Indian Summer Festival

Indian Summer Festival

During the first full weekend of October, the Indian Summer Festival takes place in Suches, North Georgia, just 30 minutes from Blairsville. The festival is held at Woody Gap School – Georgia’s smallest public school. Over the weekend, attendees can enjoy all the family fun that the festival has to offer. Events include a 10k and 5k run, car show, crafts, music and dance performances, and other family activities.

Some notable events include the Run Above the Clouds 10k and 5k run on Saturday. Racers will run a challenging, but scenic, trail through the North Georgia mountains. There’s also a 1-mile fun run over a mostly flat course. There is also a Country Square Dance with a live band on Saturday evening starting at 8pm. Tickets for the dance are $6 in advance or $8 at the door. Proceeds from the runs and dance will benefit the Woody Gap School and help provide educational resources. The elementary students also participate in the arts festival with performances.

The fun continues with the crowning of the King and Queen, clogging performances, an auction, and performances of North Georgia mountain music. Also, Mountain Rangers will give a thrilling demonstration of hand-to-hand combat, as well an an archery demonstration. In between performances, be sure to take time to browse the wonderful vendor booths set up on the grounds. There you can view and purchase handcrafted pottery, leather crafts, folk art, jewelry and more. Admission for the Indian Summer Festival is $4 for adults, $2 for students, and free for kids under six. Parking is free.

Don’t miss this weekend of family fun in Suches!

Location & Contact:
Woody Gap School
3736 GA Hwy 60
Suches, GA 30572
706-747-2401

Photo courtesy of Ilke Lander

Paradise Hills Resort & Spa Offers a Unique North Georgia Vacation

Paradise Hills Resort and Spa offers its guests a relaxing North Georgia vacation. Conveniently located in Blairsville, a two hour drive is all it takes to escape the crowds, noise, and stress of Atlanta. This North Georgia resort offers cabin rentals and a variety of activities. Ready for adventure? Enjoy the scenic hiking trails, waterfalls, and lakes in the surrounding Chattahoochee National Forest. Want to take it easy? Kick back and relax with massages at the resort spa and wine tasting at the farm winery, all located at the secluded mountain resort. We talked to Ilke Lander who hosts the resort along with her husband Robert, about what makes Paradise Hills special.

Paradise Hills was created in 1988 by a local man who brought in a portable saw mill, milled the lumber onsite and hand built the first 4 cabins. Since the beginning, there have been 3 owners – including the founder and current owners Robert and Ilke Lander. The Landers took over in 2002 and at the time, had only cabin rentals to offer. They offered the original cabins plus 4 more, totaling 8 cabins.

“My husband and I ran the entire place by ourselves, from check-in, to cleaning, to maintenance to business administration,” said Ilke Lander. “Today, we have 10 part time/full time employees but we still are very involved in the day to day operations. Bob is our winemaker and vineyard manager and I oversee all aspects of the combined businesses as the general manager.”

The resort is known for it’s world-class service, proven by the many awards won for their services. Paradise Hills is unique among other cabin rentals in North Georgia as a European style spa and farm winery with a wine tasting bar are all on one property. “As far as I know, we are the only resort in the state that offers this combination of services,” said Lander. “More importantly, we pride ourselves in the highest quality of customer service.”

When asked about what she has learned from her experience in opening and managing a business with her husband, Lander discusses how it’s important to approach every new circumstance with flexibility. “We have learned to be patient with business growth but continue to move forward and stay progressive,” said Lander. “We have learned to evolve as the world evolves, as our guest requests/needs evolve, and as our business model evolves.” Paradise Hills, added the Lodge and spa in 2006, and in 2012 the farm winery and vineyards were added.

The Lander family first came to Blairsville as tourists. We loved the quaintness of the small town, the beautiful landscaping of the mountains and the idea of a safe, family oriented community to begin a family in,” said Lander.

Blairsville has welcomed Paradise Hills, and has provided numerous opportunities for the Landers over the years. Bob and Ilke Lander participate in the community’s development as members in civic organizations. They were also board members for the local chamber of commerce.

“Blairsville offers a great deal of support for business owners starting out; there are many resources for business owners,” said Lander. “We have been fortunate to be supported by our local representatives as well, with the addition of our farm winery – a first in our county.”

sorghum2

Fall, Festivals, and Fun!

The Autumnal Equinox, signifying the first day of fall, is this month on September 22 to be exact. The summer has just flown by and now Blairsville-Union County is gearing up for fresh autumn days, falling leaves, and FESTIVALS!

Here’s a quick rundown of upcoming events: The Mountain Regional Arts & Crafts Guild will host their annual  on Saturday & Sunday, September 17th & 18th from 9am-5pm on Saturday and 1pm-4pm on Sunday at North Georgia Technical College, Blairsville Campus. The Indian Summer Festival brings The Valley Above the Clouds alive in Suches. Arts, crafts, music and more await you on the first weekend in October, Saturday & Sunday, October 1st & 2nd from 9am-5pm. Georgia’s most beloved state park, Vogel State Park, will host the Fall Hoedown on October 15th from 12pm-7pm.

The 47th annual Sorghum Festival will be held in Blairsville at Meeks Park for two continuous weekends: October 8-9 and October 15-16 from 9am-5pm. Experience one of the most unique traditions in North Georgia – cookin’ sorghum syrup. Live demonstrations on how sorghum syrup was made years ago is the highlight of the festival, but you can also see how an old still makes White Lightening (moonshine). This popular festival will also showcase local arts and crafts, delicious treats and other assorted food vendors, a kids’ area, live music, and of course sorghum syrup.  All weekend you can enter a Biskit’ Eating contest and sop up as many sorghum drenched biscuits as possible. You can also participate in Pole Climbin’, Rock Throwin’, Horseshoe Pitchin’, and Log Sawin’.

Your family can’t ask for a more economical, fun weekend event. Sorghum Festival admission is $4 per person and kids under 12 are FREE. Free parking and shuttles will be available both weekends. Saturday, October 8th the Sorghum Festival Parade will roll through town at 11am with this year’s theme as “Bring Out the Kids…”. You may also choose to finish up your Saturday evenings (Oct. 8th & 15th) with traditional square dancing, an Appalachian tradition, at 8pm in the old middle school gym. Don’t worry, we’ll give you directions! Finally, for all you car lovers the Good Neighbors Car Show will be held on Saturday, October 15th from 8am¬4pm at United Community Bank. Enjoy more than 200 collector and antique cars.

For more information on all these great events, future upcoming events, dining, shopping, and lodging call the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce at 706-745-5789, email tourism@blairsvillechamber.com, or go online to www.VisitBlairsvilleGA.com.

Photo courtesy of Scott Michael Anna

Ch ch ch changes…

The seasons change, the years change, the days change, and time changes. With the summer drawing to a close, we can look forward to the crisp autumn and its beautiful colors. And as Blairsville-Union County grows and changes there are many new and exciting things ahead. New restaurants are opening, new retail stores are coming and new tourism assets are being developed.

Listed below are many activities perfect for getting back outside with your friends and family this fall.

Lake Nottely Bike & Hike Trail
The Tennessee Valley Authority in conjunction with Union County have created a mountain biking and hiking trail along the banks of Lake Nottely. As the path develops, picnic spots will be created along with varied levels of difficulty on the 1- 1.5 mile bike/hike loops. The access point, if you are heading west, is just past Nottely Dam on the left.

Festival-ville
The new season brings a new crop of festivals and events to experience and enjoy. At this fall’s Mountain Heritage and Sorghum Festivals, you can find yourself fully immersed in arts, crafts, heritage, and music. These are only a few select highlights; there are many more great festivals and events to choose from. A complete listing is available under the Event Calendar on www.VisitBlairsvilleGa.com or you can pick up a hard copy in the Welcome Center.

History Trail
The Union County History Trail is a newly developed trail that highlights seventeen of Union County’s oldest landmarks and businesses for you to explore. Whether you are interested in tracing your roots at the Historic Courthouse or sampling some of the deliciousness at Logan Turnpike Mill, the History Trail meanders through Union County with historic and educational locations along the way.

Outdoor wonders
We are fortunate to have the Appalachian Trail and a variety of hiking trails branching off from the AT right in our back yard. Before you know it, the lakes will be back to full pool offering all of your favorite watersports like boating, paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and swimming. Pack a picnic lunch and choose a new hike that you haven’t explored yet.

A full hiking trail guide and fishing guides are available for download on www.VisitBlairsvilleGa.com or you can pick up a hard copy in the Welcome Center. Another great tool is to download the FREE North Georgia Waterfall app for IOS and Android. The app will let you search both waterfalls and points of interests in 9 North Georgia Mountain Communities including Blairsville-Union County.

North Georgia Farm Trail
This jewel of a trail allows visitors and residents to enjoy the agricultural aspects of not only Union County but also of our friends along the Georgia Mountain Parkway in Jasper, Ellijay, Blue Ridge, Hiawassee, and of course beautiful Blairsville. From farm to table restaurants, farmers markets, u-pick vineyards, alpaca farms and more, the North Georgia Farm Trail has stops for everyone to enjoy. You can pick up your copy of the North Georgia Farm Trail in any of the Welcome Centers along Highway 76 or flip through the digital guide at www.gafarmtrail.com.

Playtime
Blairsville-Union County has a new playground including swings at Meeks Park for the youngsters to enjoy along with a new splash pad for the toddlers to play in by the community swimming pool. Poteete Creek Campground has a new playground for the young campers or daytime swimmers to frolic on. Very soon Union County will have our very own shooting range for the rifle team and BB gun teams along with the general public to target practice in a safe and controlled environment.

One thing that never changes is the beauty of this humble town. As a mecca for outdoor lovers, a sanctuary for retirees, a strong business environment for established and up and coming businesses, and the most ideal place to raise a family; Blairsville-Union County has it all. Believe It.

For more ideas on activities and events or detailed local area information including dining, lodging, and shopping information, please stop by The Welcome Center located in the Union County Community Center at 129 Union County Recreation Road, call 706-745-5789, email tourism@blairsvillechamber.com, or visit us online at www.VisitBlairsvilleGa.com.

 

Mtn Heritage

Mountain Heritage Festival

The Mountain Heritage Festival brings together both natural and cultural heritage in the beautiful town of Blairsville, Georgia. Natural heritage is depicted through resources like the mountain laurel growing through the woods, farmers sowing their land, and the variety of animals that thrive in the beautiful mountain landscape. The cultural roots run deep through Union County and are showcased through music, quilting, and the native’s way of life.

The Union County Historical Society is the number one resource to preserving the rich cultural heritage of Blairsville-Union County. Ran solely through the dedication of volunteers and funded only by donations, their four museums – the Historical Courthouse, the Mock-Butt House, the Payne Cabin, and the Haralson/Carr Law Office contain documentations, artifacts, and tons of genealogy. You can learn more about the Union County Historical Society by visiting their website at www.UnionCountyHistory.org or by visiting in person Monday through Friday from 10am-4pm and Saturdays from 11am-3pm.

On Labor Day weekend, a great mountain arts and crafts festival that showcases living history activities and demonstrations for the young and the young at heart alike will take place in the Mountain Life Museum, located just one block south of the Blairsville Square. On both Saturday, September 3rd and Sunday, September 4th from 9am to 5pm you can enjoy many different musical performances both on stage at the Mock House and at the Historic Courthouse, the children can pet farm animals and participate in gold panning activities, and everyone can enjoy some of the best mountain food while you shop for handcrafted treasures.

For local area information including dining, lodging, and upcoming event information please stop by The Welcome Center located in the Union County Community Center at 129 Union County Recreation Road, call 706-745-5789, or visit us online at www.VisitBlairsvilleGa.com.

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Union General Hospital

Union General Hospital is located in Blairsville, Georgia. This rural hospital may be small, but it offers a broad range of high quality services. Since 1959, Union General has been providing healthcare services to the residents in and around Blairsville. It has a state-of-the-art 45-bed facility, and all of the rooms are private. Additionally, the Blairsville health system includes Chatuge Regional Hospital, a 25-bed critical access hospital, two nursing homes, and several outlying medical clinics. The hospital prides itself on its family of warm professionals who strive for the best possible experiences for all patients and visitors.

While Union General is a considered a medium-sized hospital, it still faces the same organizational and management challenges of other health systems around the country. To promote better communication and continue efficiently delivering services, Union General developed and implemented a business intelligence strategy.

Through a partnership with Sisense, a business intelligence software vendor, a data analytics technology platform was developed that facilitates greater communication between clinicians and case managers. This new system enables the rural hospital to more efficiently report data and improves the overall workflow. The single dashboard system allows users to see more information on a patient in just one place.

Union General received praise from Georgia Trend Magazine last year in its hospital review. Union General Hospital was named a top medium-sized hospital out of 35 other hospitals. The ranking was determined by data based from the U.S. Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The CMS tracks 40 quality-related indicators that measure the quality of healthcare services. Union General shared the 7th placed position with two other hospitals.

Photo Courtesy of Scott Michael Anna

Best Camping Sites in Northeast Georgia

You don’t need to look far to find the perfect place to set up camp in Northeast Georgia. From small campgrounds to state parks, the Blairsville-Union County area has plenty to offer for every camping adventure. Read more to discover four of the best camping sites in Northeast Georgia.

Trackrock Campground & Cabins
Located between Blairsville and Hiawassee, Trackrock is 300 acres of meadows, hayfields and woodlands. This campground is great for families, with lots of amenities and natural beauty. Nearby is a pond where visitors can swim and fish. For kids, there are two playgrounds as well as hiking trails the whole family can enjoy. The Chattahoochee National Forests surround the campground on three sides, keeping the campsites secluded from the city hustle and bustle. Trackrock campground offers camping for everyone: RVs, tents, and pop ups are all welcome. One and two bedroom cabins are available for those who prefer not to camp.

Vogel State Park
Vogel State Park is one of Georgia’s oldest and most beloved state parks. It is located at the base of Blood Mountain, a part of the Chattahoochee National Forest. During the fall, Vogel is transformed by the red, yellow, and gold leaves. There are many options for camping and cottages are available for rental. There are 85 campsites you can drive up to and 18 walk-in campsites for tents only. What makes this campground special is its location to other parks and hiking trails. Brasstown Bald is nearby, as are many popular trails such as the 4-mile Bear Hair Gap loop, an easy lake loop that leads to Trahlyta Falls, and the challenging 13-mile Coosa Backcountry Trail.

Lake Winfield Scott
This recreation area overlooks the beautiful Lake Winfield Scott located in Blairsville, Georgia. Here visitors can picnic, boat, fish, and hike. There are two camping loops with 36 campsites that can be claimed on a first come, first served basis. Nearby are popular hiking trails including the Lake Winfield Scott Trail, the Jarrard Gap trail, the Slaughter Creek Trail, and the Appalachian Trail.

Cooper Creek Campground
Cooper Creek Campground is located in Suches, Georgia in the North Georgia mountains. Fifteen campsites are laid out across the forest, with five of those sites nestled on the banks of the Cooper/Mulky Creek. Both creeks are trout streams with wild and stocked trout. Each campsite has a tent pad, grills, lantern pole, and a picnic table. Nearby there are five interconnected trails with plenty of tree coverage to keep the paths cool, even during the summer.

Photo Courtesy of Scott Michael Anna

Spotlight on Union County Schools

Union County Schools serve more than 2,700 students in the Blairsville and Suches area. Fueled by the vision of “Cultivating the Leaders of Tomorrow,” this school system is working hard to identify and meet the needs of every student. Recognized as a part of Georgia’s Charter School Systems, Union County Schools are able to provide academic, artistic, athletic, and a number of community opportunities.

The county public school system operates five schools in total. Those buildings are some of the most up-to-date in the area. The faculty and staff are consistently held in high regard. In fact, about 70 percent of the top professional staff hold advanced degrees. That level of excellence is also exemplified by Union County’s students. At Union County High School, students have the opportunity to take AP courses and participation is currently at 20 percent. The school’s graduation rate is very high at 91 percent.

Union County Schools are consistently ranked as a top rural school system. Both high schools have received awards by the U.S. News and World Report. Woody Gap High School was named a top high school in the country and Union County High School was  ranked as one of the best high schools nationwide – the ranking was based on the school’s performance on state-required tests and how well they prepare students for college. UCHS also received the Bronze award and the Gold Award from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement.

In addition, the Mountain Education Charter High School is an accredited public school that offers afternoon and evening classes, perfect for part-time students. Students work at their own pace and are allowed as much time needed to master the subjects.

The high standards, ample opportunities in academia and beyond, and compelling learning environments make Union County’s schools the perfect launchpad for our children’s future!

Family on Boat

Let’s go to the Park!

Summer is the perfect time for family fun! If you are looking for things to do with your crew, we’ve got plenty of options for getting outside and enjoying the fresh air! Blairsville has many parks in the area that are perfect for outdoor fun. From hiking trails and lakes, to picnic areas and campgrounds, these Blairsville-area parks are perfect for your family’s next outdoor adventure.

Vogel State Park
Spend a day exploring all that Vogel State Park has to offer, or stay overnight at a camp site. There are activities for all ages. Seventeen miles of trails of varying difficulty are available for hiking, including the Appalachian Trail. Lake Trahlyta is at the center of the park and is formed from Wolf Creek. Surrounding the lake is an easy 1 mile trail, providing access to fishing docks and the boathouse. A side trail will take hikers to Trahlyta Falls, also known as Spillway Falls, a beautiful tiered waterfall. Reservations are recommended for camping. The park is at an elevation of 2,500 feet, making it a perfect place to cool off during the hot summer days.

Poteete Creek Park and Campground
Another option for camping and outdoor fun is Poteete Creek Park and Campground. This park has 59 campground sites and is just 13 miles north of Blairsville. The park is situated right next to Lake Nottely, providing a beautiful backdrop to your outdoor adventures. Campgrounds vary in size, and both camper and tent sites are available. Fire rings, dump stations, power and water are available at most sites. The recreation area has a boat ramp, picnic tables, swimming beach, pavilion, fishing. Reservations are recommended for both camping and beach pavilion rental.

Meeks Park
Described often as one of the most beautiful parks in North Georgia, Meeks Park is the perfect place for some family fun. The park features open meadows, shady areas, and playing fields for sporting activities. The athletic facilities include seven ball fields, four batting cages, a basketball court, tennis courts, swimming pool, disc golf course, and much more. Be sure to spend some time walking along the nature trails that lead to a tree-lined walkway near the banks of the Nottely River. Along these trails are sculptures by local artist and resident Al Garnto. Though not allowed in Meeks Park, dog are welcome to enjoy The Dog Park across the street from Meeks Park.

track rock gap

Track Rock Gap

Looking for a road trip or hike with an added layer of adventure? Head to the Track Rock Gap Archeological site.

The site is located south of Blairsville and is the only set of petroglyphs in north Georgia. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the rock carvings were made 1,000 years ago by Creek and Cherokee people. Although, the discovery of Woodland Indian sites nearby indicates that this group could also possibly be responsible for the petroglyphs.

The carvings can be found on six pieces of soapstone that are near the road in Track Rock Gap. Today, they are covered by metal cages in an effort to protect the stones from vandals. The carvings on the stones include animal tracks, feet, human-like stick figures and grid-like drawings that may be depicting village maps.

To get to the site during your road trip, you can take the Georgia Mountain Parkway 5 miles east of Blairsville, then turn right on Track Rock Gap Road. Follow it for a little more than 2 miles and the rocks will be on the right. Parking is available near the site.

Alternatively, the Arkaquah Trail is an 11 mile hike that will also take you to the rocks. Starting from Brasstown Bald, the trail takes you across a ridge for breathtaking views of North Georgia and ends at the Track Rock Gap site.