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Clarkesville earns accolade as a friendly town
People walk Friday afternoon through the downtown Clarkesville square toward Natalie Jane’s Tavern. The restaurant is owned by Kitt McCarthy who moved to Clarkesville from California nearly three years ago. - photo by BRANDEE A. THOMAS

When Kitt McCarthy relocated to Clarkesville from California with her husband nearly three years ago, it wasn’t without reservations.

“I was worried about living in a small town, but I can honestly say I love it here,” said McCarthy, co-owner of Natalie Jane’s Tavern on the Square in Clarkesville.

“I’ve moved a lot, but I’ve never moved anywhere before where the people welcome you as a friend.”

McCarthy isn’t the only person who has noted how friendly a place the North Georgia community is, Blue Ridge Country Magazine recently selected Clarkesville as one of 16 Friendliest Towns.

The magazine’s staff selected the list’s occupants based on recommendations from residents and fans of each of the nominated communities.

Clarkesville was one of only two Georgia towns to make the list. The other one was Cartersville in Bartow County.

“Clarkesville is the kind of place that people are always waving,” said Mary Beth Horton, manager of the community’s Better Hometown program.

“Even if they don’t know you, they wave hello. It’s part of that gentle, hometown feeling that you can’t find in a big city.”

With less than 2,000 residents, Clarkesville qualifies as a small town, but it’s not without certain conveniences found in larger communities.

“It’s a small town, but it’s very open-minded and progressive,” McCarthy said.

“We’re also becoming known as the restaurant hub of Habersham County. We have people coming from all over to eat at our restaurants. There’s also a good selection of boutiques and community activities to get involved with.”

Community activities are one of the things that help to bring the town’s residents together and foster a friendly atmosphere, Horton says.

“When we plan events, we really try to incorporate everyone — families, couples, artists, individuals, everyone,” Horton said.

The community doesn’t just strive to make residents feel at home, it also tries to be inclusive of visitors.

At the Historic Mauldin House, which is also the town’s visitors’ center, travelers can pick up a copy of the Downtown Clarkesville Historic Walking Tour. Town officials have also pulled together a shopping and dining guide, as well as a suggested itinerary for a two-day visit.

The “48 Hours in Clarkesville” handout suggests places to visit that are all within a 15-minute drive of the town. From outdoor adventures at Tallulah Gorge to catching a show at the Historic Habersham Community Theatre, the itinerary has something that appeals to most visitors.

“Some of my relatives are from this area, so growing up, I spent a lot of weeks in the summer in Clarkesville,” said Jillian Burkes, who lives in Valdosta.

“It wasn’t until I came back as an adult, that I fully appreciated everything they had to offer. It’s a small town, but it’s growing in a good way. It still has that small-town charm, but there are lots of things to do here.

“The people are nice, there’s a good selection of restaurants and there’s a lot of history here, too.”

Although George Cooper, a transplant from Texas, is used to hot temperatures, it was a different kind of heat that he found endearing in the mountain community.

“Everyone here is so warm and inviting. You would think they never met a stranger in their life,” said Cooper, who has lived in Clarkesville for about three months.

“When someone asks how you’re doing, they’re honestly interested. There’s a genuine spirit here that you don’t find in a lot of places.”