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Johnny Vardeman: Whatever happened to plans to build Interstate 30?
Johnny Vardeman

Five states lobbied in the 1960s to build a new interstate highway between Memphis, Tenn., and Columbia, S.C. Interstate 30 would have connected with other interstates. It would  run through Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

Gainesville got involved because the proposed route would cut between Buford and Buford Dam. However, it would be 18 miles from Gainesville. Lake Lanier got in the way of it being closer.

The five states formed sort of a compact with Roger Brown of Gainesville representing the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

In Georgia, the route would have gone through or near Rome, Cumming, Athens and Elberton. After starting out in Memphis, I-30 was proposed to run by Florence and Huntsville in Alabama. It would have connected I-40 and I-59 to I-20.

However, the project never got off the ground. In 1966, the group talked about construction eight or 10 years away, but a half century later, nothing is heard about a new east-west interstate. Other projects and priorities apparently shelved the idea, perhaps permanently.

 I-30’s fate apparently was similar to another proposed Interstate, which would have run from Savannah into Tennessee. Stiff opposition, however, rerouted that plan, especially because  it would have to run its route over the Northeast Georgia mountains.

Mention of the former auction barn at the old Northeast Georgia Fairgrounds off Shallowford Road revives memories of the weekly cattle auctions there. It was a place where farmers from all over the state, but mostly this area, could sell their livestock or perhaps buy something they needed.

It was just as much a social occasion as it was an auction. Farmers and would-be farmers would sit in bleachers, many of them with a chaw of tobacco in their cheek, watch the proceedings or bid on something they desired. The auctioneer would rattle off the bids in his or her distinct staccato language as cattle moved to the front of the barn.

You could get a country-cooked meal there, and often people with little or no interest in the auction would show up for the vittles. Conversation and horse-trading continued outside the barn, and politicians found it a fertile ground for prospective votes.

The property was owned by the Northeast Georgia Fair Association. An annual fair was held on the same property, much of which is now a shopping center.

Gainesville Jaycees operated the fair from 1955 to 1981. It moved to fairgrounds at Blackshear Place after 1981, but attendance dwindled, and the fair went out of business. One of the main reasons was they couldn’t get a carnival operator to guarantee a certain amount of their proceeds. A circus for a time replaced the fair.

In its heyday, the fair was a money-maker for the Jaycees, which poured its proceeds into various community projects. Scores of Jaycee members would take up tickets, park cars or monitor the various shows and games, including the controversial “hoochee-koochee” tent.

Most members would “volunteer” to sit on the Dunk-a-Jaycee booth, a chilling experience on a cold night.

Some things you might not have known about Georgia’s governor, Nathan Deal of Hall County: At age 11, he won first place at the Washington County, fair for his Durock gilt (hog). He also was the county’s Young Farmer of the Year and won numerous Future Farmers of America awards. He became adept at public speaking during his high school days, when he also played basketball and sang in the glee club.

Gov. Deal was Hall County Juvenile Court judge when he won the Hall County Young Man of the Year Award. Sen. Herman Talmadge was the speaker the night he won.

Another Hall County Young Man of the Year who was juvenile court judge when he received the award in 1981 was Judge Rick Story. He, too, came from a small town, Harlem.

Judge Story now is federal judge for the Northern District of Georgia.

Johnny Vardeman is retired editor of The Times. He can be reached at 2183 Pine Tree Circle N.E., Gainesville, Ga. 30501; phone 770-532-2326; e-mail

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