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From mountains to mayhaws, Georgia has it all

POSTED: March 23, 2014 1:00 a.m.

It amazes me sometimes how little people know about our state.

I hear folks talk about going to McDonough and think they are going to South Georgia. In my way of looking at it, anything below the Stuckey’s in Unadilla is South Georgia. Anything between McDonough and Unadilla is Middle Georgia and anything north of McDonough is North Georgia.

This is a big state; in fact, it is the biggest east of the Mississippi. From Rossville to Lake Park is 350 miles. Compare that with the distance between Washington, D.C., and New York City, about 225 miles.

We have 159 counties, 536 towns or cities and cover 59,425 square miles.

In the past few years, I completed my quest to have touched the ground in all 159 counties. Quite frankly, in a few of them, I opened the car door, stood up and sat right back down, but I have done it.

The geographic center of Georgia is just off Interstate 16 in Twiggs County. A sign once marked the spot, but folks kept stealing it. In somebody’s basement is a stolen sign that reads “Geographic Center of Georgia.”

During this time of year, all kinds of festivals pay homage to some unique crops, such as the Vidalia onion and the mayhaw.

Several of you just raised your hands to pose the question, “What is a mayhaw?”

A mayhaw is the fruit produced by the Crataegus series Aestivales, which grows in wetlands. It produces a little fruit in April and May, thus the name may-haw.

The National Mayhaw Festival is in Colquitt each April. It’s a big deal. My friend, Buddy Johnson, helps put on a singing show called May-Haw. They also have Mayhaw festivals in Texas, Arkansas and two towns in Louisiana.

In Vidalia, they pay homage to the sweet onion each April. You may not have heard of the mayhaw, but you’ve been hiding under a rock if you don’t know the Vidalia onion, the official vegetable of Georgia.

They have all kinds of activities, including cooking and eating contests. The eating contest involves the consumption of raw Vidalia onions.

In Darien, down on the coast, they bless the shrimp boats as the season begins. A priest stands at the top of a bridge and asks God to bless the boats as they head out to catch the first shrimp of the year.

Down the coast in Woodbine, they pay homage to the crawfish in April.

If you just want to go somewhere and see unusual stuff, go to Americus and stay at the Windsor Hotel. Some ghost-chasing outfit has certified it as haunted after a housekeeper and her daughter fell down the elevator shaft more than 100 years ago. Supposedly, the daughter walks the halls at night and laughs. I stayed there recently and nobody bothered me, but it makes for a good story.

On your way down, get off of I-75 and take Ga. 26 toward Montezuma and eat lunch or dinner at Yoder’s, a cafeteria-style restaurant owned and operated by Mennonites. They have some of the best food I’ve ever eaten.

There are great places throughout our state and I challenge you to make this the year you visit Georgia and drink in the ambiance our state has to offer.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.


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