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Bluegrass, food bring folks together

POSTED: July 20, 2013 11:57 p.m.

Despite a heavy late afternoon shower Saturday, the grassy expanse alongside the historic train depot in Flowery Branch was filled with families and the air with the music of bluegrass.

Fiddlin’ at the Tracks, sponsored by the Flowery Branch police department, attracted people from throughout the area. Families gathered to listen to music, roast marshmallows and enjoy hot dogs grilled by department members and their families, all for free.

By the time the band went on at 6 p.m., the rain was gone and temperature was right for a crowd seated together in groups enjoying the family-friendly atmosphere.

Award-winning blue grass band Nation & Blackwell performed. Two of the band’s members, Chuck and Susan Nation, are Hall County residents. Chuck is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Flowery Branch; Susan is a teacher at McEver Arts Academy.

Flowery Branch resident Jo Baughman, who brought her adult son and later joined friends for the concert, attends First Baptist and said she looked forward to hearing the band.

“They are so talented,” she said.

Two couples traveled together to check out the concert that the police department and city officials hope to make a regular occurrence.

“We came from Gainesville,” said Margaret Corbin. “We wanted to hear some bluegrass."

Craig and Dawn Jabloner stood to listen as their son, along with many children, felt free to wander the grounds and toss a football or roast an oversized marshmallow handed to them by Officer Paul DeLeon. Mayor Mike Miller, City Council members and city staff mingled and talked as the band played a number of pieces.

For families with little ones, there were bags containing safety materials. The police department also distributed trigger locks for parents who keep firearms in their homes.

The Hall County Sheriff’s Office and Gainesville Fire Department brought vehicles to allow children to get up close and personal to the first-responders’ tools of the trade.

The family-oriented event was the brain child of the Flowery Branch Police Department to allow citizens to get to know a different side of their police department, said Police Chief David Spillers, “and to develop a sense that they can come to their police department for what I refer to as quality of life issues,” he said.

“Too often, police-citizen encounters are negative or at least oppositional,” Spillers said. “Other times, police-citizens contacts are during the course of an emergency or the report of a crime.

“Law enforcement agencies often do more than that, as they should. As much as possible, law enforcement officers should try to develop positive relationships with the citizens they are hired to serve and protect.”

The department has made this type of engagement a high-priority. Called community policing, Spillers explained why he believes that this type of relationship-building is so important.

Spillers said that the department chose a concert as their event of choice because a significant number of local citizens had indicated how much they enjoy bluegrass.

“Music and food are two things that most all people can come together on,” he said. “Flowery Branch is a beautiful small town that fights to keep a hometown atmosphere, and I hope this is in keeping with that spirit.”


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