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Poultry Bowl didn’t attract large turnout

POSTED: January 18, 2009 1:00 a.m.

Mat Garretson, a former Gainesville man now a California winemaker, noticed a piece in ESPN magazine about football bowl games that mentioned the Poultry Bowl of 1973.

Not having heard of it before, he began inquiring through his internet blog and calls to Gainesville.

The Poultry Bowl was an official college football bowl played at Gainesville's City Park on Saturday, Dec. 8, 1973, between Stephen F. Austin University of Nacogdoches, Texas, and Gardner-Webb College of Boiling Springs, N.C. The Stephen Austin Lumberjacks beat the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs 31-10.

Hall County brothers Billy and Bobby Smallwood put together the bowl game sanctioned by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. They put a lot of work into it, but weather the day of the game apparently scared a lot of football fans away.

East Hall band parents were to raise money by printing the programs, and other proceeds would benefit high school athletes traveling to colleges in search of scholarships. Ticket prices were only $7 for reserved seats and $5 for general admission.

The chamber of commerce, city officials and local businesses supported the game, and even Gov. Jimmy Carter came through with a proclamation for Poultry Bowl Day in Gainesville.

The Smallwoods' selection committee went through teams such as Elon, Jacksonville State, Troy State, Grambling, Carson Newman and Jackson State before settling on Stephen Austin and Gardner-Webb. The bowl was aimed at small colleges that didn't have bowl opportunities.

While the weather didn't cooperate, fans did get their money's worth. The Lumberjacks' running quarterback, Larry Mayer, scored one touchdown and set up others. The halftime score was 10-3, but Stephen Austin dominated the second half, featuring long runs by Mayer, tailback John Reece and fullback Bill Tyler.

Gardner-Webb used a passing game to move the ball, but couldn't keep up with the Lumberjacks. Stephen Austin had a regular season record of 7-5 and fell to 2-6 the next year. Gardner-Webb won seven and lost four in 1973.

Phil Jackson, retired sports editor of The Times, covered the Poultry Bowl and wrote that the cold rain that fell two hours before kickoff cut into the crowd, estimated at 1,000.

That was the first and only Poultry Bowl played in Gainesville. Another Poultry Bowl the next year featured Guilford, N.C., vs. William Penn and was played in Greensboro, N.C. Guilford won 8-7. That apparently was the end of the Poultry Bowl.

While the Poultry Bowl might be only a footnote in college football and Gainesville history, it isn't forgotten by Stephen F. Austin University. It recently honored its Poultry Bowl team.

There have been Turkey Bowls over the years, but understandably apparently no Chicken Bowls. Some communities feature high school teams in Turkey Bowl tournaments around Thanksgiving. Others use the name for flag football playoffs, paintball competition, tennis and other sports. One college football Turkey Bowl in the past had Rhode Island beating Air Force 34-6.

• • •

Meanwhile, Garretson, the guy who brought up the Poultry Bowl on his blog, makes his name in the California wine business. He had lived most of his time in Gainesville on a Lake Lanier houseboat in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Mat had become interested in wine as a student at the University of Georgia. He worked for a while in Gainesville at his father's Piedmont Laboratories, maker of such aerosol products as Barbasol shaving cream. Bored, he set out for California, got into wine sales and started Garretson Wine Co., Paso Robles, Calif., in 1996.

While still living in Northeast Georgia, Mat became interested in the Rhone wine varieties and started the Voignier Guild. Voignier is a fine but rare French white grape.

The Guild moved with him to California, and he gets credit for the spread of Syrah grapes in California.
His Voignier Guild turned into the Hospice du Rhone Festival, a three-day event in Paso Robles that attracts thousands from all over the world. Proceeds go to support hospice care.

That grape-growing area of California now is known as the Rhone Zone, and Garretson is known as Mr. Voignier. He has been the subject of several wine magazine articles.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. His column appears Sundays and on gainesvilletimes.com.



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