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Crowd jams into depot for Better Hometown anniversary celebration
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U.S. Rep Nathan Deal speaks Monday evening at the Flowery Branch Depot marking the 10th anniversary of the town’s Better Hometown Community designation. The event also recognized Historic Preservation Month and was sponsored by the Better Hometown & Historic Preservation Commission.

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Hear Dinah Wayne, director of Flowery Branch Better Hometown, talk about accomplishments over the organization’s 10-year history.

FLOWERY BRANCH — Flowery Branch’s Better Hometown program could have used a bigger train depot Monday night.

The group celebrated its 10th anniversary at the historic building off Main Street and Railroad Avenue, with a standing-room-only crowd gathered in the community room.

U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Gainesville, congratulated the group on its anniversary, saying it was important for it “to remember the heritage, the work you have done to preserve your local identity and to carry that identity forward into the future.”

Flowery Branch’s program falls under the Georgia Department of Community Affairs’ Office of Downtown Development, which also coordinates the Georgia Main Street program.

Over 10 years, “we have brought in many special events on Main Street, the depot has been rehabilitated and we now have a historic preservation commission,” the organization’s director, Dinah Wayne, said in an interview before the celebration.

The city also has completed the first phase of a two-phase “streetscape” program, downtown improvements including new lighting, sidewalks and parking.

“And we have received more (money) to extend (the effort) another couple of blocks,” Wayne said.

She said she believes Better Hometown has “revived the sense of feeling and sense of place for people in the community.”

“It’s a place where people can come and enjoy the Main Street, sit on the benches and drink coffee or eat ice cream. We can look to the central core of the city as the place that represents Flowery Branch and the past, but we are looking forward to the future.”

Monday night’s event, which drew many politicians and elected officials, was geared largely toward honoring Better Hometown volunteers.

“If you hadn’t donated your time, energy, money and positive thoughts and words to this community, we wouldn’t be here tonight,” Wayne told the audience.

Deal, who announced May 1 he was running for governor, said the growth taking place in the Flowery Branch area in the past 10 years is “in itself remarkable story.”

“You’re no longer just a small town in southern Hall. You are now on the world map,” he said, citing the Atlanta Falcons moving its headquarters to the city during that time.

Phil Niekro, former pitcher with the Atlanta Braves and a baseball Hall of Famer, handed out awards with his wife, Nancy, at the celebration.

He told the group that he and his wife have been in the city for more than 20 years.

“We love it,” Niekro said. “We’re not going any place.”

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