Saint Simons Food and Spirits Festival


To say that I’m excited about the Saint Simons Food & Spirits Festival would be an understatement. In fact, I’m not even sure there is an adjective to describe my excitement. I’ll work on inventing the perfect word for my emotions soon but, for now, here are my top 3 reasons to attend the 2013 Saint Simons Food & Spirits Festival.

1268167_486890134740571_2059019601_oGourmet food in a gorgeous location: What could be better than sampling five-star food with the sound of waves crashing in the background? Oh, that’s right – nothing! Don’t forget to drive-down the oak tree-lined streets and check out some of Saint Simons Island’s most famous attractions, including the Saint Simons Island Lighthouse Museum, Fort Frederica and   Christ Church.

Unique events: Spiritual Sunday Brunch with gospel singers? Check. BBQ Pro-Am with champion golfers? Check. Cocktail university with expert mixologists? Check. And that’s only the beginning! Click here for a full schedule of events.

1273855_496793660416885_385410288_oCulinary Celebrities: Want to meet “Top Chef” contestant Tiffanie Faison? You can shake her hand and ask about her secret recipes this Saturday at the Culinary Creations Cooking Stage. Want to hobnob with level one sommelier Jackson Holland? You can sample his cocktail creations at Friday’s Afternoon Mixer! See the full list of featured talent here.

Join me on my Saint Simons Island adventures by following Explore Georgia on social media! I’ll be updating live on TwitterInstagram, Vine and Flickr.

If you’re going to the festival, be sure to share your experiences on social media by using the #ExploreGeorgia hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, Vine & Pinterest!

1025498_10200401820144233_1171921963_oLauren Cleland is the voice of Explore Georgia on social media. She loves ice cold sweet tea, anything peach flavored, channeling Scarlett O’Hara in her daily life and sharing the wonders of her beloved Georgia with all of you!


Georgia’s State Capitals (1782- 1804)

louisvilleEveryone is familiar with Atlanta as Georgia’s state capital, but did you know it is the 17th location of the capital? While some cities have had the honor as many as four times, other locations were temporary and some cities no longer exist.

For the first 43 years of Georgia’s existence, the cities that had been known as the capital were in the southeastern part of the state: Frederica and Savannah. When Savannah fell to the British forces at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the capital moved to Augusta and then shuffled around to various sites in Wilkes County, Ebenezer and possibly even South Carolina before settling once again in Savannah in 1782.

After a 14-year shuffle between Savannah and Augusta, in 1786 the legislature established a commission to find a permanent location for Georgia’s capital, closer to the increasingly populated middle Georgia region, but still close to enough that it could be reached by coastal residents. It took 10 years of politicking and negotiation to make a decision and build on a suitable site. The committee was required to choose a site within.

Galphin’s Old Town, or Galphinton, on the Ogeechee River. The site was to be 1,000 acres and modeled after the then-United States capital Philadelphia. The new capital was required to be called Louisville in honor of Louis XVI of France, in appreciation for French assistance during the Revolutionary War.

The area chosen was at the junction of three roads: one leading to Savannah, one to Augusta and one side, five streets with the governor’s house and a statehouse on opposite sides of town.

However, it wasn’t long until lawmakers were looking for a new capital site. In 1804, they passed an act to build a new capital in Baldwin County on wilderness land. The new town would be called Milledgeville after then-Governor John Milledge.

Visit History:

Downtown Louisville – Located almost one hour southwest of Augusta, Louisville still has many of its original buildings, including the Market House, Jefferson County Courthouse and the Jefferson Hotel Building. The true Southern small town makes a perfect one-tank trip from most of Georgia’s major cities.

eileenEileen Falkenberg-Hull is a digital marketing professional based in Atlanta who first visited Georgia in 1994 and decided that when she graduated from college she would make Georgia her home. Since 2007 that dream has been a reality. She is the founder and executive director of Occupy My Family.

Fan Photo Friday

Submit your Georgia photos for the chance to be featured:

2013 Battle of Chickamauga Reenactment. Photo by Full Cirlce Photography. Submitted via Facebook.

2013 Battle of Chickamauga Reenactment. Photo by Full Cirlce Photography. Submitted via Facebook.

Cherokee Falls at Cloudland Canyon State Park. Photo by Todd Warren. Submitted via Flickr.

Cherokee Falls at Cloudland Canyon State Park. Photo by Todd Warren. Submitted via Flickr.

Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia. Photo by @gabby__duh. Submitted via Instagram.

Babyland General Hospital in Cleveland, Georgia. Photo by @gabby__duh. Submitted via Instagram.



Civil War Wednesday: Nancy Harts

A painting depicting Nancy Morgan confronting Federal Colonel Oscar LaGrange.

A painting depicting Nancy Morgan confronting Federal Colonel Oscar LaGrange.

The town of LaGrange, Georgia, sat alongside the Atlanta & West Point Railroad; this line served as a vital artery in moving matériel throughout the Southland and presented a military target for invading Northern forces. In 1861, after most of the able-bodied men had volunteered for service, the women, children, and the aged left behind grew increasingly concerned over the safety of hearth and home. A group of local ladies, most from the social circles of middle to upper-income families, and many of them alumni of the LaGrange Female Institute, decided to take action. If possessing a strong will, one can usually find a way, and these women discovered theirs in the form of Dr. Augustus C. Ware.[1]

An initial meeting in an old schoolhouse resulted in the assembled ladies electing Nancy Hill Morgan as captain. Drawing inspiration from a Georgia heroine during the American Revolution, the newly formed militia unit decided to call themselves the “Nancy Harts.” During the fight for independence, Nancy Hart had stubbornly refused to allow British soldiers to sup on the family turkey they had killed and forced her to cook. As the redcoats prepared to enjoy their bounty, they suddenly found themselves staring down the barrel of one of their own rifles. Hart took advantage of the soldiers’ focus on the table to pick up a stacked musket and thus bring a swift close to the banquet. This spirited inspiration lived on in the ranks of her nineteenth-century counterparts in LaGrange.

Twice each week, the “Nancy Harts” would hear a horn blowing through the streets of town. These signal calls served notice for them to assemble, and under the tutelage of Dr. Ware, drill, and hone their firearm skills.[2] When the male residents of LaGrange departed for war, weapons of more contemporary design went along, thereby leaving behind a collection of old flintlocks and perhaps a sprinkling of smooth bore muskets for the female volunteers. In between time spent in drill, the women served as nurses in one of four hospitals, which had sprung up in the area.[3] Several of the “Nancy Harts” also had children, so they faced a strain in balancing their time between domestic responsibilities, tending to wounded soldiers, and martial drill. Despite the increasing hardships as the armies and fighting drew closer, the “Nancy Harts” remained resolute in their duties.

Nancy Hill Morgan, captain of the “Nancy Harts.” Image from: Troup County Historical Society.

Nancy Hill Morgan, captain of the “Nancy Harts.” Image from: Troup County Historical Society.

The day of trial finally occurred in April 1865, when a body of Federal cavalry troopers, with several Confederate prisoners in-tow, approached the town. A nearby engagement at West Point resulted in a Northern victory and brought more wounded into LaGrange. While many of the townspeople sought shelter against the approaching blue-clad soldiers, the “Nancy Harts” formed their battle lines. Colonel Oscar LaGrange, (irony never ceases) the leader of the mounted Federals, continued to close the distance between his force and the line of defense Morgan, and the other ladies had established. Once the prisoners started coming into view, the women began to recognize familiar faces, and quickly determined they could not fire upon the Federals without hitting their boys in gray.

Colonel LaGrange’s force took possession of the town, and a looting and burning spree ensued. Many of the town’s buildings lay in smoking heaps, as the colonel sarcastically remarked, “The Nancy Harts could probably use their eyes with better effect than their old guns.”[4] He evidently believed the militia unit stood a greater chance of flirting than fighting. Several other communities North and South witnessed a gathering of women determined to fight for their respective beliefs, yet most of the units proved short-lived. The true mettle of these female soldiers we will never know, but we do know, for a period of four years, while others on many home fronts shirked their duty, the LaGrange Female Institute, along with the town, could proudly proclaim the sacrifices and war-long dedication of the “Nancy Harts!”

[1] Anne J. Bailey, “The Defenders,” in Confederate Women, ed. Mauriel Phillips Joslyn (Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 1996), 48.

[2] Thaddeus Horton [Mrs], “The Story of the Nancy Harts,” The Ladies’ Home Journal, November, 1904, 14.

[3] R. Chris Cleaveland, “Georgia’s Nancy Harts,” Civil War Times Illustrated, June, 1994, 45.

[4] Ibid.`

mikeMichael K. Shaffer is the Assistant Director and Lecturer for Kennesaw State University’s Civil War Center , a Civil War historian, newspaper columnist, and author of ‘Washington County, Virginia in the Civil War.’ He is a member of the Society of Civil War Historians, Historians of the Civil War Western Theater, Georgia Association of Historians, and the Civil War Round Table of Atlanta. Michael also serves on the boards of the Civil War Round Table of Cobb County and the River Line Historic Area, and as a Civil War consultant for the Friends of Camp McDonald.

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Surprising Suburbs: McCaysville

IMG_4877_2Standing on the edge requires no quivery balance in McCaysville, Georgia’s surprising suburb 10 miles north of charming Blue Ridge on the Georgia-Tennessee border. Simply decide if you’re in Georgia or Tennessee, and proceed to discover astonishing and interesting art, calm waters to paddle, trout to catch.

Come on your own, or ride the Blue Ridge scenic railway to downtown McCaysville. A blue dotted line in a small grocery store parking lot identifies the state border. “Step behind the white tree, and you’re still in Georgia,” Tammi Mann assures visitors to the international artists’ showcase and shop she and husband Rip Mann created on a busy downtown corner. Rip looks like Santa Claus, and they call the shop Christmas is Here! Don’t expect Dec. 25 kitschy focus; do expect skilled artisans.

IMG_4887_2Handhewn bowls are Rip’s specialty. He learned the centuries-old craft from one of America’s last masters, sitting on a stump after retiring from a career in the restaurant business. Thanks to all he learned, now you and I can sit next to his stump in McCaysville, watching a master. Visit in December and also find Rip Mann portraying Santa, which he did professionally along the East Coast.

The ancient Chinese art form called Ne’Qwa provides quite a counterbalance to handhewn wood in this McCaysville shop. Delicate glass, reverse painted—from the inside, showing on the outside. On Oct. 4, an annual workshop will be held in McCaysville, featuring Georgia artist D. Morgan from nearby Young Harris, one of only 35 in the nation whose paintings are accepted as Ne’Qwa designs.

A husband/wife duo — two more talented artists — exhibit their bark baskets, wearable fiber arts, wood turning, brooms and photography in the Organic Artist Tree, sharing a spacious lobby with Christmas is Here! JoAnna Belmont, a nurse for 30 years, and Mark Hendry, professional dancer, chose McCaysville for their shop, while their home and studios are in Blue Ridge. Find them both places to watch creativity happening and to take some classes.

IMG_4873_2Smack dab in the middle of McCaysville, a small steel bridge built in 1911 crosses the river: Toccoa on Georgia’s side and Ocoee on the other. Watch kayakers crossing under the bridge, or get in one yourself and navigate the calm waters around McCaysville.

Blue Ridge Mountain Kayaking has a Copperhill, Tenn., address but they will take you to Georgia to float! Kayak tandem for $25 or solo for $15. Big, fat inner tubes are $8 for two hours or $16 for all day.  Cup holders, mesh bottoms and backrests are included.

Prefer life on the land? McCaysville’s Horseshoe Bend Park on the Toccoa River is a grassy spot ready for picnics and sightseers, and often features live music in the summer.

Christine 12. 2007 4Christine Tibbetts claimed Georgia as her home state in 1972.  She covers Georgia destinations, and the world, always offering prompts for exceptional experiences and opportunities to muse. Tibbetts earned a Bachelor of Journalism from the prestigious School of Journalism at the University of Missouri and is the recipient of numerous gold, silver and merit awards from North American Travel Journalists Association writing competitions. Follow her at

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