Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 17

OUR BLUE RIDGE TOWNS

CLOCKWISE FROM FAR LEFT: View of
the Blue Ridge Mountains during fall season
from Brasstown Bald, the highest elevation in
the state of Georgia.
Farmers Market Biggest Pumpkin Contest.
Union County Courthouse in downtown
Blairsville.
The grist mill at Meeks Park.

cent on a campus. Their award-winning
high school contains a 986-seat Fine Arts
Center. Clearly, the nearly 3,000 students
are a priority here.
As is public safety. The fire department has 14 full-time employees and a
flotilla of fire and rescue vehicles, as well
as two volunteer fire departments in the
county. With Meeks Park's walking trails,
creeks and lake, and a pool and splash
pad for the kids, Blairsville has it all.
How does a county with just 23,000
people afford these big-city amenities?
The key is that Georgia allows counties
to levy a 1% sales tax to be allocated
to capital outlay projects for public facilities. And the schools have their own
1% sales tax for funding. So great parks,
public safety, streets, schools and farmers
market (85 booths filled in-season, along
with a fully equipped canning building
for market shoppers and gardeners to put

up their bounty) are part of the lure.
Darren Harper is the Director of the
Downtown Development Authority.
He's rightly proud of the fact that Blairsville looks like a town where people actually live their lives, rather than a tourist mecca.
"Our downtown, well, it's small, and
it's low to the ground-we don't have a
lot of restored brick buildings lining our
main streets like some of the other north
Georgia tourist towns.," he says. (That
being said, the restored 1899 brick courthouse housing the Union County Historical Society and Museum is imposing.)
There are a lot of events going on in
downtown Blairsville, some expected (Independence Day fireworks and a Friday
night concert series) and some not (the
Green Bean Festival and the Sorghum
Festival). "Our restaurants and shops
and festivals draw a lot of visitors-the

population here swells 30% in the summer and fall," Harper says. "We know
that growth is going to happen-it's all
in how you manage it."
Although 33% of Blairsville residents
are over 65, the effort to bring in families by creating jobs is ongoing. Mitch
Griggs, head of the Union County Development Authority, talks with earned
pride about the two site-ready industrial
parks outside of town.
"We consciously work to build a
mixed economy. We know we need to
be more than tourism, more than just
construction and real estate," he says.
"We aren't your 'typical' mountain town.
We're pro-growth-but we're focused on
maintaining the character of the community. And new residents come to us
happy to serve as volunteers, glad to accept us for who we are and to be part of
Blairsville."
All of this is impressive for a town surrounded by mountains, without a nearby interstate or river or rail transportation. Blairsville is a town the Scots built,
where agriculture was once the mainstay.
But it continues to thrive through an impressive balance of tourism and industry.
With skill and creativity, the past is honored and the future anticipated.
SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019

17



Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019

Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - Intro
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - Cover1
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - Cover2
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 3
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 4
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 5
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 6
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 7
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 8
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 9
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 10
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 11
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 12
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 13
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 14
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 15
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 16
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 17
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 18
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 19
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 20
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 21
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 22
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 23
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 24
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 25
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 26
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 27
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 28
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 29
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 30
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 31
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 32
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 33
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 34
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 35
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 36
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 37
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 38
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 39
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 40
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 41
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 42
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 43
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 44
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 45
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 46
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 47
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 48
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 49
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 50
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 51
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 52
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 53
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 54
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 55
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 56
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 57
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 58
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 59
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 60
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 61
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 62
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 63
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 64
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 65
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 66
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 67
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 68
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 69
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 70
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 71
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 72
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 73
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - 74
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - Cover3
Blue Ridge Country - September/October 2019 - Cover4
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