Lula held its inaugural fall festival Saturday, hosted by the Lula-Belton Historical Society, even as rain clouds threatened the cloudy blue skies.
Once the central junction of the railway connecting station between Atlanta and Athens, and now beyond, trains and the railroads are what build the town in east Hall County.
“This is the first one since the railroad days, which were held every September. If it’s successful hopefully they’ll get to continue every year,” said Valerie Williams, a member of the Lula-Belton Historical Society and part of the team working inside the Train Depot selling food and drinks to festivalgoers. “The whole point is to help preserve all the historical landmarks around town.”
Williams was not the only one excited about the main attraction of the festival: a 4-foot by 16-foot canvas made of wood painted by everyone who dared to pick up a brush and donate a little time. The materials were donated by Home Depot, Williams said.
Parents and children were encouraged to take part in painting the mural. While the final location of the mural is yet to be determined, the complete masterpiece includes images of downtown as well as a train.
Mark Lusink spent the day manning the mural exhibit just outside the Train Depot itself.
“Lots of people have been a part of completing the mural,” he said. “All the money we raise helps with the refurbishment of the town. If you look around we have new sidewalks, new street lights, a median and new Christmas decorations. A lot is happening to better the community.”
As a train roared through the middle of downtown, just feet from the activities of the festival, no one seemed the least bit fazed. According to Lusink, some 80 trains pass through the town on a daily basis, including at least two Amtrak passenger trains, making it an important railroad junction even today.
“Once trains pass through here, they go up the entire way to Mount Airy and then it’s all downhill to New York,” said Lusink.
Norm Harrop, the president of the Lula-Belton Historical Society, spent the day walking around the festival to keep up the joyful atmosphere and to make sure everything ran smoothly.
In addition to the town mural, artist Larry Ledford was hard at work creating a 12-foot by 8-foot painting of a large black train that is going to be donated and displayed downtown.
Various artists preformed throughout the day and 41 booths were set up around the depot, all housing a range of vendors selling everything from art to snow cones to homemade soaps.
Jason Smith, known as “the crafty cowboy,” was one of the many artists stationed around the depot.
“It’s going great for a smalltown festival,” said Smith.
Smith is a disabled combat vet who just started painting in the last two years.
“I use as much recycled material as I can,” said Smith. He pointed out several pieces he had salvaged, burlap from Jittery Joe’s in Athens, and the seat of a chair that he had turned into a painting.