Friday, January 7, 2011

Home Sweet Home

"You can never go home again, but the truth is you can never leave home, so it's all right. " ~Maya Angelou

I am from Macon, Georgia.

I thought in the next few posts I would simply introduce you to the people and places that have influenced who I am, and that also hold a very soft spot in my heart.

Maybe, as you are planning your trips and are wanting to get off the beaten track (especially if you are heading by car to Florida) - that you might want to stop off in Macon. You just might be surprised!

It goes without saying, Macon is truly a beautiful city. I know, I know.. we all say that about our home towns.. but seriously guys, this place is really lovely. 

Just where is Macon? It is located just 85 miles south of Atlanta and is literally in the geographic center of Georgia (that's how it got it's nickname - The Heart Of Georgia.) Macon is now the 6th largest city in Georgia (it used to be the 3rd..) Macon lies in the Ocmulgee fields which is the territory of the old Creek Indians. Before it's official establishment, it was a military distribution center during the War of 1812.  The city was officially chartered in 1823 and officially named Macon, in honor of North Carolina statesman Nathaniel Macon because many of the city's early settlers hailed from North Carolina. The city planners of Macon envisioned "a city within a park" and went about creating a city of spacious streets and parks.

The city thrived due to its location on the Ocmulgee River and cotton became the mainstay of Macon's early economy. Cotton boats, stage coaches, and later, in 1843, a railroad all brought economic prosperity to Macon. In 1836, Wesleyan College, the first college America chartered to grant degrees to women,  was founded in Macon by the Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

During the American Civil War, Macon served as the official arsenal of the Confederacy. Camp Oglethorpe, in Macon, was used first as a prison for captured officers and enlisted, then for officers only, up to 2,300 at one time. The camp was evacuated in 1864. Macon City Hall, which would serve as the temporary state capitol in 1864, was converted to use as a hospital for the wounded. However, Macon was spared by General William Tecumseh Sherman on his march to the sea. The nearby state capital of Milledgeville had been sacked and Maconites prepared for an attack. But General Sherman feared that Confederate forces were preparing a unified attack of their own and therefore bypassed Macon.

The Macon Telegraph claimed that out of the 23 companies the city had furnished the Confederacy, only enough for five were alive and medically fit for duty by the end of the war.Throughout the era of Reconstruction and into the twentieth century, Macon grew into a prospering town in Middle Georgia, and began to serve as a transportation hub for the entire state.

As for climate, according to the "official description" you weather geeks can appreciate - it is described as, "humid, subtropical climate. Summer temperatures generally peak in the mid-90 °F (32 °C)s, and the winters have lows in the mid-30 °F (−1 °C)s. The city has an average annual precipitation of 45 inches."

One of my favorite "factoids" about Macon is it's amazing "artistic/creative" atmosphere. Just in music alone, you will be impressed! Macon has been the birthplace or hometown to such musicians as The Allman Brothers Band, Randy Crawford, Mark Heard, Lucille Hegamin, Otis Redding, Little Richard, Mike Mills and Bill Berry of R.E.M. as well as more recent names like violinist Robert McDuffie and country artist Jason Aldean. Rapper Jody Breeze (1/4 of the hip-hop group Boyz N Da Hood along with fellow Maconite Young Jeezy, currently signed to P. Diddy's Bad Boy Entertainment) was discovered in Macon at a car show. September Hase, an alternative rock band formerly managed by Macon's Alan Walden, was discovered in Macon at the 550 Blues Club. Capricorn Records, run by Macon natives Phil Walden and briefly Alan Walden, made the city a hub for Southern rock music in the late 1960s and 1970s.

If you visit and you are looking for really good entertainment- the Macon is your city. Just click on this link to see the long list of art galleries and live theaters! There is always something going on. There are a few in particular I would like to point out! For one, the Middle Georgia Arts Association Gallery is a personal favorite. Why? Well - my mom has several pieces there! (She is also the president of the Middle Georgia Art Association.) Looking for local theater? I have to recommend at least two - Theater Macon (downtown)  and Macon Little Theater off Vineville Ave. Theater Macon in particular is near and dear to my family's heart.

Both my mom, sister and I have all served on their board of directors. Also, we have either performed, worked back stage or contributed in some way to the theater. The performances are sincerly excellent. Jim Crisp, a personal friend and truly talented individual, is the artistic director.

At Macon Little Theater, the hardest working team and truly creative group of characters direct. John Jones as well as Sylvia Haynie are huge contributors to the family friendly performances that come out of that theater. (Might I add, both of them are MAJOR contributors to my theater education!) I have performed on this stage numerous times also.

Then for good old fashioned historical theater opportunities - The Douglas Theater  (seen to the right) is a beautiful work of art. Otis Redding was discovered here. Ma Rainey, Cab Calloway, Little Richard and many others also performed in this theater during its run from 1921 to the '70s. It stood silent for 20 years until the City of Macon restored and reopened it in January 1997, as a state-of-the-art film, performance and meeting venue. Now, it pays tribute to African Americans' influence on film and theater.

And finally - the very first stage I ever performed on - The Grand Opera House.

Built in 1884, the Grand features one of the largest stages in the South. The Grand has seen stars such as Will Rodgers, Sarah Bernhardt, Houdini and more.

Usually the touring Broadway shows perform here.

Looking for festivals? God knows, Macon has them all! One in particular is as cheesy as any - but I LOVE it - The Cherry Blossom Festival. This city-wide festival fills 10 days with events, concerts, exhibits, arts and crafts, hot air balloons and more against a backdrop of more than 300,000 Yoshino cherry trees; the most in the world! You really have to see it to believe it.  The entire city goes PINK. The slogan - THINK PINK. You will see sprigs of cherry blossoms and pink ribbons everywhere!

One of my favorite things to do (back when I lived there) was to go to 3rd Street Park in downtown, on my lunch break during the festiva. You could get hotdogs, listen to live music, see a few creepy clowns and most importantly - get a free scoop of the Cherry Blossom icecream. My dad worked at the dairy company that served this icecream, and every year - I would see my dad in his pink blazer serving up the yummy scoops. There would be a line around the block to get this ice cream! The pic you see to the left is 3rd Street Park during "Cherry Blossom" blooming time.

The "Japanese" influence in Macon is strong. One of the biggest factories in the city is YKK. Okay - everyone, stop what you are doing and look at your zipper. What does it say? YKK? Yep. Guess who owns it - the Japanese. Guess where the only factory is? Macon.

Sooo.. it mad sense that all of these Yoshino Cherry Blossom trees would be planted!

Some of my more favorite activities at the festival are the free concerts at Central City park every night. Also, on Saturday morning (the final day) there is the Mulberry Street Arts Festival (my mom is in charge of this) - as well as the international food fair. Now that I live in a MUCH bigger city, the food fair seems silly (their idea of international was a gyro, some random asian food... etc.) But honestly, there is not a lot of ethnic influence in middle Georgia. So - it was always a treat.
 For a list of more festivals - click HERE.

Finally - before I bore you to tears - I wanted to share a few pictures with you of the town. Again - it is beautiful, there are lots of local restaurants, really cool bars/pubs in the downtown area, and ALWAYS something to do. For such a small area, you could seriously find something to do every night, and something to tour every morning. It is truly, a historical city with a lot of character.

Would I live there again? No - it's too small, now. But do I love it? Most certainly. A little hint for you, people who live there - rarely leave. So, their pride in the city is HUGE. Maconites are a little 'snobby' about their city, so be warned! :-)

Downtown Macon

The Lake - we call it - Lake TOBO

Downtown Macon

Georgia Sports Hall of Fame

Up on top of Coleman Hill is the Woodruff House.

Typical architecture in Macon

The Hay House ( you can tour it.)

Ocmulgee National Mounds..

The Terminal Station

Best damn hotdogs in the world. ONLY place you can get them!

My high school!

And finally - my Church - St. Joseph's Catholic Church

So folks, this is where I grew up. Spent most of my life there. 

Where did you grow up?

In Atlanta, they ask - "Where do you work?"
In Charleston, they ask - "Where do you live?"
In Savannah, they ask - "What do you want to drink?"
In Macon, they ask - "Where do you go to church?"


Anonymous said...

You're a southern belle and/or peach then =)

Renee said...

Great pictures! It does look like a really beautiful place.

When I was younger I was in Washington DC in the spring when the cherry blossoms were first blooming. It was pouring that day, but it was still so beautiful! That festival sounds like a lot of fun.

Ruby@Ruby'sMusings said...

Thanks for sharing, was almost like being able to travel there!

Anonymous said...

From the pictures alone it looks like a fantastic place to grow up! I'm jealous...

Leanne said...

Have to tell ya - never really thought about Macon much before - but now it's on my list of places to see!!! Imagine that! Thanks for the tour ... your home town is just as charming as you, dear! ;)


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