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Pie & politics: Wauka Mountain supper a community tradition

Neighbors gather for a good meal; politicians come to press the flesh

POSTED: February 21, 2008 5:01 a.m.
Robin Michener Nathan The Times/

Above: Sheriff Steve Cronic talks to people Saturday night at the Chicken Pie Supper at Wauka Mountain Elementary School. Top right: Volunteers, from left, Jill Lee, Lisa Warwick, Kim Payne and Cheryl Matthews, whose hands are in the foreground, prepare to-go plates Saturday night at the Chicken Pie Supper.

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Before he entered politics, Nathan Deal held the post of ticket salesman at the Wauka Mountain Chicken Pie Supper. While Deal doesn't list the job on his extensive resume, he doesn't miss the annual event, which has been held for 83 years.

The event is not overtly political, but in election years, it is the place for those who are seeking votes to press the flesh or share a hug with the electorate. For the neophyte, it is the political coming-out party.

The chicken pie supper has a storied history as the starting point for political campaigns. It is often mentioned as a book end with the fictitious "Goat Rock," the place where Hall County's losing politicians are said to go to bemoan their losses.

"It's one of those things that does bind generations together," said Deal. His children attended Wauka Mountain Elementary School and now his oldest grandchild goes to the school.

"When we first came here, it was the Brookton Chicken Pie Supper, then Clermont and Brookton (schools) combined into Wauka Mountain (Elementary) and it was renamed. It's one that people from all over the state look forward to," he said.

Dwight Wood, clerk of State and Superior Courts for Hall County, hasn't missed the supper since he first ran for office in 1984. "I've always heard it was real important and that's why I've always tried to be here," Wood said. "Plus, it's a great meal."

Wood, who is up for re-election this year, quietly mingled with the crowd and spoke with friends.

State Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, said he began coming to the event as a boy and understood early the political importance of the event. "If you're in politics in Hall County and you don't make it to the chicken pie supper, you probably don't understand politics here. This is where it starts," Collins said.

Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic, who is seeking a third term this year, shook hands and patted backs of those in attendance. "This is an annual event I enjoy," Cronic said. "It is a wonderful political event and the chicken pie is excellent."

Cronic, tongue-in-cheek, said he couldn't remember a successful Hall County politician who missed a chicken pie supper. "Even those who didn't win came away with a great meal," he added.

Former State Sen. Carol Jackson, D-Cleveland, said she was informed of the political implications of the supper when her district was expanded to include portions of Hall County. "If I did nothing else, I had to come to the chicken pie supper," Jackson said. "But it was so good that I just kept on coming."

Jackson, who is not running for office this year, renewed her acquaintance with friends as she dined Saturday evening.

Hall County Commissioner Deborah Mack came to the event, which is outside of her commission district. "Everybody that is somebody is up here," Mack said. "Living in Gainesville, I never took an interest in this until I was invited to come and I've been back ever since."

In years past, the event has drawn candidates for regional and statewide office, as well as a complete field of local candidates. Those in attendance on Saturday ranged from members of the board of education to superior court judges.



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