Georgia’s Lesser-Known Sports Teams

Georgia sports fans are incredibly supportive of the state’s big league baseball, football and basketball teams. But those are not the only teams to play on the Georgia stage. Georgia’s lesser-known professional and semi-professional sports teams thrill fans with exciting competition and winning records and provide high-caliber competition for very little money.

Ice Hockey

The Thrashers may have flown to Winnipeg, but that doesn’t mean lovers of ice hockey can’t still enjoy the game here in Georgia. The Gwinnett Gladiators play in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) as the affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes. Since moving to Duluth for the 2003-04 season, the Gladiators have made the playoffs eight times. Each year the Gladiators thrill their fans at Gwinnett Arena with awesome promotions such as Star Wars night and a teddy bear toss.

Columbus Cottonmouths

Columbus Cottonmouths

In Columbus, the Cottonmouths are one of the top teams in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL). Since helping found the SPHL, the Cottonmouths have never missed the playoffs and have won the championship twice, including receiving the inaugural Presidents Cup. The Cottonmouths are great supporters of their local community and promote both youth and adult leagues, teaching everyone how to skate and play the most popular game on ice.

Having first played as the Augusta RiverHawks from 2010 to 2013, the Macon Mayhem will begin playing as a member of the SPHL in the 2015-16 season. Even prior to the start of the new season, the Mayhem and the Cottonmouths are preparing for the fiercest rivalry in the SPHL!

Soccer

People are going crazy over the Major League Soccer expansion team coming to Atlanta. They start play in 2017 and, though they have yet to be named, are already growing a following. But before soccer at the highest level comes to Georgia, you still have the opportunity to check out some fantastic soccer sides.

Atlanta Silverbacks FC

Atlanta Silverbacks FC

For many, the Atlanta Silverbacks will always be Atlanta’s team. Atlanta Silverbacks Park is home to not only the North American Soccer League (NASL) side, but also the Women’s and Reserves’ teams. And did you know Reggie Bush and David Beckham filmed an Adidas commercial at the park? The Terminus Legion supporters group (emphasis on the “support”) has been instrumental in making Atlanta a prime soccer location.

Based in Conyers, the Georgia Revolution play in the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL). Since their founding in 2010, they have twice made it to the later stages of the US Cup, each time losing by one goal to the in-state rival Silverbacks. The Revolution support a local chapter of the Super Y-League, giving local kids the chance to get out and play the game themselves.

Rugby

The Atlanta Rhinos also play at Silverbacks Park. They joined the USA Rugby League in 2014, forging a partnership with the Leeds Rhinos of Britain’s Super League.

Savannah Shamrocks Rugby Club

Savannah Shamrocks Rugby Club

Rugby Union is also popular in Georgia, with an entire region of USA Ruby based in the state. Teams are spread throughout Georgia with teams in Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Blue Ridge, Columbus, the Golden Isles, Gwinnett, Macon and Savannah. The Georgia Rugby Union also features a women’s team based out of Atlanta.

And to forget mentioning collegiate rugby would be an outrageous mistake. Life University has been one of the premier teams in both professional and college-level rugby for men and women.

Lacrosse

Fans of box lacrosse can rejoice as the Minnesota Swarm of the National Lacrosse League announced recently they will move to Georgia to become the Georgia Swarm and begin playing in Gwinnett starting with the 2016 season. Box lacrosse is an indoor version of the popular sport, creating a faster-paced, more intense game.

And for those fans of field lacrosse, Johns Creek plays host each year to the SouthEastern Lacrosse Conference Championships, and Kennesaw State University will play host to the ACC Championships in 2016 and the Major League Lacrosse Championship in 2015.

 

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Georgia Peaches

Mercier Orchards

Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge

Things are just peachy here in Georgia even when the beloved Official State Fruit is out of season. Here are ten things you might not have known about the peaches that call Georgia home.

1.) The U.S. Department of Agriculture ranks Georgia as one of the top four peach producing states along with California, South Carolina and New Jersey.

2.) The peach is a member of the rose family.

3.) Peaches originally came from China. They were traded along the Silk Road and made their way to Europe before eventually gracing American groves. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, “Franciscan monks introduced peaches to St. Simons and Cumberland islands along Georgia’s coast in 1571.”

4.) During Reconstruction, Georgia farmers were forced to diversify their crops. As the boll weevil moved in and destroyed many cotton crops, farmers added pecans, onions, apples, and peaches.

5.) Georgia’s peaches mainly grow in Crawford, Taylor, Macon and Peach counties.

Dickey Farms

Dickey Farms in Musella

6.) Georgia peaches are used in some of the nation’s top restaurants. The fruit from Pearson Farms in Fort Valley is on tables at Per Se (currently the world’s third most expensive restaurant) in New York City, Hugh Acheson’s restaurants throughout Georgia, The French Laundry in Yountville, California, and Bayou Bakery on Capitol Hill in Washington, D. C.

7.) Berckmans Nursery was a hub for horticulture in the mid to late 1800s in Augusta. At the complex, the Berckman family worked to develop breeds of peaches that would thrive in Georgia’s climate, leading to Georgia’s prosperous crops for generations. Prosper Berckman soon became known as the “Father of Peach Culture.”

8.) When legendary golfer and Atlanta native Bobby Jones was working to create what is now Augusta National Golf Club, Prosper Berckman’s sons were helping to design the landscaping. The Club would eventually take over the Berckmans Nursery area and incorporate it into the Club with the Berckmans’ home, known as Fruitland Manor becoming the Augusta National Clubhouse. Many of the varieties of plants (including peaches) that were part of Berckmans Nursery still thrive on Club property.

9.) Most of the peaches sold in Georgia are sold fresh. Despite the large number of bushels picked each year, there are no major processing operations in the state according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

10.) The World’s Largest Peach Cobbler is made each year at the Georgia Peach Festival in Fort Valley. The enormously tasty creation is 11 by 5 feet and about eight inches deep. Tasting the cobbler is free.

 

EileenEileen is Georgia’s official Festival Explorer and the editor of Occupy My Family, the Atlanta area’s most comprehensive resource for family fun. Click here for more Festival content from Eileen.

Minor League Baseball in Georgia with Kids

Minor League Baseball in Georgia with KidsOur family recently went on vacation in Augusta, and while we were there, we attended an Augusta GreenJackets game. It was my first minor league game and a first-ever baseball game for the boys. It was fabulous! Here are five reasons why a minor league baseball game is must-do experience with kids.

1. Close to the action. Georgia’s minor league stadiums offer close-to-the-action seating. When kids can see the players well and actually feel the power of the ball meeting the bat, they are hooked. If you ask me, this is the best reason to start them at a minor league game.

2. Affordability. Tickets to minor league games are extremely affordable, and in many places like Augusta, parking is also free. If you join the Kids’ Club (see below) there are often opportunities for kids to attend for free.

3. Kids Club. Kids Clubs vary in cost from free in Augusta to $30, and their benefits vary. The Sand Gnats Kids Club includes an autograph session with the players, The Rome Braves offer includes box-level tickets. Each team’s program is vastly different, so be sure to look at each one.

Augusta GreenJackets

4. Special Events. My boys loved meeting Auggie, the GreenJackets’ mascot. He was very accessible and easy to get a photo with. Besides mascot days, other special events around the state include Splash day, Fireworks, Boy and Girl Scout Days, Family Nights, Kids Eat Free nights and more. Check Explore Georgia’s blog post on 2015 Summer Baseball Promotions and each team’s programming for details.

5. Play Areas. If your little one gets ants in his pants then you can always head to the play area. We enjoyed watching the last inning of the GreenJackets game as the boys played on the playground. Other fields include inflatables, and other play areas. If you think the kids need a little more freedom than a stadium seat offers, several places like Gwinnett and Rome offer berms for picnic-style seating.

So, where are the minor league fields?? There are four in Georgia: Augusta, Rome, Lawrenceville and Savannah. You can read more about our Augusta experience at 365AtlantaFamily.

 

LesliLesli is the Georgia’s official Family Explorer and the owner of 365AtlantaFamily, which offers a daily dose of inspiration for metro-area families. Click here for more Family content from Lesli.

5 Reasons to Rediscover North Georgia Wineries

CeNita Vineyards

Photo Credit: CeNita Vineyards

North of Atlanta, in Georgia’s Appalachian foothills and on your way to the Chattahoochee National Forest, you’ll find acres upon acres of vineyards. Here are five reasons why you need to make a trip to North Georgia wineries this summer:

1.)  Do it for the nostalgia. Wineries like Cavender Creek Vineyards in Dahloenga offer up wine with a side of mountain farm life. Cavender Creek’s unique location allows for hand-crafted wines to be sipped while you’re next to a cabin from the 1800s.

2.)  Experience local musical talent. Many vineyards offer live music in their tasting rooms and porches throughout the summer including Cartecay Vineyards in Ellijay, Chateau Meichtry Vineyards in Talking Rock.

3.)  Visit something new. The wine business in North Georgia is rapidly expanding. You can’t say “been there, done that” when new wineries are expanding and opening their tasting rooms. Stay tuned for news from CeNita Vineyards in Cleveland which already has a booming event space and soon will have their tasting room open and serving.

4.)  There’s more to the mountains than hiking. If you’re not much for the outdoors but your companion loves a good hike, a day hiking and sipping is a great compromise. Visit the peak of Brasstown Bald then head to local wineries in Hiawassee and Young Harris like Cane Creek Vineyards and Hightower Creek Vineyards for tasting with a view.

5.)  It’s not just wine- it’s festivals too! 12 Spies Vineyards & Farm, just north of the beloved Dillard House, features events and festivals on their grounds throughout the year including the Blessing of the Vines on June 6, 2015 and third anniversary celebration on July 25, 2015. This year’s Appalachian Wine & Jazz Festival is set for June 12 and 13 in Hiawassee. and Stonewall Creek Vineyards is set to celebrate the summer solstice on June 20, 2015 with an afternoon celebration. Later in the year, CrushFest comes to Yonah Mountain Vineyards and the Grape Stomp Festival comes to Paradise Hills.

 

EileenEileen is Georgia’s official Festival Explorer and the editor of Occupy My Family, the Atlanta area’s most comprehensive resource for family fun. Click here for more Festival content from Eileen.

Georgia’s Summer Baseball Promotions

Turner Field Sunset

Photo Credit: Atlanta Braves

Summer is here, and that means it’s the perfect time to take your family and friends out to the ballgame! Georgia makes that easy with five professional baseball teams in Atlanta, Gwinnett, Rome, Augusta and Savannah. Check out the teams’ summer promotions for an idea as to when to go buy some peanuts and catch a couple foul balls:

Atlanta Braves
Georgia’s Major League team is the oldest continuously playing team in major North American sports and is in its 50th year in Atlanta. Join the Bravos at each Friday home game for a fireworks display and Sunday to meet Braves Alumni while your kids run the bases, and be sure not to miss these special games at Turner Field:

Turner Field Tour

Turner Field

Saturday, June 6: Father/Daughter Day

Sunday, June 7: Autism Awareness Day

Tuesday, June 9: David Justice Bobblehead Night

Wednesday, June 10: Charli XCX Postgame Concert

 

Friday, June 19-Sunday, June 21: Heritage Weekend

Saturday, June 20: Braves Country 5K / Boyz II Men Postgame Concert

Sunday, June 21: Father’s Day Catch on the Field / Prostate Cancer Awareness Day

Friday, July 3-Sunday, July 5: Braves Foundation Weekend

Friday, July 3: Star Wars Night

Saturday, July 4: Independence Day Fireworks

Friday, July 17: Social Media Night

Saturday, July 18: Mother/Son Day / NAPA Auto Parts Cap Gate Giveaway

Sunday, July 19: Christmas in July

Thursday, August 6: Homeschool Day

Friday, August 7-Sunday, August 9: Alumni Weekend

Saturday, August 8: Braves Alumni Legends Game / World Series Replica Ring Giveaway

Sunday, August 9: Kids Pre-Game Parade / Peanut Free Section

Friday, August 14: John Smoltz Hall of Fame Bobblehead Night / Fireworks on the Field

Saturday, August 15: Military Appreciation Night

Sunday, August 16: Paint in the Park

Wednesday, August 26: Firefighter Night

Saturday, August 29: MLB Network Tote Bag Giveaway

 

Gwinnett Braves
Come out to Coolray Field in Gwinnett County to catch Atlanta’s Triple-A affiliate compete against the other Southern teams of the International League. The longest-running affiliation in Triple-A, the Gwinnett Braves feature your favorite future major leaguers, Meal Deal Mondays, Two-for-Tuesdays, Kids Eat Free and Baseball Bingo Wednesdays, Triple Play Thursdays, Fireworks Fridays and Sunday Family Funday at a community-oriented stadium. Be sure to make it to Gwinnett for these summer promotions:

Coolray Field Fireworks

Fireworks at Coolray Field
Photo Credit: Gwinnett Braves

Friday, June 5: Paint the Park Purple

Saturday, June 6: Replica Jersey Giveaway

Sunday, June 7: Public Safety/Touch-a-Truck Day

Wednesday, June 8: Daycare Day

Saturday, June 20: Back to the Future Night / Marty McFly Jacket Jersey Auction

Sunday, June 21: Bark in the Park / Cartoon Network Stop Bullying:  Speak Up

Saturday, July 4: Patriotic Jersey Auction

Sunday, July 5: Faith and Family Day

Thursday, July 9: Daycare Day

Friday, July 24: Fur Circus Appearance / Ron Grant Baseball Card Giveaway

Saturday, July 25: Bobby Cox Bobblehead Giveaway / Diversity Day

Sunday, July 26: Jersey Lunchbox Giveaway / Christmas in July

Saturday, August 8: Tom Glavine Bobblehead Giveaway

Sunday, August 9: Diamond Dig / Cartoon Network Stop Bullying:  Speak Up

Saturday, August 22: Stand Up to Cancer Night

Sunday, August 23: Cartoon Network Stop Bullying:  Speak Up

Saturday, August 29: John Smoltz Bobblehead Giveaway

 

Rome Braves
Located in picturesque Rome, Georgia, Atlanta’s Class-A minor league affiliate brings fans out to exciting games against the rest of the South Atlantic League. State Mutual Stadium brings a major league amount of support to the minor league field which features the Applebee’s Home Run Hill and field dimensions which mirror The Ted in Atlanta. Featuring up-and-coming players in the Braves organization, the Rome Braves host family-friendly events each summer:

Friday, June 5: Camo T-Shirt Giveaway

Myron Noodleman

Myron Noodleman
Photo Credit: Rome Braves

Saturday, June 6: The Coolest Nerd, Myron Noodleman

Sunday, June 7: Father’s Day

Friday, June 26: Cereal Bowl Giveaway

Saturday, June 27: Parrot Head Paradise Night and Post Game Concert

 

Sunday, June 28: Cartoon Network Stop Bullying:  Speak Up

Friday, July 3: Independence Day Fireworks Extravaganza

Wednesday, July 15: Cartoon Network Stop Bullying:  Speak Up

Friday, July 17: Christmas in July

Saturday, July 18: Appearance by Dora the Explorer and Diego

Friday, July 31: Pirates and Princesses Night

Saturday, August 1: Appearance by Zooperstars

Friday, August 14: Appearance by Ella the Elephant

Friday, August 21: Back to School Giveaway

Saturday, August 22: Animal Antics with the Fur Circus

Saturday, August 29: Post Game Fireworks Extravaganza

 

Augusta GreenJackets
Named in honor of The Masters golf tournament, the second of Georgia’s Class-A South Atlantic League teams is located in Augusta. Lake Olmstead Stadium has hosted numerous big-name players on their climb to stardom through the team’s various major league affiliations, current the San Francisco Giants. In addition to serving as an entertainment center for the Augusta metro region, the GreenJackets’ stadium hosts Feed Your Face Monday; BOGO Bevs each Tuesday; Baseball Bingo and Silver Jackets Club Member Day each Wednesday; Thirsty Thursdays; lets the kids run the bases every Friday, Saturday and Sunday; American Family Insurance Family Night each Saturday; Junior Jackets Kids Club Day each Sunday; and fantastic summer promotions:

Lake Olmstead Bouncy House

Photo Credit: Augusta GreenJackets

Thursday, June 4: Augusta Parks & Recreation Night / SweetWater Post-Game Concert Series

Friday, June 5: Shepeard Community Blood Center Night & Souvenir Cup Giveaway

Saturday, June 6 –Cowboy Monkey Rodeo / WRDW Time to Care / Boy Scout Sleepover

Sunday, June 7: Super Hero Night

Tuesday, June 16 –Media Night

Wednesday, June 17 –Veteran Appreciation Night

Thursday, June 18: Burke County Community Night

Friday, June 19: Fireworks Night

Saturday, June 20 –Cowbell Giveaway / Miracle League Night

Sunday, June 21: Golf Towel Giveaway / Father’s Day Celebration

Saturday, July 4: Independence Day Fireworks

Sunday, July 5: Post-Game Fireworks

Tuesday, July 7: Super Splash Day

Wednesday, July 8: Throwback Night

Thursday, July 9: Ladies Night

Friday, July 10: USB Drive Giveaway

Friday, July 10-Sunday, July 12: Pet Friendly Weekend

Saturday, July 11: World Series Piggy Bank Giveaway Night

Sunday, July 12: Bark in the Park / Tribute to Minions

Wednesday, July 22: Grandparent Appreciation Night

Thursday, July 23: National Hot Dog Day / SweetWater Post-Game Concert Series

Friday, July 24: Faith and Family Night / Road to the Show Tumbler Giveaway

Saturday, July 25: Military Appreciation / American Flag Giveaway

Monday, July 27: College Feast Night

Tuesday, July 28: Bank Challenge Night

Thursday, August 6: Denny McLain Autograph Signing

Friday, August 7: Madison Bumgarner Bobblehead Giveaway

Saturday, August 8: Savannah Riverkeepers Jersey Auction / Girl Scout Night

Sunday, August 9: Auggie’s Birthday & Mascot Mania

Tuesday, August 11: Aiken County Community Night

Wednesday, August 12: Middle Child Appreciation Night

Thursday, August 13: Back Yard Make Over / SweetWater Post-Game Concert Series

Monday, August 17: Taste of Augusta

Tuesday, August 18: Columbia County Community Night

Thursday, August 27: College Football Night

Friday, August 28: GRU Hat Giveaway

 

Savannah Sand Gnats
Georgia’s southernmost professional team has featured in Da Ali G Show, Paula’s Home Cooking, George Lopez and Royal Pains. A competitor of the Rome Braves and Augusta GreenJackets in the Class-A South Atlantic League, the Sand Gnats are an affiliate of the New York Mets. Historic Grayson Stadium has been open since 1926 and has been hometo numerous minor league teams, as well as having been the part-time home of the Savannah State University team and the venue for the annual local high school Thanksgiving Day game for over 30 years. Weekly promotions include Kroger Dollar Mondays, Two-For-Tuesdays, Pack-The-Park for Charity each Wednesday, Thirsty Thursdays, St. Joseph’s/Candler Facebook Flashback Fridays, Saturday night fireworks, Bark in the Park each Sunday in June and July, and Kids Eat Free Sundays. But also be sure not to miss their special summer promotions:

Night at the Gnats

Photo Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Savannah District on Flickr

Friday, June 5-Saturday, June 7: Pedigree Pet Friendly Weekend

Thursday, June 18: Wild Wild Western Night

Friday, June 26: Personal Care Items and Paper Goods Drive for St. Mary’s / St. Joseph’s/Candler T-Shirt Giveaway

Saturday, June 27: Boy Scout Night / Fleet Feet Home Run 5K

Friday, July 3: Fireworks Night

Friday, July 17-Monday, July 20: Subway Series in the South

Saturday, August 1: St. Joseph’s/Candler Community Night

Thursday, August 13: Military Appreciation Night

Friday, August 14: Replica Stadium Giveaway

Friday, August 21: Personal Care Items and Paper Goods Drive for St. Mary’s

Saturday, August 29: Gnate Appreciation Night