Other wineries represented in our tasting room include Horse Creek Vineyards, Sharp Mountain Vineyards, Currahee Vineyards, Serenberry Vineyards, Crane Creek Vineyards, Cartecay Vineyards, Odom Springs Vineyards, the Georgia Winery, Paradise Hills Winery, Three Sisters Winery and Sweet Acre Farms. Each week a different winery is selected to be showcased by making their wines available for sampling in our tasting room. The obvious advantage for wine enthusiasts is that they can purchase a variety of vintages from several wineries throughout the state at one convenient location. “Our wines are very carefully made,” says Hiltz. “From the day we press the fruit until the final product, we never use artificial sweeteners. If the wines need additional sweetening, we use juice from our own apples or peaches to back sweeten.” Tim Mercier, owner and CEO of Mercier Orchards states it simply: “We are currently the only apple orchard in Georgia that can say they grow, press, ferment and bottle their own beverages.” In the future, Mercier Orchards hopes to be adding strawberry and blueberry wines to their own current selections. In addition to planning their own seasonal events, the staff at Mercier Orchards is always available to arrange venues and personalized menus for reunions, birthday gatherings, holiday parties and weddings. Having an orchard as a backdrop provides a romantic setting that Mercier Orchards describes as “rustic elegance for a couple’s special day.” Mercier Orchards is open year-round, except for New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. The family and staff at Mercier Orchards invites everyone to come and experience their farm and sample the fruit of their labor. For more information, contact them at 706-632-3411 or toll free at 800-361-7731. To visit them online, go to See you at the farm. ◆ Holiday/Winter 2017-2018 19


was born, but at the time the name was just one word: “Calientito,” which means cozy or comfortable in Spanish. Because of trademark issues, the name later became Cali-n-Tito’s. The first location, an outdoor cantinastyle restaurant, opened on South Lumpkin Street and is beloved by UGA students and others living in the Five Points area. The next location opened in a building on Cedar Shoals, which Rubio purchased and named “La Puerta del Sol.” La Puerta del Sol became Rubio’s very own “marketplace.” Marketplaces remind Rubio of his home in Peru, so all the decor in La Puerta del Sol is marketplace-inspired. The large two-level building is decked out with palm trees, a fountain, children’s toys and games and picnic-style dining tables. A beautiful private upstairs section overlooks the entire space. The place is truly a marvel to see, hear, touch and taste. Manager Arjun Patel told me that they wanted it to be a place to have an experience – and a good meal. He also commented on the variety of customers that come to enjoy Cali-n-Tito’s. He says that it’s somewhere a lawyer, a landscaper and a doctor can sit together and have lunch. While you can walk into La Puerta del Sol and find people of all ages and occupations, you will most definitely find children



he holidays and winter are a time filled with family, food and excitement, so naturally a new favorite restaurant would be on anyone’s Christmas list. In Athens, great restaurants are definitely not hard to come by, but one in particular that embodies a spirit of fun and excitement is Cali-n-Tito’s. This Athens hot spot has been welcoming students and families alike for years with its lively atmosphere and outstand20 Northeast Georgia Living

ing cuisine. The owner, Bruno Rubio, is a native of Peru, and his heritage shines through in his flavorful food. Rubio’s career as a restaurant owner started out in a small trailer on Tallassee Road with a restaurant called Pollo Loco. Pollo Loco was beloved by locals for its wings and Cuban food. However, Rubio wanted something more that embodied his culture and gave locals a warm, family environment. That’s when Cali-n-Tito’s

A lively marketplace atmosphere and outstanding food make Cali-n-Tito’s a destination restaurant. El Churrasco Del Che (opposite page) and big, delectable quesadillas (above) are favorite menu items.

there as well. Families flock to this location because of its family-friendly atmosphere, and for the children, La Puerta Del Sol is like a Peruvian Disney World. While parents enjoy margaritas and a relaxing meal out, their children can ride tricycles, play Pac-Man and check out the cool toys with other kids. The restaurant also occasionally offers face painting for the children. Further complementing the fun decor, La Puerta del Sol also has live music every Sunday and some Saturdays, making this a great place for music lovers to have a weekend night out. In addition to Cali-n-Tito’s, the building also houses La Michoacana ice cream shop, which serves up homemade ice cream in all sorts of tasty and unique flavors. Owner Rubio plans to fill the building with all sorts of different vendors, creating his own Peruvian marketplace in the heart of Athens. The restaurant has a very large menu filled with authentic Peruvian cuisine and some other Latin components. Customer favorites include the Cuban sandwich and the fish tacos, both made with only the freshest ingredients. My personal favorite is the steak quesadilla, filled with juicy steak, rice, beans and mozzarella cheese and garnished with fresh lettuce and purple cabbage. Another family favorite is the El Churrasco Del Che, which is grilled skirt steak cooked to order and served with rice and two sides – I suggest the maduros (fried sweet plantains) – plus a side salad. The food is truly delectable without making you feel like you have overindulged. Other tasty items from the menu include fried plantains, fresh fruit margaritas served in a pint jar and many other Latin-inspired dishes. There are also chef specials that change week to week, so a new, flavorful dish is always on the horizon. Now that your mouth is watering, do not hesitate to pay a visit to this truly remarkable restaurant. Cali-n-Tito’s is open Tuesday through Sunday. Their hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays and 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Go for a quick, delicious lunch, a fun date night or a stressfree dinner out with the family! You most definitely will not regret it. They are located at 1245 Cedar Shoals Drive in Athens, Ga. If you like, you can call ahead at 706-355-7087. ◆ Holiday/Winter 2017-2018 21



he bridge over the Broad River on highway 172 in Madison County is a long stretch over a particularly beautiful section of the river. Paddlers can be glimpsed on the water in warmer months, and the long colorful view to the Piedmont forests of oak, hickory and maple is especially captivating in autumn. Travelers can imagine that this bridge holds many stories, as this area of Georgia was home to Native Americans and some of the Georgia colony’s earliest settlers. And thanks to the hard work of Carlton resident Dena Chandler and others, there is now a historic plaque that commemorates an especially important chapter of our history at this otherwise bucolic site. Journalist Bill Shipp recounts the wrenching tale of this chapter in Murder at Broad River Bridge, which has just been reissued by the University of Georgia Press. The small book packs a powerful story of racism, violence and the 1964 cold-blooded murder on this bridge of U.S. Army Reserve officer Lemuel Penn. Penn and two of his colleagues were returning home to Washington, D.C., after routine training at Fort Benning near Columbus, Ga. The three African American servicemen passed through Athens on their way north, with the tragic consequences of having gotten the attention of ruthless white vigilantes when they stopped by the UGA arch on Broad Street to consult a map. Their plans were to take highway 72 out of Athens and then highway 172 towards Bowman and on into South Carolina. It was the middle of the night of a long drive back to D.C. Lemuel Penn, 49, was a World War II veteran who had seen combat in the Pacific. The father of three children, he was a school teacher in Washington, D.C., and a Boy Scout leader in his Methodist church. He was not someone interested in drawing attention to himself, according to Shipp; instead, he was a quiet family man intent on changing the system from the 22 Northeast Georgia Living

inside out, mostly by way of education. Penn was in the process of completing a Ph.D. and was an administrator in the vocational school system and a classroom teacher. But on the night of July 11, 1964, he would become a martyr to these American ideals. The three Klansmen responsible for his murder were convinced that Penn and his friends were some of President Lyndon Johnson’s “men” sent to the South to cause trouble. The timing is notable, as the Voting Rights Act of 1964 had just passed and emotions were running high in the Deep South. Shipp’s book has many layers, such as the story of numerous trials and the glimpse it provides into the lives of the perpetrators, Penn and his fellow travelers. Murder at the Broad River Bridge serves as a potent reminder of just how embedded the elements of racism and brutality are in our local and national history. Readers familiar with Athens and Madison County will find this story especially compelling and may find it hard to cross the 172 bridge on the Broad River – no matter how beautiful the setting – without acknowledging the event and the complexity of our Southern identity. ◆ Murder at the Broad River Bridge is available at Avid Bookshop in Athens.


It’s always Christmas in

Santa Claus, Indiana


long time ago, a group of people lived in a small southern Indiana community known as Santa Fe. The community had no post office but would be getting one soon. When Christmas season rolled around, townspeople were so excited that for the first time they would have a post office of their own from which to mail their greetings and gifts. Unfortunately, a big official envelope arrived notifying residents that Indiana already had a “Santa Fe.” The town couldn’t get a post office until it had a new name. What to do? At the 1852 Christmas Eve celebration in a little log church, citizens debated town names. Suddenly, a cold December gust blew open the door of the church. In the distance could be heard the faint sound of sleigh bells ringing 24 Northeast Georgia Living

through the quiet winter night. It was quite puzzling since there was no one around for miles. Everyone was in the tiny church. But the children were not puzzled. The voice of a small child excitedly rang out, “It’s Santa Claus, it’s Santa Claus.” The congregation had its answer. Nameless Town became Santa Claus. “That’s the legend,” says Melissa Brockman, The Santa Claus post office, where Santa letters from around the world end up, offers a popular holiday postmark. The annual Santa Claus Parade wends its way along streets with Christmas-inspired names and past the Candy Castle.

Letter and sign by Jackie Sheckler Finch; Santa and castle courtesy Spencer County Visitors Bureau

executive director of the Spencer County Visitors Bureau. “Here in Santa Claus, we celebrate Christmas all year round, but we really have a lot of fun activities in December.” The town itself has names that reflect the Santa Claus heritage. There’s Christmas Lake Village, a 2,000-acre residential community with three lakes that has 500 acres set aside for recreation. There’s also Santa Claus Hardware, Santa’s Lodge, St. Nick’s Restaurant, Frosty’s Fun Center, Santa Claus Car Care, Lake Rudolph Campground, Evergreen Boutique and much more. The town, with a population of about 2,500, has streets with names like Silver Bell Terrace, Candy Cane Lane, Reindeer Circle and Prancer Drive. Local fire trucks are dubbed Rudolph, Dasher and Blitzen. The town of Santa Claus hosts a wealth of annual holiday celebrations. The Santa Claus Parade kicks off the second Saturday of December at 1:00 p.m. The popular Santa Claus Land of Lights at Lake Rudolph is a 1.2-mile drive-through light show that tells the magical story of Rudolph the rednosed reindeer and other holiday tales. “It’s the only light show in North America that tells a story in lights and storyboards,” Brockman says. “It is also one of the largest holiday light shows in North America.” Celebrants are invited to visit the free Santa Claus Museum & Village, where storytelling events are held in the historic 1880 Santa Claus Church, and to write a letter to Santa. Children can visit with old St. Nick at the Santa Claus Christmas Store throughout the holiday season. Come Christmas time, an estimated 400,000 pieces of mail find their way to the tiny Santa Claus post office. “During the rest of the year, about 13,000 pieces of mail are processed each month – as much mail as the post office processes each day during the Christmas season,” Brockman says. This Hoosier post office – the only “Santa Claus” post office in the world – has offered a different picture postmark each holiday season since 1983. Local high school art students submit designs for the postmark in an annual contest. If you plan to visit this festive Indiana town, pick up a special Christmas brochure from the Visitors Center or check out the Santa Claus website for a list of holiday activities. To see what’s new and fun in the toy department, visit Santa’s Holiday/Winter 2017-2018


Toys, which offers more than 1,500 specialty toys and encourages guests of all ages to “toy test” and play while browsing. For sweet dreams of sugarplums, stay at Santa’s Lodge with its year-round holiday decorations. Or, rent a Lake Rudolph Christmas Cabin and enjoy hot cocoa in front of the fireplace, participate in holiday activities and have breakfast with Santa. Stop by Santa’s Candy Castle, where you’ll find a Willy Wonka wonderland of old-fashioned candies, hundreds of Pez dispensers, and chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Although it’s closed for winter, Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari amusement and water park is a great reason to return for a summer visit. Sometime or other, many guests make a photo stop at the gigantic Santa Claus statue at the Santa Claus Museum. Twentytwo feet high and weighing over 40 tons, the granite Santa Claus statue has a special base in the shape of the Star of Bethlehem, with its principal point showing the way east to the land of the true Christmas story, the birth of Jesus. For more information, contact the Spencer County Visitors Bureau at 888-444-9252 or visit ◆

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Day Trip Uncle Remus. Gone With the Wind. A Good Man Is Hard to Find. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. Strange Fruit. The Color Purple.

camp director for 23 years, made her mark with the release of her 1944 debut novel, Strange Fruit. Strange Fruit made a splash. The book became a bestseller and was translated into numerous languages, but it also landed on banned book lists because of contentious racial themes. The result was a spotlight which shined on Smith and her growing voice. 28 Northeast Georgia Living

“During her time, the forties, fifties and sixties, Lillian Smith was at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, as far as white Southerners were concerned,” says Craig Amason, director of the Lillian E. Smith Center and College Archivist at Piedmont College. “She is still recognized as a champion for social justice.” Beyond Strange Fruit, Smith wrote numerous books and advocated in magazines and newspapers from the humble camp on Screamer Mountain. Four camp buildings are still standing, making the place nostalgic for visitors with a connection to early 20th century camping, says Amason. And much like the camp, the center is best traversed along the unpaved roads and trails, one of

ABOVE AND LEFT: Atlanta’s Margaret Mitchell House & Museum sits among the gleaming highrises of midtown and gives visitors a view into the creative mind and life of one of the South’s most famous writers through photographs and personal effects. OPPOSITE PAGE: The road to Lillian Smith’s home in Clayton, Ga., where her desk and typewriter are a centerpiece, passes by a rock chimney that also serves as a marker for Smith’s grave.

Margaret Mitchell House by Brian Cooke, with permission from the Margaret Mitchell House & Museum; Lillian E. Smith courtesy Piedmont College


he story of Georgia is written into literary history. Some beloved characters are larger than life (think Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind), but the talented writers are often private and modest. Sometimes, all we know about our favorite writers is what populates the biographies printed on the dust jacket. Authors, however, have their own stories, many of which are best told through the lens of home. Home is where family and friends meet, where we relax. And for many literary heavyweights, home is where they do their life’s work. Along the Southern Literary Trail, front doors are open for a peek into the lives of great writers. At the Lillian E. Smith Center in Rabun County, visitors can ramble through the former Laurel Falls Camp for Girls. It’s from this 150-acre property that Smith,

which passes by a chimney from the camp’s theater/gym. This chimney now serves as a marker for Smith’s grave. Inside Smith’s apartment, visitors can view photos, artwork and her large book collection. The centerpiece, however, is Smith’s desk and typewriter, which she used to make her voice heard around the world. The center is not open to the public daily, because of education and artist residency programs. However, individual and group tours can be arranged by appointment and are available at no cost (although donations are accepted). Visitors should plan to spend 45 minutes to a couple of hours touring the property. Follow the Southern Literary Trail south from the mountains to Atlanta, where the Margaret Mitchell House & Museum celebrates the achievements of another powerful Georgia author. The small basement apartment of this red brick triple-decker is where Mitchell, recuperating from a sprained ankle, began and eventually finished the novel Gone With the Wind. The book was first released in June 1936, quickly becoming a bestseller and earning Mitchell a Pulitzer Prize. Mitchell’s apartment, which she called “The Dump,” is now owned and operated by the Atlanta History Center. Docents lead 30-minute tours through the apartment, which is appointed in period furniture and arranged as it was during Mitchell’s time. Connected to the apartment, the “Passion for Character” exhibit outlines Mitchell’s early journalism work in Atlanta as well as details about her personal life. Manuscript pages, photos and foreign covers of Gone With the Wind highlight the wide-ranging impact of her work.

But the book reached new levels of success when it reached Hollywood. Two multimedia exhibits detail intriguing stories surrounding the making of the film and the world premiere of Gone With the Wind. The world premiere, screened at Atlanta’s now defunct Loews Grand Theatre, was considered one of the city’s great moments. Entrance to the Museum is $13 for adults and $10 for students/seniors. Visitors can easily spend a couple hours on site viewing the various exhibits and taking a tour. The experience can then be rounded off by flipping through a new book while relaxing on the big porch or in the Museum’s small greenspace, or by hitting the streets of Midtown Atlanta. As authors, Mitchell and Smith shared new worlds and new ideas with readers. Today, these two authors’ homes, now Northeast Georgia stops on the Southern Literary Trail, provide insight into their lives as both writers and Georgians. In true Southern fashion, there is no better meeting place than one’s home. ◆

For more information: Lillian E. Smith Center at Piedmont College 496 Hershey Lane, Clayton, GA 30525 Margaret Mitchell House & Museum 79 Crescent Avenue NE, Atlanta, GA 30309; explore/destinations/margaretmitchell-house; Hours: MondaySaturday, 10:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5:30 p.m. Southern Literary Trail

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Holiday&Winter 2017-2018

EVENTS ATHENS/CLARKE COUNTY (Chamber of Commerce: 706-549-6800; Convention & Visitors Center: 706-357-4430 or 800-653-0603)

Dirty Dancing: Dec. 1, 8 p.m., the Classic Center, Athens. Please call 706357-4444 to learn more. Downtown Parade of Lights: Dec. 7, 7 p.m., downtown Athens. Kick off the holiday season with this exciting parade. The parade begins at the corner of Dougherty and Pulaski and ends with the tree lighting ceremony and a visit with Santa Claus. Breakfast With Santa: Dec. 9, 8:30-11 a.m., the Classic Center, Athens. Have breakfast with Santa while benefitting the Classic Center Cultural Foundation. You will get to visit Santa’s workshop craft station and receive a $2-off coupon for ice skating. Please call 706-357-4444 or visit Classic to learn more. Handel’s Messiah – Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chorus: Dec. 21, 8 p.m., UGA Performing Arts Center, Athens. Please call 706-5424400 for more information. “The Nutcracker”: Dec. 22-23, 7:30 p.m., the Classic Center, Athens. Attending this holiday show is the perfect family tradition to start this year. “The Nutcracker” will be presented by the State Ballet Theatre of Russia. Call 706-357-4444 or visit Classic for ticket information. New Year’s Eve Concert – Atlanta Symphony Orchestra: Dec. 31, 7 p.m., UGA Performing Arts Center, Athens. Please call 70630 Northeast Georgia Living

542-4400 to learn more. “Sleeping Beauty”: Jan. 8-9, 8 p.m., UGA Fine Arts Theatre, Athens. “Sleeping Beauty” will be performed by the State Ballet Theatre of Russia. Please call 706542-4400 for ticket information. Athens Wine Weekend: Feb. 2-4, the Classic Center, Athens. Sample perfect wine and food combinations while learning more about excellent pairings. Please call 706-357-4444 or visit Classic for more information. “Angel of Music – A Salute to Andrew Lloyd Webber”: Feb. 28-March 1, 8 p.m., UGA Performing Arts Center, Athens. Call 706-542-4400 for more information. “Motown the Musical”: March 9, 8 p.m., the Classic Center, Athens. Please call 706-357-4444 to hear more.

BARROW COUNTY (Chamber of Commerce: 770-8679444; Auburn: 770-963-4002; Bethlehem: 770-867-0702; Carl: 770-867-1308; Statham: 770-725-5455; Winder: 770-867-3106)

Annual Winder Christmas Parade: Dec. 9, 2 p.m., North Broad Street, downtown Winder. Following the Christmas Parade will be a Christmas tree lighting, a concert and free kids’ activities.

DAWSON COUNTY (Chamber of Commerce & CVB: 706265-6278 or 877-302-9271)

Jingle Market: Dec. 2, 3-8 p.m., Dawsonville. Enjoy all-day festive fun for the entire family,

including local vendors, kids’ activities and more! For information, please visit Dawsonville Christmas Parade: Dec. 2, 5 p.m., downtown Dawsonville. For information, visit Tree Lighting: Dec. 2, downtown Dawsonville. The tree lighting will begin immediately following the Christmas parade. For further information, please visit

ELBERT COUNTY (Chamber of Commerce: 706-283-5651; Main Street: 706-213-0626; Bowman City Hall: 706-245-5432)

Elberton Christmas Parade: Dec. 3, downtown Elberton. For further information, please visit Christmas Movie & Friends Helping Friends Banquet: Dec. 7, Elbert Theatre, Elberton. First see a movie at the Elbert Theatre and then attend the banquet held at the Elberton Country Club. Learn more at MLK Celebration: Jan. 11-15, Elbert Theatre, Rock Gym and Blackwell Cultural Center, Elberton. Attend a series of events in Elberton celebrating the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Visit to learn more.

FORSYTH COUNTY (Chamber of Commerce: 770-887-6461)

Cumming Christmas Jingle Jog 5K: Dec. 2, 8:30 a.m., downtown Cumming. For CONTINUED ON PAGE 32

Holiday &Winter 2017-18

EVENTS further information, please visit Christmas in Cumming Arts & Crafts Festival: Dec. 8-9, Cumming Fairgrounds, Cumming. Local artisans will have their work on display. Enjoy their work and have your photo taken with Santa! Friday, Dec. 8, 4-9 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 9, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. For further information, please visit

FRANKLIN COUNTY (Franklin County Chamber of Commerce: 706-384-4659; Royston DDA: 706-245-7577; Lavonia DDA: 706-356-1923)

Lavonia Christmas Parade: Dec. 3, downtown Lavonia. For further information, please visit or call 706-356-1926. Christmas in Royston: Dec. 7, 5-7 p.m., downtown Royston. Enjoy carriage rides, train rides and shopping in Royston! Please call 706-245-7577 to learn more. Lavonia Christmas Festival: Dec. 8, 5-8 p.m., downtown Lavonia. For further information, please visit or call 706-356-1926. Dickens Christmas Brunch With Parlor Games: Dec. 9, 11 a.m., 211 Main Street Restaurant, Lavonia. Please call 706-3562877 to reserve your place. Dickens Christmas Dinner: Dec. 9, 6 p.m., 211 Main Street Restaurant, Lavonia. Please call 706-356-2877 for reservations. Royston Christmas Parade: Dec. 10, 3 p.m., downtown Royston. Please call 706-245-7577 to learn more.

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HABERSHAM COUNTY (Chamber of Commerce: 706-778-4654; Better Hometown-Cornelia: 706-778-7875; Clarkesville City Hall: 706-754-2220; Cornelia City Hall: 706-778-8585; Demorest City Hall: 706-778-4202)

Christmas Lights Spectacular!: Nov. 23-Jan. 1, daily, 6-11 p.m., Cornelia. Visit Cornelia City Park to see the beautiful lights! Habersham County Christmas Parade & Downtown Clarkesville Christmas: Dec. 9, downtown Clarkesville. Christmas in Cornelia: Dec. 14-16, Cornelia City Park, Cornelia. Santa, ice skating and Christmas lights, all in Cornelia! Visit

HALL COUNTY (Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce: 770-532-6206; Convention & Visitors Bureau: 770-536-5209; Main Street Gainesville: 770-297-1141)

8th Annual Christmas Festival & Tree Lighting: Dec. 2, noon-6 p.m., Flowery Branch Depot, Flowery Branch. Please visit Christmas at the Civic Center: Dec. 3, 4:15-7:15 p.m., Gainesville Civic Center, Gainesville. There will be music, hot chocolate, cookies and more for celebrating holiday cheer! For further information, please visit

HART COUNTY (Chamber of Commerce: 706-376-8590 or; DDA: 706-376-0188)

Mistletoe Market: Nov. 30-Dec. 17, the Art Center, Hartwell. Please visit Hart County Christmas Parade: Dec. 10, in the Bells Shopping Center at the corner of Athens Street and State Highway 51, Hartwell. For further information, please visit CONTINUED ON PAGE 34 Holiday/Winter 2017-2018 33

Holiday &Winter 2017-18

EVENTS JACKSON COUNTY (Chamber of Commerce: 706-387-0300; Commerce DDA: 706-335-2954; Jefferson Better Hometown: 706-215-3345; Jefferson City Hall: 706-367-7202; Braselton City Hall: 706-654-3915)

Braselton’s Decorated Tree Competition: Dec. 1-16, Braselton. Businesses display trees across town in a competition for votes. Hometown Holiday: Dec. 2, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., downtown Jefferson. Start the holiday

34 Northeast Georgia Living

season off right with doughnuts and photos with Santa! There will be crafts, face painting, movies, story time with Mrs. Claus, sled rides and more. The event ends with the lighting of the tree in Spencer Park. Hometown Holiday: Dec. 2, downtown Commerce. Visit with Santa and enjoy crafts for kids, a sled ride, live music and the lighting of the tree. Christmas Parade: Dec. 3, 3 p.m., downtown Jefferson. For information, please visit Annual Christmas Parade & “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” Play: Dec. 3, 3 p.m., downtown Commerce. For more information, contact 706-335-2954 or email 4th Annual Chocolate Walk: Feb. 4, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., downtown Braselton. Join Braselton Main Street for a fun stroll through downtown. Stop at businesses along the Chocolate Walk to collect a chocolate treat! Email apinnell@ to purchase tickets. Heart for Chocolate Gala: Feb. 10, 6:30 p.m., Jefferson Civic Center, Jefferson. Raise money with Piedmont CASA Heart for Children.

LUMPKIN COUNTY (Chamber of Commerce: 706-864-3711 or 800-231-5543; Dahlonega-Lumpkin County Visitors Center: 706-864-3513)

Dahlonega’s Old-Fashioned Christmas: Nov. 24-Dec. 23, downtown Dahlonega. Visit with Santa on the Visitors Center Plaza every weekend! Enjoy lighted trees, Christmas decorations throughout downtown and extended shopping hours. For more information, please visit Lighting of the Luminaries: Dec. 1, 6 p.m., downtown Dahlonega. To order your luminaries, please visit Christmas Parade: Dec. 2, 4 p.m., downtown Dahlonega. For further information, please visit

MADISON COUNTY (Danielsville Chamber of Commerce: 706-795-3473)

Christmas in Colbert: Dec. 1, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Colbert. Please visit www.colbert to learn more. 24th Annual Christmas in Comer & Reindeer Run/Walk: Dec. 2, 10 a.m., Comer. Please visit to register.

RABUN COUNTY (Chamber of Commerce: 706-782-4812; Civic Center: 706-212-2142)

Clayton Christmas Parade: Dec. 2, 5 p.m., Main Street, downtown Clayton. For further information, please visit

STEPHENS COUNTY (Chamber of Commerce: 706-886-2132)

Toccoa on Ice: Month of December, downtown Toccoa. Ice skate in downtown Toccoa all December long! Visit CONTINUED ON PAGE 36 Holiday/Winter 2017-2018 35

Holiday &Winter 2017-18

ChristmasFest & Lighting of the Tree: Dec. 1, downtown Toccoa. To learn more, please visit www.mainstreet Christmas Parade: Dec. 2, downtown Toccoa. For further information, please visit Night at the Ritz: Dec. 5, 7-10 p.m., the Historic Ritz Theatre, Toccoa. Lightwire Theater presents “A Very Electric Christmas.” For further information, please visit Christmas Movies at the Ritz presents “Christmas on the Coast”: Dec. 7, the Historic Ritz Theatre, Toccoa. To learn more, please visit www.mainstreet Christmas at the Inn: Dec. 9, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Traveler’s Rest State Historic Site, Toccoa. Enjoy Christmas like it would have been in the 1800s at this beautifully decorated inn. There will be music, refreshments and a tour of the inn. For more information, please visit or call 706-356-4362. Southern Gospel Music presents “A Special Christmas Program”: Dec. 9, 7 p.m., the Historic Ritz Theatre. For further information, please visit www.main Christmas Movies at the Ritz presents “Prancer”: Dec. 14, The Historic Ritz Theatre, Toccoa. To learn more, please visit Christmas Movies at the Ritz presents “A Muppet Christmas Carol”: Dec. 21, The Historic Ritz Theatre, Toccoa. For further information, please visit Night at the Ritz – the Malpass Brothers: Jan. 5, 7 p.m., the Historic Ritz Theatre, Toccoa. Visit www.mainstreet Night at the Ritz – Milkshake Mayfield: Feb. 1, 7 p.m., the Historic Ritz Theatre, Toccoa. To learn more, please visit

Special Photo


TOWNS COUNTY (Chamber of Commerce: 706-896-4966; Towns County Tourism: 706-896-0589)

Mountain Country Christmas in Lights: Thanksgiving night-Dec. 30, Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, Hiawassee. This is a holiday treat for the entire family! A fantastic holiday light show, live music, arts & crafts vendors, holiday foods, Santa and more will all be there! The fairgrounds will be open each Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m. The cost is $5 per person and $4 per person for groups of 15 or more. Children under 12 will be admitted for free. For further information, please visit

Let It Snow: Dec. 8, 7-8 p.m., O. Wayne Rollins Planetarium, the Maxwell Center, Young Harris College, Young Harris. This family-friendly holiday show will feature modern visualizations and a variety of holiday classics, from Frank Sinatra and Chuck Berry to Burl Ives and Brenda Lee. The event will also include a stunning multimedia finale with the TransSiberian Orchestra. Rocky Mountain Christmas: Dec. 15, 7 p.m., Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, Hiawassee. Chris Collins and Boulder Canyon perform the music of John Denver on Friday, Dec. 15. Tickets go on sale Friday, Oct. 13. A band called “The Return” will play all the Beatles’ Hits. Tickets are $25 and $35. Gates open at 6 p.m. You can see the Mountain Country Christmas Light Show for free with a purchase of concert tickets. Please visit for more information. CONTINUED ON PAGE 38 Holiday/Winter 2017-2018 37

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EVENTS UNION COUNTY (Chamber of Commerce: 877-745-4789 or 706-745-5789)

Tour of Trees: Dec. 1-31, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Union County Community Center, Blairsville. Trees and wreaths beautifully decorated by over 30 local businesses will be on display throughout the Union County Community Center. Visit Kris Kringle Mountain Market: Dec. 2, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Union County Farmers Market, Blairsville. Visit the European Outdoor Holiday Market right here in the North Georgia Mountains! There will be music, a kids’ area and over 60 produce, crafts, arts and handmade goods

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vendors. You can sing carols and sit on Santa’s lap. For more information, please Blairsville Holiday Stop & Shop: Dec.1-2, 11 a.m.-7 p.m, Union County Civic Center, Blairsville. Get your holiday shopping done for all those special family members and friends. Over 50 home-based business vendors will be available for your shopping convenience. For more information, please visit Downtown Blairsville Christmas Fun: Dec. 2, 4-6 p.m., downtown Blairsville. Visit and take photos with Santa for free from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. in the courtroom of the old courthouse. The Christmas parade begins at 6 pm. Tree lighting and caroling will take place immediately following the parade. For more details, please visit Holly Jolly Christmas: Dec. 9, 3-6 p.m., Union County Community Center, Blairsville. See beautifully decorated trees, participate in events for children and hear musical performances, all while enjoying refreshments and visiting with Santa. Please visit members.visit to learn more.

Christmas Tree Lighting at Vogel State Park: Dec. 9, 4-7 p.m, Vogel State Park, Blairsville. Join us for the annual lighting of a live 35-foot blue spruce. Caroling, hayrides, Santa Claus, bonfires, hot cocoa, cider and cookies will all be part of the experience. Bring an unwrapped gift for a child 0-12 years of age. No toy guns or knives. The Union County Sheriff ’s Office will distribute these gifts through their Give-a-Gift Toy Drive. Please also bring a blanket/chair for warmth and comfort. Please visit for more information.

WHITE COUNTY (Convention & Visitors Bureau: 706-878-5608; Helen Welcome Center & Chamber of Commerce: 706-878-1619; White County Chamber of Commerce: 706-865-5356)

Annual Christmas in the Mountains Festival: Dec. 2, 5-8 p.m., downtown Cleveland. Hot cocoa, caroling, activities and more! The parade begins at 7 p.m. For further information, please visit Annual Christmas Parade: Dec. 9, 2-3 p.m., Helen. Enjoy Santa, costumed characters and holiday cheer! Please visit 10th Annual Christkindlemarkt: Dec. 9, 11 a.m.-7 p.m., and Dec. 10, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Helen. This traditional German event offers everything from unique Christmas gifts and decorations to a variety of delicious and unique foods and drinks. For further information, please visit â—†

TO LIST EVENTS IN future issues, send an email to or mail hard copies to P.O. Box 270, Franklin Springs, GA 30639. Deadline for the Spring 2018 issue is Jan. 10, 2018. Please include events covering the period from March 20, 2018, through June 20, 2018. We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of our listing of scheduled events. For additional information and for confirmation, please call either local sponsors or chamber of commerce offices.

Holiday/Winter 2017-2018



Being Happy “


makes me happy,” says self-taught painter Robert Benton of Clarkesville, Ga. “I like it when my paintings make other people happy too.” Talking as he painted, Robert went on to say that he started working in the poultry industry at age 16, working first in North Carolina and then for the past 20 years in Georgia. While he has enjoyed his career, he is looking forward to retiring in June after 48 years. “I look forward to painting, fishing, hunting, spending time with our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren as well as traveling with my wife, Kathy.” Robert began doing abstract paintings when he was in his early 20s. He took correspondence courses in painting from the Washington School of Art. Through those lessons he learned some basic concepts of painting, including perspective, composition and design, spatial effects, reflections, texture and blending/mixing colors. His natural abilities enabled him to produce works of art that he liked and that were appreciated by others. He also realized that painting with oils is what he likes best, although he occasionally uses acrylics. After his abstract painting period, he stopped painting altogether, as “life got in the way,” he says. It was not until the move PAINT BECAUSE IT

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to Georgia and settling down in a beautiful wooded area outside of Clarkesville that he began painting again. The impetus for his renewed interest in painting came 15 years or so ago when his wife gave him a box of painting supplies and said, “You are happier when you are painting.” He let the box sit for a couple of weeks, but when he picked up his brushes again, he went at it with a passion he had not felt since his youth. Sometimes he gets so engrossed in his work that he loses all sense of time, as on one occasion when he forgot to pick up his daughter. The second period of his painting style refocused from abstract to what may be called a form of expressionistic realism. That is, his paintings give his own subjective expression to the realistic image of interest to him. While these paintings are a realistic representation, they are not as extreme as the contemporary photorealism style. He loves to paint old barns, abandoned houses, woods, lakes, seascapes and scenes he sees in photographs or magazines. His primary interest is to show, through his paintings, the Georgia he has come to love and call home. Robert does not have a studio. This left-handed artist paints in a corner of a small loft room on the second floor of his home. While not commodious, the space is adequate, he says, although Kathy fusses when his wet-on-wet technique gets paint on the walls. For many years Robert was active in the art community based at the Tallulah Gallery. There he was engaged with fellow artists, who provided inspiration and support. Sadly, since the closing of the art center, he has not had that fellowship with other artists. While his work has been displayed and

Robert Benton paints because it makes him happy. His primary interest is to show, through his paintings, the Georgia he has come to love and call home.

sold in the Clarkesville area, where he has won awards, it has not been actively marketed. His biggest “customers,” he says with a laugh, are his children. Currently his work is displayed and sold online through Fine Art America (fineart There one can see his work and buy prints. If an original painting is desired, that can also be secured through the website. Robert is unusual in that ego does not seem to be a part of his motivation. While he enjoys having people say they like his work, he says it does not really matter what others think because for him it is all about his enjoyment and fulfillment in doing what he enjoys: painting. If one of his paintings is of interest or if there are any questions, he can be reached through Fine Art America and its email portal. While not his favorite thing to do, he will also do consignment painting. Unique in may ways, Robert Benton will likely continue to produce more and even better paintings in retirement. After all, he will be doing what makes him happy. ◆

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THE TEMPERATURE OUTSIDE HAS dropped, with a windchill making it feel even colder. But inside one of Northeast Georgia’s museums, the weather is always nice! Fine paintings and drawings, furniture and pottery, granite and gold – all can be found in our museums, along with a heaping helping of history and heritage. So come on in where the weather – and the art – are beautiful. Wish you were here!

NOTE: Holiday hours may be in place at some sites, so check before visiting during those times.

“Dutchy” and the Argo Spire

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E l b e r to n G ra n i te M u s e u m u s e d by p e r m i s s i o n , p h o to s by A .W. B l a l o c k ; Ty Co b b M u s e u m u s e d by p e r m i s s i o n , p h o to by A .W. B l a l o c k ; C u r ra h e e M i l i t a r y M u s e u m by A .W. B l a l o c k

ELBERTON GRANITE MUSEUM At 51 feet, the tallest granite spire in the world made from a single piece of granite – skillfully crafted from Elberton Blue granite – sits awkwardly to the side of the Elberton Granite Museum. It’s a spectacular sight nonetheless. Inside the museum are displays of past and present tools used for quarrying, sawing and finishing; photos, news clippings, artifacts and an archive of the Elberton Granite Association; and a short video, all leading you through the history of the granite business in Elbert County. A display of granite samples from area quarries shows the varying tones and grain found in Elberton Blue granite. Don’t miss “Dutchy,” carved in 1898 and now stretched out on his cart, broken feet on the floor. This was the first modern-day statue carved from Elberton granite and depicts a confederate soldier. His demise in 1900 could easily be a 2017 headline. After the museum, a visit to the Georgia Guidestones a few miles north of Elberton on Georgia Highway 77 is a must. The Guidestones are best observed when the sun’s rays are a bit lower and the stones cast longer shadows as we reflect upon the forces of the earth. 1 Granite Plaza, Elberton, GA 30635, 706-2832551. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 2-5 p.m. Admission: free

GEORGIA RACING HALL OF FAME Cross the checkered plaza of the Dawsonville City Hall and start your engines to experience the history and heritage of racing in Georgia, from moonshiners to dirt, drag and NASCAR. The Georgia Racing Hall of Fame puts you in the driver’s seat (almost) as you get up close and personal with a collection of cars from past to present. The walls are as colorful as the race cars, displaying posters, photos, murals and vin-

tage oil company signs. Cases display helmets, suits and trophies of hall of fame members. As new members are inducted, new collections of photos, silver cups and gear join collections from past inductees such as Bill Elliott, Red Vogt, “Sneaky Pete” Robinson, Katron “Cannonball” Sosebee and many more. 415 Georgia Highway 53, Dawsonville, GA 30534,, 706-216-7223. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Admission: $6 adults, $5 seniors, $2 children, 6 and under free

TY COBB MUSEUM A museum dedicated to Royston’s alltime hometown hero is located within the Ty Cobb Healthcare System’s Joe A. Adams Professional Building in Royston. You’ll pass through the waiting area used for various medical offices to enter this small but largerthan-life museum. Tyrus Raymond Cobb’s early days in baseball and his career with the American League’s Detroit Tigers are remembered through photos, uniforms, trophies, rare baseball cards, medals and other memorabilia. Ty Cobb was the first player to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame – he was voted in by a landslide – and still holds a number of major league records, including highest career batting average (.367) and most career batting titles. The wall of bats chronicling Cobb’s career and the dimensional photo cutouts add depth and interest to the space. A video features the narration of Georgia broadcasting legend Larry Munson along with rare footage and still photographs. Rounding out the museum are nods to Ty Cobb’s philanthropy, which helped build hospitals in Northeast Georgia and continues to provide educational scholarships. 461 Cook St., Royston, GA 30662, 706-2451825. Hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission: $5 adults, $4 seniors 62+, $3 students, military with ID and children under 5 free

CURRAHEE MILITARY MUSEUM Toccoa’s old, bright yellow depot belies the exhibits housed inside. I’ll cut to the chase. The highlight is a stable built in 1922 in Aldbourne, England, and used during World War II for American military housing. It was disassembled board by board and moved to Toccoa around 2005, then reconstructed at the depot within an addition that was specifically built to house the stable. Six horse bays and the surrounding space display flags, photos, medals, weaponry and stories of life during all theaters of World War II. The building within a building is impressive and very cool. Now, back to the front. The Stephens County Historical Society exhibit settles nicely into the first museum space, which is filled with well-displayed Victorian furnishings and everyday items from local life, photos and memorabilia and a collection of beautiful and delicate silhouettes by Toccoan and internationally known artist George Washington Hitt. The next space is small but holds an Olympic-size story. Toccoan Paul Anderson won a gold medal for weightlifting in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. You can see his Olympic uniform and photos that tell his life story. But he’s probably best known as “the world’s strongest man” for his listing (although unofficial) in the Guinness Book of World Records for most weight lifted by a human: 6,270 pounds. His record still stands today. The last exhibit is a war memorial to the Stephens County men and women who served from the Revolution through Vietnam – a truly great ending inside the bright yellow building. 160 N. Alexander St., Toccoa, GA 30577,, 706-282-5055. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Sunday 1-4 p.m. Admission: $10 adults, $9 seniors (65+) and retired military, children under 6 free, active military free

Holiday/Winter 2017-2018 43

For a world-class museum experience, visit the Georgia Museum of Art, designated the official art museum of the state of Georgia in 1982. Upon entering, a wood and polished stone lobby directs visitors towards a sweeping staircase leading to the galleries. Since 1996, the museum has occupied its permanent home, a contemporary building in the Performing & Visual Arts Complex on the University of Georgia’s east campus in Athens. In 2011, the museum opened an addition, bringing the total space to 79,000 square feet and the total number of objects housed in the museum’s permanent collection to more than 10,000. The museum’s primary focus is on American painting, but there are also collections that include Italian Renaissance paintings, works on paper from the 16th through the 20th centuries, decorative arts, furniture and sculpture. Special exhibits bring art and objects from around the world for limited showings. Regardless of the weather outside, it’s always a good day to explore the Georgia Museum of Art – except on Mondays, of course. 90 Carlton St., Athens, GA 30602, georgia, 706-542-4662. Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.5 p.m.; Thursday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday, 1-5 p.m. Admission: free


The Ware-Lyndon House, circa 1840, is a late Greek Revival home with Italianate influence and is the only remaining house in Lickskillet, the once fashionable 19th century in-town Athens neighborhood. The interior has been restored and arranged with furnishings and decorative arts of the period. A display room features artifacts relevant to the history of Athens, including an impressive postcard collection of old Athens. With the house as a starting point, the city added the modern arts center in 1999. The center features classrooms, workshops and a gallery space where a variety of exhibitions are curated during the year. A much anticipated show is the Annual Juried Exhibition held in the spring, with regional artists chosen for their excellence in painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, ceramics, jewelry and more. Leave time to stroll through the gardens where signs display and explain the history of the grounds.

CRAWFORD W. LONG MUSEUM The prominent whitewashed 1800s Pendergrass General Store in downtown Jefferson is the main street-face of the Crawford W. Long Museum, but the entrance is a few doors down along College Street. The museum itself comprises three main spaces. On display upstairs in the refurbished 1880 brick building just behind the general store is the history of anesthesia, from the curare poison used by indigenous South American people to early wire masks and mid-20th century floor machines with tubes and gauges for administering ether. Downstairs, the life and times of Crawford W. Long himself is shown through a collection of historical displays, medical implements, portraits and personal effects and an intriguing 1950s diorama of that first successful use of ether as an anesthesia in 1842. The third space is the general store itself, where canned goods, fabric, cast iron, herbs, washboards and butter

211 Hoyt St., Athens, GA 30601, www.athens, 706-613-3623. Hours: Tuesday and Thursday, noon-9 p.m.; Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission: free

churns fill the shelves. A carriage, a display showing the evolution of nursing, and a medical office with vintage gurneys and medical chairs share the general store.

Georgia Museum of Art 44 Northeast Georgia Living

28 College St., Jefferson, GA 30549,, 706-367-5307. Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission: $5 adults, $4 seniors (65+), $3 students and active military, $3 anesthesiologists, children 5 and under free

GMA cour tesy Georgia Museum of Ar t; Lyndon House by A .W. Blalock; Crawford W. Long Museum used by permission, photos by A .W. Blalock


Foxfire Museum & Heritage Center used by permission, photos by A .W. Blalock; Dahlonega Gold Museum cour tesy Ga. Dept. of Natural Resources; pot tery cour tesy Folk Pot tery Museum

The Foxfire Museum



Sitting almost hidden behind an old school building (now the Sautee Nacoochee Center) is the Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia. The structure, a contemporary wood and glass building, is modeled after the tall pitched-roof open-air potting sheds of the 1800s where the hard, hot work of pottery making took place. (Potter Lanier Meaders referred to this as “mankilling work from start to finish.”) Early pottery was made for functional use in everyday life, and potters created their own styles, glazes and decorative touches to make their jugs, pitchers, churns and storage vessels unique. All of these, including animal forms made for sheer pleasure, are showcased throughout the gallery in a chronological context. The museum recognizes the Georgia families who were well known for their craft and who passed traditional pottery-making techniques from generation to generation. Among the most prominent is the Meaders family, whose pieces in the museum include the famous face jugs of Lanier Meaders. These jugs represent one of the oldest decorative pottery traditions in Northeast Georgia.

OK, I lied. For this museum you may need a jacket and a hat. From Mountain City, the pavement narrows to a gravel road winding around the folds below Black Rock Mountain, but getting there is part of the authentic Appalachian experience. Foxfire Museum & Heritage Center, created from the royalties of the famous Foxfire Book series, is an outdoor museum with a collection of around 20 cabins, barns, houses and other buildings, some dating from as early as circa 1820. In the 1970s, original structures were relocated to the site from around the region and others were constructed using 19th-century materials and methods. The buildings amble up the side of the mountain and house the period furniture and utensils, tools and farming implements, wagons and folkart wood carvings that were part of 19th-century Appalachian life. Be prepared to walk some short mountain trails to see all of the museum. You may happen upon a blacksmithing or weaving demonstration on any given day.

283 Georgia Highway 255 N, Sautee Nacoochee, GA 30571,, 706878-3300. Hours: MondaySaturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, 1-5 p.m. Admission: $5 adults, $4 seniors, $2 children

DAHLONEGA GOLD MUSEUM Sitting like a dazzling nugget in the center of the downtown Dahlonega square, the 1836 Lumpkin County Courthouse – the oldest existing courthouse building in Georgia – houses the Dahlonega Gold Museum. The big draw, just like in 1829, is the gold, with a display of rare coins, nuggets and gold dust that conjure up images of pans and scales. And these you’ll find throughout the museum, along with other artifacts chronicling the history of North Georgia’s mining industry. The courthouse interior lends its historic aura to the museum, while on the outside the building itself displays the locally made brick, which includes trace amounts of gold. The museum is part of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites. 1 Public Square, Dahlonega, GA 30533, dahlonegagoldmuseum, 706-864-2257. Hours: MondaySaturday, 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Admission: $7 adults, $6.50 seniors, $4.50 students, $3.50 disabled veterans, $2 children under 6

98 Foxfire Lane, Mountain City, GA 30562,, 706-7465828. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Admission: $8 adults, $6 ages 11-18, $3 ages 7-10, 6 and under free ◆

Holiday/Winter 2017-2018 45




NOTHING SATES THE SOUL and body during chilly winter evenings quite like classic hot and savory soups. Our selection of four soups are both quick to prepare and satisfying, making it easy to fill up outof-town guests when you are short on prep time. Encompassing a wide range of ingredients and flavors, these are soups you will want to eat again and again throughout the winter months!

46 Northeast Georgia Living


This traditional and inexp ensive potato soup recipe came from my mother-inlaw, Sandy Kingrea. She rec eived it from her Aunt Melba Amick. The thickness and flavor of the recipe may var y slightly each time you ma ke it, but it is always delicious and hearty and perfect for a cold winter evening. 1-2 cans of cream of celery 4-6 potatoes, diced 1 medium yellow onion , diced Water Lawry’s Seasoning Salt, to taste 1/2 cup frozen broccoli flo rets 1/2 carrot, shredded 1 cup instant mashed po tatoes 3 tablespoons butter 1-2 cups of milk Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine the cream of cel ery with the diced potatoes and onion s and cover with water as if you are cooking the potatoes for mashed po tatoes. Cook until the potatoes and on ions begin to soften. Add 1-2 teaspoon s of Lawry’s Seasoning Salt. Add the frozen broccoli florets and the shr edded carrot and let simmer until the vegetables soften. Remove from hea t and let cool. Sift in the instant potatoes to thicken. Add the butter and let me lt. After the mixture has cooled enou gh not to curdle the milk, pour in the milk until the mixture reaches the des ired consistency and flavor. Season with salt and pepper or Lawry’s, to tas te.

CHICKEN MARSALA AND MUSHROOM SOUP 4 tablespoons butter 1 pound baby bella or white mushrooms, sliced 1 medium onion, diced 3 cloves garlic, minced 2 tablespoons flour 1 cup Marsala wine 6 cups chicken broth 1 rotisserie chicken, shredded 2 bay leaves 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon pepper 1 tablespoon dried thyme 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese Fresh parsley to garnish Melt half of the butter over medium heat in a large pot and sautĂŠ half of the mushrooms for 5-6 minutes or until soft.

Remove and set aside. In the same pot, melt the remaining butter and add the rest of the mushrooms, the onions and the minced garlic. SautĂŠ for 5-6 minutes or until the vegetables become soft. Sift in the flour and cook for another minute. Add 3/4 cup of the Marsala wine and the chicken broth. Cook for another 5 minutes. Either transfer the soup in small batches to a blender and blend until smooth or use an immersion blender and blend in the pot. Add the blended soup back to the pot. Add the reserved mushrooms, the shredded chicken, bay leaves, salt, pepper and thyme. Simmer for a half an hour. Add the Parmesan cheese, the remaining Marsala wine and a handful of parsley. Season to taste. Serve hot with cheese and bread.

QUICK! Vegetable Beef

Soup With Wild Rice

There are few things more satisfying than a good old-fashioned beef and vegetable soup. This variation adds flair and sophistication with wild rice butternut squash. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter or bacon fat 1 pound boneless beef chuck, cut into small cubes, or ground beef 1 medium yellow onion, diced 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 can diced tomatoes 6 cups chicken broth 2 tablespoons tomato paste 1 cup frozen butternut squash, diced, or 1 can sliced potatoes if butternut squash is unavailable 1/2 cup frozen peas 1 can cut green beans 1 teaspoon dried thyme 1/2-1 teaspoon rosemary 1/4 teaspoon oregano 1 bay leaf Salt and pepper, to taste 1 cup wild rice, rinsed, or whole wheat pasta Heat the butter in a large pot and then add the beef and cook until almost done. Add the diced onion and minced garlic when the beef starts to brown. Let the onions and garlic cook until softened. Add the diced tomatoes, chicken broth and tomato paste. Combine thoroughly and allow to simmer for a few minutes. Add the frozen and canned vegetables and the seasonings. Allow to simmer for an additional 15-20 minutes on low. Season to taste. Cook the wild rice or whole wheat pasta separately per the directions on the packaging. Serve the soup with the cooked rice or pasta. Holiday/Winter 2017-2018 47

48 Northeast Georgia Living

LASAGNA SOUP My sister-in-law, Hannah Venable, discovered this recipe and made it her own by tweaking it to perfection. The delicious Italian flavors are hard to top. 1 1/2 pounds ground mild Italian sausage (or half sausage/half ground turkey to reduce fat) 1 large yellow onion, diced 4 garlic cloves, minced 2 teaspoons dried oregano 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes 2 tablespoons tomato paste One 28-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (or two smaller cans) 2 bay leaves 6 cups chicken stock 1 cup rotini or similar pasta noodle 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves Salt and pepper, to taste Shredded cheese to sprinkle on top Brown the meat for 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook an additional 5-6 minutes. Add the minced garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute. Stir the tomato paste into the mixture until well combined. Cook until the tomato paste becomes a rusty color, approximately 3-4 minutes. Add the can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes, the bay leaves and the chicken stock. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the uncooked pasta last and cook until al dente. Do not let the soup continue cooking after the pasta has finished or the pasta will become overdone. If you do not plan to eat the soup all in one day, you can cook the pasta separately and just add it to each bowl as desired until the soup is finished. Prepare each bowl of soup, adding basil and salt and pepper, as desired. Top each bowl of soup with a hearty helping of shredded cheese. â—† Holiday/Winter 2017-2018 49







carefully select an assortment of distinct and meaningful products to include in our Holiday Gift Guide in

order to make shopping for special loved ones and friends simpler and more enjoyable. This year, we have included two categories in our gift guide: gifts made in Northeast Georgia, for those who wish to shop locally and support Northeast Georgia business owners and artisans, and gifts from afar, for those looking for conveniently

obtained and easily shipped products that are equally as special. We hope you enjoy reading about these


Mercier Orchards, a fourth-generation family-owned orchard

exceptional products

located in Blue Ridge, Ga., produces several varieties of apples. This

and that you and your

thriving apple orchard was started in 1943 by Bill and Adele Mercier.

friends and family

Mercier Orchards offers a variety of gift options, from homemade can-

truly delight in the gifts you give and receive this year.

dies and baked goods to fresh fruit baskets and gift packages. Our personal favorite is their holiday pies. You can pick up your fried pies, traditional apple pies and satisfying pecan pies in person by visiting the farm, or you can order from their website to have them freshly delivered. Visit or call 800-361-7731 to learn more.

50 Northeast Georgia Living




When in doubt, give the gift

Roger Corn is a traditional folk artist

of holiday cheer in the form of

from north Georgia and is currently

wine from Northeast Georgia!

located in Lula. Corn has years of study

Northeast Georgia boasts many

under his belt, and his pottery features

successful local wineries with a

themes used by local and regional folk

large selection of vino to choose

artists of years past. He has combined his

from. Some of our favorites are

diligent studies with his own creative

listed below, and all offer a variety

touch to sculpt truly unique and col-

of delectable wines. Learn more

lectible pottery pieces that would make

about these wineries and about

for beautiful holiday gifts. Much of his

discounted shipping options by

work has been featured in a number of

visiting their websites, calling them directly, or by finding them on Facebook. Currahee Vineyards 706-768-5383 Cenita Vineyards 706-878-6829 Tiger Mountain Vineyards 706-782-4777 Hightower Creek Vineyards 706-896-8963 Odom Springs Vineyards 706-745-3094 Southern Origin Meadery/ Blue Haven Bee Company 706-245-6586

publications and galleries. To order a one-of-a-kind pottery piece from Roger Corn Folk-Art Pottery, visit

Nothing says “Happy Holidays” or “Winter Cheer” like a warm cup of hot chocolate! These Crock-Pot recipes are the perfect thing to set up in advance and keep warm for guests, and the addins make them a creative, tasty adventure. So get your hot chocolate bar set up and ready for the cold winter months ahead. For add-ins I have used small bowls of broken peppermint, caramel chips, chocolate chips, peppermint sticks, chocolate sprinkles, candy canes, whipped cream, shakers with cocoa powder or cinnamon, mini marshmallows, chocolate shavings, chocolate drizzle and caramel drizzle.

Milk Chocolate Hot Chocolate 1 package milk chocolate chips (you can add more, to taste) 6 cups whole milk 1 1/2 cups heavy cream 1 can sweetened condensed milk 1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a Crock-Pot and cook on high until the chocolate is completely melted (about 1 1/2 to 2 hours).

White Hot Chocolate

6 cups whole milk 4 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream 4 1/2 cups white chocolate chips 3 tablespoons vanilla (or to taste) Combine all ingredients in a Crock-Pot and cook on high until chocolate is completely melted (about 1 1/2 to 2 hours).

Holiday/Winter 2017-2018 51

FOR THE HOME Hartford House Furniture in Alto, Ga., has been making custom furniture since 1988, when Sarah Smith began the business. Her mission was to create a beautiful selection of handcrafted furniture at affordable prices built with high-quality woods like pine, cherry, maple, oak, walnut and bamboo and thick handcrafted leather. In addition to custom furniture, the business also offers unique decorative accessories that would make excellent household gifts. See the collections online at or call 706-778-3449 to learn more about Hartford House Furniture’s products.

ART Artist Taylor Dubeau from Hartwell creates beautiful, calming and unique paintings that can be viewed or purchased locally at Twelve South Gallery & Atelier. Debra Taylor is known professionally as Taylor Dubeau. While her oil paintings are some of the most gorgeous we’ve ever seen, she also creates art from a variety of other materials, such as wood, fabric and jewels. See her pieces in person or order them as gifts through the website If you would like more information about the artist or the studio, please call 404-558-2276.

52 Northeast Georgia Living

LOCAL COOKBOOK Bob and Trish Toews opened 211 Main Street Restaurant & Bakery in downtown Lavonia over a decade ago and have been serving the community delectable meals and desserts ever since. Their edibles are created with only the freshest ingredients. The sought-after 211 Main Street recipes have been collected over the years and compiled into a coveted recipe book called Cooking

on Main. Learn more about the restaurant and bakery and order your cookbook (and an additional one as a gift for someone else) by visiting or by calling 706-356-2877.

Holiday/Winter 2017-2018


COUNTRY HAM! As if a visit to the charming Dillard House for Southern-style home cooking were not a perfect holiday treat in itself, the famous Dillard House Country Ham can now be purchased for this gift-giving time of year. The Dillard House Country Hams are so delicious they were featured on Chef Alton Brown’s “Best Thing I Ever Ate” on the Food Network in 2010. These savory hams are carefully selected and then hand-rubbed with salt and sugar before being slowly aged.

ALPACA & MORE The Southern Alpaca Connection has

GOOD SIGNS Since 1987, Sign Makers of

many distinctive gift offerings for the

Blairsville has had a mission to

holidays, such as our personal favorites:

provide customers with the best

roasted coffee, handmade chocolates –

service and highest quality signs in

and their specialty – alpaca wool prod-

the industry. Sign Makers doesn’t

ucts. Judy and George Dick began rais-

stop at traditional signs; they also

ing alpacas in 2002, and Judy rediscov-

create sandblasted wood products,

ered her love of knitting when she

car decals, banners and yard signs,

began knitting with the wool produced

wall lettering, window and store

by their Alpacas. After a few years, they

fronts, logo designs and more. See

saw a need for an outlet for artisans and

some of their creations and order a

farmers alike to vend unique products,

few custom products as gifts by vis-

including their own Alpaca wool prod-

iting or

ucts. They opened their shop, which is

by calling 706-745-7446.

full of high-quality handmade goods, in the heart of downtown Lavonia at 1192 E. Main St. To learn more about the Southern Alpaca Connection and their great gift options, visit southern or call 706-460-5220.

54 Northeast Georgia Living

This delicate process creates a rich and unrivaled flavor. Order yours at The Dillard House can be reached at 706-746-5348.


HOLIDAY FRIENDS The bond built between owner and pet is one of unconditional love. While people come and go, your pet is there for you no matter what. FriendshipCollar celebrates this unique relationship. This holiday season, order a stylish collar for your pet and receive a fashionable matching friendship bracelet for yourself. FriendshipCollar offers six stylish collections with vibrant colors and distinctly beautiful patterns to suit a variety of personalities. Order your PETAapproved vegan friendship collar by visiting or by ordering on Amazon.

Holiday/Winter 2017-2018 55


HOLIDAY COZY There is no better gift during the winter months than perfect warm, cozy thermal wear. Heat Holders has redefined cold weather clothing by developing the warmest thermal socks in the world – specifically seven times warmer than average cotton socks. In addition to their world-renowned socks, they have hats, gloves, leggings, thermal underwear, pants and blankets, all just as soft and plush as the original Heat Holders socks. You can find all the Heat Holders products online at

56 Northeast Georgia Living


HOLIDAY TOUGH Chip Gaines, well known for his role on the popular TV show “Fixer Upper,� has put his wit and talent to another good use as the bestselling author of the book

Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff. As husband to his wife, Joanna, and as the father of four young children, his time and talents are stretched, but Chip Gaines is always up for a challenge, regardless of the outcome. This humorous book shares some of his more entertaining stories as well as important life lessons he has learned along his journey to fame and success. Order your copy today at capital-gaines or by visiting

Holiday/Winter 2017-2018 57


HOLIDAY TEA Whether you are looking for a main gift or a stocking stuffer, Plum Deluxe teas are an excellent option for your gift list. At only $7 an ounce, these exotic teas are an affordable and luxe gift for anyone. Non-GMO, organic and free of chemicals and sulfites, these looseleaf teas are hand-blended in small batches at a quaint studio in Portland, Ore. Their signature looseleaf teas will help you or your friends to relax and enjoy the holiday season more thoroughly and mindfully. Order as gifts today by visiting or treat yourself and join the Tea of the Month club for only $10 a month. Subscribers will receive one ounce of a custom-created and seasonally perfect loose-leaf artisan tea made just for the club members. â—†

58 Northeast Georgia Living

Holiday/Winter 2017-2018 59


Starting off the New Year on the right foot at a Georgia State Park


ew Year’s Day is bittersweet. The holidays are over, winter is settling in and resolutions must begin. For many, it’s a holiday for recovering and resetting after one too many glasses of champagne. For Georgia state park and historic site enthusiasts, however, New Year’s Day is about lacing up a pair of boots and hitting the trail for First Day Hikes. The First Day Hikes program started as 60 Northeast Georgia Living

a simple idea to encourage organized hiking events at state parks across the United States on New Year’s Day. America’s State Parks, the nonprofit organization leading the charge, sought to drive participation in outdoor recreation and active lifestyles. In 2016, America’s State Parks reported nearly 55,000 First Day Hike participants hiking an impressive 133,000 miles. Nearly all of the approximately 20 state parks and historic sites in Northeast Georgia

TOP TO BOTTOM: A ranger-led group enjoys a hike at one of several Mississippian mound sites in Georgia. A ranger points out areas of interest during a hike through Fort Yargo State Park. OPPOSITE PAGE:

Hikers cross the historic Watson Mill

Bridge at its namesake state park.

M i s s i s s i p p i a n m o u n d s a n d Fo r t Ya r g o c o u r t e s y G e o r g i a D e p t . o f N a t u r a l R e s o u r c e s



will host First Day Hike events. Only a few parks, such as Moccasin Creek State Park and Black Rock Mountain State Park, will close for the winter months. The participation of such a diversity of parks results in a diversity of highlights, from gorges and waterfalls to covered bridges and lakeshores. Lieren Forbes, assistant manager at Victoria Bryant State Park, lauds winter hiking because bare trees enable hikers to better see the topography of Northeast Georgia. Forbes contends that while Georgia’s colorful fall and shady summer forests are rightfully praised, “foliage can sometimes get in the way of seeing how centuries of erosion have shaped the land.” But First Day Hikes aren’t just about seeing the sights, they are about seeing family, meeting new friends and building healthy habits. First Day Hikes provide

an interesting, and hopefully enduring, jumpstart for those with health-focused New Year’s resolutions. “[A First Day Hike] is a fun way to get exercise,” notes Kim Hatcher, public affairs coordinator with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. “Hiking down the staircase into Tallulah Gorge may be better than being in the gym on a stair machine.” Georgia’s First Day Hike events are free or low-cost, ranger-led and usually moderate in difficulty, with most hikes covering 2-4 miles of trail. Some parks offer multiple hikes to appeal to participants of all skill levels. Hatcher hopes that the accessibility of First Day Hikes encourages families and people new to the outdoors to begin regularly exploring Georgia’s outdoors. “First Day Hikes introduce people to parks they haven’t visited before. ... It also provides an opportunity for lesser-known parks to show what they offer to visitors,” says Hatcher. Come December, details for all First Day Hike events will be listed on the Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites website calendar ( Hikers won’t go wrong at any First Day Hike this New Year, but a few First Day Hikes stand out for New Year’s Day 2018.

Watson Mill Bridge State Park Tag along with a Watson Mill Bridge State Park ranger for an easy half-mile hike to the old powerhouse ruins alongside the shoals of the beautiful South Fork of the Broad River. Built in 1885, Watson Mill Bridge itself is a sight to behold, and hikers will enjoy an interpretive talk about the bridge’s history.

Watson Mill Bridge by Brian Cooke

Tallulah Gorge State Park The 2-mile-long and almost 1,000-footdeep Tallulah Gorge is well known to many Georgians. On New Year’s Day, adventurous hikers will traverse the rim and enter parts of the gorge normally closed to visitors. According to Ranger Wes Malenke, the hike will cover 3 strenuous miles, with stationary ropes for steep sections. Don’t forget to sign up early to make sure you have a spot. The payoff? Rare views of one of the East’s great geographic features. Holiday/Winter 2017-2018


Smithgall Woods State Park The 5,000-plus acres at Smithgall Woods surround Dukes Creek, an important site during Georgia’s 1830s gold rush. Hikers will start the approximately 2-mile hike by heading towards a primitive park cabin, where hot chocolate will be waiting. Stop and enjoy the solitude or continue on the Dukes Creek Trail towards 150-foot Dukes Creek Falls.

Don Carter State Park Don Carter State Park is one of Georgia’s newest state parks. Picturesque Lake Lanier is the centerpiece of the new park, but First Day Hikers will head to one of the park’s new trails, the Dog Creek Loop Trail. The trail travels 2 miles cross-country through rolling hills and valleys of pines and hardwoods and across the trail’s namesake waterway, Dog Creek.

Fort Yargo State Park Fort Yargo State Park is popular, and central to the park’s diverse recreational opportunities are two trails that circle the 260-acre Marbury Creek Reservoir. First Day Hikers will meet at 10 a.m. at the Beach Pavilion parking lot before hiking the 7-mile yellow-blazed Lake Loop Trail. This year’s First Day Hike is tougher than previous years’, says Park Naturalist Anthony Welch, but it’s a challenge he thinks visitors are ready to embrace.

Unicoi State Park Situated just north of the popular town of Helen, Unicoi State Park is a destination for adventure. Fly-fishing, mountain biking, kayaking and zip lines are all at your fingertips. Get the lay of the land on a First Day Hike that circumnavigates Unicoi Lake on the 2.5-mile Lake Loop Trail. The trail passes near wetlands, through hardwood forests, along the lake and over the dam, where views of the mountains frame the cold waters.

Victoria Bryant State Park Popular for its well-regarded public golf course (Highland Walk), Victoria Bryant State Park is sometimes overlooked by hikers. Join park staff on the First Day Hike to get acquainted with some of the 8 miles of trails. The hike starts with a halfmile walk down Victoria’s Path. Those looking for a longer hike can continue on to the thickly wooded Perimeter Trail before returning for hot chocolate. ◆ Holiday/Winter 2017-2018 63


... on the Christmas gift


idwinter break was always fun: the promise of a white Christmas, the anticipation of gifts, the delicious oncea-year recipes brought to life and then brought to the table. But one holiday break in particular stands out in my memory. It was the year that my sister and I spent the weekend before Christmas with our grandparents in their sturdy old cabin, which was nestled beneath a stand of mature pine trees. After a long drive over freshly snowplowed roads, we arrived at Gram’s. Our parents stayed for a short visit, offering the usual instructions and admonitions. Then following hugs, kisses and promises to behave, we waved goodbye. As Sister and I were walking back to the cabin, Gram called us to help her cut some pine boughs. We held down several lower branches as the tree surrendered some of its needled greenery. Then off we ran to warm ourselves by the hearth of the cabin’s fireplace. Meanwhile Gram retrieved a bright red satin ribbon from a box of odds and ends. After tying the boughs into a long, full swag, she deftly twirled the ribbon around the stems and then fashioned a bow with long streamers. Finally she pulled out three brass bells and secured them to the swag before hanging it on the front door. The bell’s gentle ringing was the perfect way to announce holiday visitors. After traveling for hours, Sister and I were both worn out. Following a light supper of homemade potato soup and specially prepared dainty sandwiches, we gratefully tumbled into our beds. As Gram read us a favorite Christmas story, our eyelids closed, and we were lost in little girl dreams. When morning came, we dressed quickly in the chill of the upstairs loft and 64 Northeast Georgia Living

scurried downstairs where a warm breakfast and even warmer hugs awaited us. Before I had finished my cranberry muffin, Granddaddy looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and asked, “Would anyone here like to go out to Martin’s woods and help me cut a Christmas tree?” My hand shot up, and it was decided. I would assist our grandfather while my sister stayed home to help Gram with the Christmas baking. Excitedly we assumed our designated roles. After donning coat, hat, mittens and boots, I headed for Granddaddy’s truck, accompanied by his old beagle, Duke. We pulled slowly out of the driveway and drove carefully over snow-covered roads until we reached the Martin’s. While heading across a bumpy road toward a field of evergreens, I was thrilled to spot a doe searching for a nibble of grass beneath the snow. The morning light illuming her shiny coat created a visual image that remains in my mind to this day. When we stopped, I helped Duke out,

and we began following Granddaddy. As he strode along, his big boots left a wake in the wet snow. I was trying, without success, to match his steps when Duke caught a scent and ran off baying. Nose to the ground, plowing through snow drifts, his black velvety ears were bouncing as he ran. After tromping along in that snowy wonderland for a while, I began to feel the bitter bite of Winter numbing my fingers. In desperation I looked at Granddaddy while pointing to a small round fir tree. Recognizing my discomfort, he nodded in agreement. With barely any effort, he chopped it down and carried it back. Just one sharp whistle and Duke was at his side. As we drove back to the cabin, Granddaddy shared some of his childhood adventures with me and we laughed all the way home. The smell of Gram’s freshly baked cookies and hot chocolate in a stoneware pot greeted us. While warming my hands around a hot mug of chocolate, I began recounting our morning in great detail, how Duke had gone on a chase and the beautiful deer we had seen. Gram and Sister listened patiently and then went out to examine the little tree. It met with their hearty approval, so Granddaddy secured it in a stand and carried it into the main room. Bare and unadorned, sitting a safe distance from the fireplace, the little tree held the promise of things to come. I don’t really remember what presents I received that Christmas, or even how we decorated the tree. What I do remember is being nurtured in an atmosphere of love. Recalling that visit, the most precious gift my grandparents gave me was their time and undivided attention. It was an enduring gift. I hope my grandchildren will one day be able to say the same of me. Happy Holidays. ◆

Northeast Georgia Living • Winter 2017  
Northeast Georgia Living • Winter 2017