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Snowbound residents emerge, savor the sun
Nearly a week after winter storm, Hall Countians return to normal activity
Richard Smith plays his guitar and sings in downtown Gainesville Saturday afternoon as he takes advantage of the day's mild weather.

Historic Downtown Gainesville is emerging from its cold, white blanket.

Though mounds of old snow resembling clumped salt and pepper remained along the curbs and sidewalks Saturday, in the square, the snow slowly relinquished the park to the sun and brown patches of grass started to reappear.

Sitting on one of the park benches, Richard Smith, 51, of Gainesville, strummed his guitar and sang a few gospel tunes.

"I figured today the sun was going to be out, " he said, "I knew my hands wouldn't freeze, so I thought I'd come out and play some songs."

After days of snow and ice, Smith, who is homeless, said he was glad to be out with his guitar again.

Crossing the square, Betsy Cruz, 17, and Eric Mason, 18, both of Gainesville, were ready to resocialize after being snowed-in for much of the week. It was Cruz's first venture out since the snow struck Sunday.

"First two days were fine," she said. "After that, I was ready to get out of the house."

Cruz and Mason headed toward Inman Perk to meet up with friends and play some Scrabble. Though the coffee shop was open most of the week, barista Jalisa Harris was stuck at her house in Flowery Branch and had to miss two of her shifts. Saturday was her first day back behind the bar, and she was glad to catch up with the regulars about their snowy week.

"(I'm) just ready to get back to work and see all our customers," she said.

A couple doors down at Aveda Salon and Spa, Quiana Grace Frost, 53, of Dahlonega, managed to slip into one of the salon's cancellations to get the haircut she's been waiting on for weeks. She doesn't spend much time in Gainesville, but with a new do and the nice sunshine, she said she would linger in town awhile.

"I'm just going to wander around a bit," she said, "take advantage of having just gotten out of my house."

A few blocks over, Atlanta Union Mission's Thrift Store was busy. Hangers squeaked as they slid along the metal bars holding rows of clothing assorted by color. Customers of all backgrounds meandered around store, which was open most of the week despite ice remaining on roads. Volunteers and associates had quite a time trying to clear the parking lot of snow and ice Wednesday.

"We had a little 2-foot shovel," assistant manager Christine Portuese said. "We had one customer who felt bad and started helping us."

The thrift store, which raises money for its rehabilitation house and homeless shelters through its used merchandise, received more donations than usual this week. Portuese credits this to the unexpected winter vacation.

"I think a lot of people had time at home to clean things out," she said.

There was a feeling of excitement among customers that day, Portuese said, energy that probably came from a buildup of cabin fever.

"That's pretty much all I hear," she said, "‘I had to get out of the house!'"

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