Celebrate a Georgia Legend at the Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival

Tab Benoit performs at the 2013 Blind Willie Blues Festival. Photo by Jason B. Smith.

Tab Benoit performs at the 2013 Blind Willie Blues Festival. Photo by Jason B. Smith.

Recognized as a top event by Southeast Tourism Society and the Wall Street Journal; the Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival debuted in 1993 and has been going strong ever since. Still staged in the same grassy field it debuted in almost 22 years ago. This year’s event is May 9, 2015.

The festival is named for Blind Willie McTell, one of the all-time greats of country blues guitar, who was born just south of Thomson, Georgia, in the area known as Happy Valley in McDuffie County. He was inducted posthumously into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1990. One of his most famous songs, “Statesboro Blues”, has been a staple for blues bands for decades and has been covered by artists such as The Allman Brothers Band and Taj Mahal. Many musicians consider McTell an influence, including Bob Dylan, who paid tribute to him with his song “Blind Willie McTell”.

From the beginning the festival wasn’t just about the blues, but rather a celebration of roots music. You could hear Americana, Cajun influences, Country and touches of Funk and Soul.  The kind of musical event Blind Willie himself would have really enjoyed. Many past performers have been American Music Award winners and Grammy nominees. The laid back vibe of the festival creates a great atmosphere to mix and mingle, get up and dance, or just seat back and sip an ice cold beer while enjoying some fantastic music.

Come for the music but you will get even more; there is a wide variety of food available from local food vendors, the local arts council has a booth with blues and music related art for sale; not to mention lots of camaraderie and people watching.

The 2015 lineup stars Marcia Ball, John Hammond, the Golden State-Lone Star Revue, Chris Smither, Mingo Fishtrap, and the Bruce Katz Band. Tickets will be on sale March 1st at www.blindwillie.com. Prices for tickets are $30 advance and $40 the day of. There is no charge for children, ages 12 and under. Gates open at 11 in the morning, with music beginning at noon.

TIP: You can visit the gravesite of McTell on Happy Valley Road adjoining Jones Grove Baptist Church. Pay a visit to the McDuffie Museum housed inside a former bank in downtown and see artifacts like the original tombstone of Blind Willie. Visit the gift shop for a memorable souvenir like a DVD documentary about the musician.  Free admission.

The Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival is held in a field one mile north of Interstate 20 at Thomson, Ga., Exit 172. (It’s about two hours east of Atlanta.)

Visit the festival website at www.blindwillie.com.

For more info about Thomson, visit www.exploremcduffiecounty.com.

15 Ways to Celebrate Easter in Georgia

Easter 2009 at Callaway Gardens. Photo by UGArdener via Flickr.

Easter 2009 at Callaway Gardens. Photo by UGArdener via Flickr.

Don your favorite bonnet and prepare to celebrate Easter in Georgia!

9 Reasons We Love Springtime in Georgia

Williamson, Georgia. Photo by @lizibailey via Instagram.

Williamson, Georgia. Photo by @lizibailey via Instagram.

Georgia is on our mind year-round, but we especially love the Peach State during the spring months. From the blooming flowers to the delightful temperatures, there is plenty to love about springtime in Georgia!

Festival Season: Nothing says spring quite like chowing down on a turkey leg while meandering through booths selling organic soap, handmade jewelry and bottle cap artwork. Georgia is home to such popular spring festivals as the Annual Atlanta Dogwood Festival and the famous Macon Cherry Blossom Festival. No matter where in Georgia you go, your chances of finding a spring festival between March and June are high. Our advice? Pack up the car and spend a weekend exploring Georgia.

Dogwood Festival in Atlanta

Dogwood Festival in Atlanta

Mild Temperatures:  Georgia’s spring weather is perfect for backyard barbeques, front porch sitting, driving with the windows down on the Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway or visiting Georgia’s Golden Isles. Georgia’s spring weather is so perfect, in fact, we think even Goldilocks would find it to be just right.

Pick-your-own Farms: Grab a bucket and head to one of Georgia’s many pick-your-own farms for a true Southern springtime tradition. Pick fresh peaches at Gardner Farms in Locust Grove or stock up on strawberries when you visit Strawberry Station in Dublin. The whole family will have fun picking their favorite springtime treats fresh from farms throughout the state.

Seminole State Park 2 - GDECD

Seminole State Park


Georgia State Parks: Take advantage of the perfect spring weather with a trip to one of Georgia’s state parks. Whether hitting the hiking trails, paddling the waterways, or sleeping under the stars, Georgia’s state parks have programs the whole family will love.

Spring Break: When Spring Break rolls around, students of all ages are restless for outdoor fun. Luckily for them (and their parents), Georgia is filled with theme parks, attractions, outdoor adventures and more. Treat your little one to a day at Wild Adventures in Valdosta, a hike up Stone Mountain in Atlanta or have an adventure on the water in Columbus. No matter which activity you choose, your child will return to school with a story to share!

Braves Baseball:  When April arrives, fans across the Southeast don their jerseys, paint their faces, and do the tomahawk chop in honor of the Atlanta Braves. A game at Turner Field, affectionately called “The Ted,” is a must-see when in Georgia.

Piedmont Park. Photo courtesy of Lauren Cleland.

Piedmont Park. Photo courtesy of Lauren Cleland.

Patio Dining: We’re of the firm belief that food always tastes better when eaten on a patio. Whether you’re sipping a cocktail at Atlanta’s Park Tavern or enjoying an intimate sunset dinner at the Meritage Café in Columbus, Georgia’s springtime weather makes for the perfect patio dining experience.

Lake Season: When the temperatures warm up, folks everywhere flock to Georgia’s lakes for weekends full of water skiing, tubing and more. Rent a pontoon boat on Lake Sinclair, camp on the shore of Lake Oconee or book a weekend at the luxurious Lake Lanier Islands Resort to get your lake fix this spring.

Callaway Gardens

Callaway Gardens

Flowers in Bloom: Our springtime list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning our beautiful blooming flowers, including azaleas, peach blossoms, magnolias and more. Immerse yourself in the beauty of the season with a visit to one of Georgia’s famous gardens, such as Guido Gardens in Metter, Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground and Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain. You’ll discover displays of floral beauty like you’ve never seen before when you explore Georgia!

Photo Credit: Photojenik Photography

Photo Credit: Photojenik Photography

Lauren 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!

5 Reasons to See Atlanta Ballet’s “Camino Real”


  1. Atlanta Ballet’s production of “Camino Real” is a world premiere! This is the first time the Tennessee Williams’ play, which originated on Broadway in 1953, has ever been transformed into a ballet. Atlanta Ballet’s resident choreographer Helen Pickett reimagined the play after her father handed down his copy from his college theater days, suggesting it would make a good ballet. The ballet has been three years in the making.
  1. Ballet as you’ve never seen (or heard) it before! Audiences can expect to be fully immersed and entertained when watching this full-evening ballet dance theater piece. Choreographer Helen Pickett has even challenged the dancers to learn lines from Tennessee Williams’ original text, which will be spoken throughout the show.
  1. It’s an everyman’s tale of love, lust, betrayal, courage and redemption. The story follows Kilroy, a once prizewinning boxer, who finds himself trapped in the surreal town of Camino Real. “It’s your classic good versus evil story,” said choreographer Helen Pickett. The story also features popular characters from literature and pop culture, such as Don Quixote, Esmeralda and Casanova.

camino wardrobe021

  1. Extravagant, theatrical display with brand new score, costumes and set design! A team of creative artists has been assembled to bring Tennessee Williams’ vision of “Camino Real” to life. The production will feature original costumes designed by award-winning designer Sandra Woodall, and a set design unlike any other, designed by Emma Kingsbury and David Finn. The rich, textured score, which Pickett has described as a character all its own, is the creation of composer Peter Salem.

Helen Pickett's Camino Real - Set Design (2)

  1. One weekend only! There are only four chances to see this Helen Pickett and Atlanta Ballet world premiere. The Company – dancers, costume shop, carpenters, painters, choreographer, composer, designers, etc. – has collectively logged more than 1,000 man-hours to bring the production to stage, and it’s a show not to be missed.

Buy tickets here.

All photos provided by Atlanta Ballet.

10 Ways to Celebrate the First Weekend of Spring

Callaway Gardens. Photo courtesy of @lizibailey via Instagram.

Callaway Gardens. Photo courtesy of @lizibailey via Instagram.

Celebrate the start of spring at these Georgia events!

March 18 – 22: Witness world class show jumping at the Atlanta Spring Classic in Conyers. Admission is FREE.

March 20: Peruse local art and soak up the sunshine at the Spring Art Walk in Newnan.

March 20 – 21: Enjoy extended hours, special sales, inflatables and photos with the Easter Bunny during Dalton’s Spring Holiday Open House.

March 21: Breathe in the fresh spring air during the Spring Sprint in Jonesboro. Registrations is only $25 in advance, $30 the day of.

March 21: Take advantage of the spring weather during Springs Fling at Indian Springs State Park in Flovilla.

March 21: Kick off spring with wine and live music during Hightower Creek Vineyards’ Vino & Vibes Spring Kick-Off.

March 21: Honor the Burmese chickens that are a fixture of the Fitzgerald landscape at the Wild Chicken Festival.

March 21: Get those Irish eyes smiling as hundreds of floats take to Jackson Street and Bellevue Avenue during the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin.

March 21 – April 25: Celebrate Spring and the beginning of azalea season at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain.

March 21 – 22: Proudly sport your pink clothing at the 34th Annual  Conyers Cherry Blossom Festival