Category Archives: Blue Ridge Mountains

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Back to School 2017

The first day of school is approaching fast in Blairsville-Union County, which presents new challenges and opportunities for both families and businesses. While many parents welcome the return to a “normal” schedule and a consistent routine for their children, others lament the loss of a more open schedule that allows for fun trips and activities. For businesses, depending on the type of business, it can mean the beginning or the end of a busy season and – with the return of extra-curricular activities like sports and band – increasingly hectic schedules for both employers and employees. 

With all of this in mind, it’s important to remember to be patient with not only our kids, but also our colleagues and co-workers. Let’s cherish the time that we have with our families and make the most of opportunities to interact with our kids in between school and practices and lessons and all of the other things that go on during this busy season. There are also opportunities for some businesses to get creative with their customer base, like a back to school parent “pick-me-up” discount at coffee shops or “school night meal deals” for restaurants. There are lots of ways for your family and business to hit the ground running this school year!

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Local Wineries & Distilleries

For those who enjoy the occasional drink, the kind that’s a bit stronger than good ole’ sweet tea, there are a number of fantastic wineries and distilleries in the Blairsville-Union County area. Establishments like these are uniquely suited to thrive here, as our area was recently named an American Viticultural Area (AVA) – a distinction carried by regions like Napa Valley and Sonoma. Most of the vineyards frequently host fun events and live music, so there’s plenty to do while you visit. From whiskey with deep roots in the area’s history to luxury vineyards & resorts with European flare, there’s something to suit everyone’s tastes. Here are a few of the vineyards and distilleries close by:

Granddaddy Mimms Moonshine Distillery
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Odom Springs Vineyards
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Paradise Hills
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Hightower Creek
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Crane Creek
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Learn more about the wineries & distilleries in Blairsville-Union County here.

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Scottish Festival and Highland Games 2017

It’s June, which means that it’s time for the biggest festival of the year – the Blairsville Scottish Festival and Highland Games! We’ll be highlighting our area’s heritage with traditional games, Highland music and dancing, food with a Scottish flare, and much more! Visit workshops to learn how to play the bagpipes. Discover your “clan” and learn about the rich Scottish roots of the area. Watch animal demonstrations like border collies herding sheep and falcons swooping on their “prey”. Take your wee ones to get their faces painted or go on a train ride. There’s truly something for every member of the family.


The festival kicks off with a concert on Friday, June 9 and continues through Sunday, June 11, so clear your schedule and get over to Blairsville-Union County this weekend! Visit www.blairsvillescottishfestival.org or contact the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce for more details.

Photo courtesy of Jason Clemmons

Guest Blog: Jesica Clemmons of Sunrise Grocery

I grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta, but it always seemed as if my heart was born in the mountains. My mom and dad used to bring me to the mountains of North Georgia every chance they got; sometimes it was to hike & other times it was just to have a break from the chaos that always surrounded us. I found a comfort in that peace that we received when traveling for a weekend getaway. I loved it so much that when I turned sixteen and got my license, I would often come up to Blairsville for a hike and to see all the beautiful scenery rather than hang out in the city.

My love for these mountains and the town of Blairsville ended up building the path for me meeting my future husband. So, not only did I snag the perfect guy for me, but I also ended up living in what is for me, Heaven on earth. Not a bad deal, huh? These mountains and the town of Blairsville gave me the love of my life, an amazing job working at the oldest business in the county, and many great friends in my new hometown. Not to mention, I don’t have to drive up anymore for a weekend getaway. My weekends are now much more laid back and fun-filled.

Photo courtesy of Jason Clemmons

Photo courtesy of Jason Clemmons

Jason and I feel so lucky to live here. We live in a spot where most people come for vacation, and they come with good reason. We try to use every free moment we have to explore. Most evenings after we close Sunrise, we take a drive around our mountain town to take in the views. Rather than sit in traffic, we take in the fresh mountain air. We both always say it is better than sitting at home watching T.V.  We usually either drive up to Brasstown Bald and look for all the bears along the way or we drive up Richard Russell to watch the sky change into an array of colors from the setting sun.

Courtesy of Jason Clemmons

Courtesy of Jason Clemmons

Of course, the weekends are our favorite and are never dull. On Saturdays we are at the historic Sunrise Grocery all day. Luckily, Sunrise isn’t just a job for us, we absolutely love being there. We sell Jason’s photography, my mother in law’s knitting, my homemade soap, and lots of local goodies like jams, jellies, honey and t-shirts. So, it’s all fun things and fun people. We get to catch up with a lot of locals who come in to see us, and we also get to meet many new people from all over who are here visiting.  We strike up the fire for our boiled peanuts pretty early and from there it is usually pretty nonstop dipping up peanuts and chatting with our customers all day. It’s never a bad day at the office.

On Sundays we are able to take some time off and usually take full advantage of all this beautiful place has to offer. Sometimes we set out pretty early, as in four o’clock in the morning. Jason is a photographer and I am a nature lover so we will occasionally go somewhere to catch the sunrise. One of our favorite places is Brasstown Bald, which is the highest spot in Georgia. We’ll get up, make a BIG pot of coffee to throw in a thermos, and head out the door to hike up to the tower. A time or two we have been above the clouds and it is unbelievable! What beauty! We watch the clouds below us turn a golden orange before the sun peaks over them. One thing is for sure, we have never regretted getting up early to see a sunrise. As a matter of fact, it is a pretty amazing way to start the day.

Photo Courtesy of Jason Clemmons

Photo Courtesy of Jason Clemmons

We’re not always so ambitious when it comes to getting up early, but we definitely are both eager to get out of the house to go find some fun. Whether it is going to grab coffee at Cabin Coffee, popping into Sunrise to say hello, or head up to Mountain Crossings to check out their outdoor gear or walk a little of the Appalachian Trail, we make our rounds and then find something to do outside. A lot of times we’ll head to Helton Creek waterfall, especially if we have just had a good rain or if it snows. Other times we may go to Vogel State Park for a picnic or to walk around the lake. Vogel is both mine and Jason’s favorite state park in Georgia. You just can’t beat the view there with the lake and mountains as its backdrop. I got to say, it is a great place for a date. We went on one of our first dates there and we have the photo Jason took of the waterfall that day hanging in our room.

In the evening, we sometimes head to town to go out to eat at one of the restaurants. We have a lot of great places to eat in Blairsville so we usually just take turns going to different places. Other times we’ll go hike up to Wildcat to watch the sun go down. It is by far the absolute best place to catch a sunset that I’ve ever been to. It’s a pretty small hike, maybe about a mile, and the view is more than worth every step. It’s a great place to take a picnic or bottle of wine, sit out on the rock and toast to a stunning sunset.

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Cinco de Mayo – Mountain Style

Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican celebration to commemorate the Mexican Army‘s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. American’s mistakenly believe that it is Mexico’s Independence Day. We believe it is a great day to celebrate the Mexican-American culture and really, who doesn’t love a taco?

Blairsville-Union County offers you a variety of ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo regardless of the true meaning of the date:

  1.  Armadillo Grill: Tex Mex done right is what you’ll get when you come out to the ‘dillo for Cinco de Mayo. Sukoshi & Terry will be jamming some tunes for you on the patio while you enjoy Cinco de Lim-O Tacos for lunch or Enchilada Casserole for dinner. It may or may not be a rule that you have to try a Fresh Strawberry Margarita and/or a Fresh Mint Mojito to complete your celebration. For more information, please follow this link: https://www.facebook.com/armadillo.grill/
  2.  The View Grill: The name alone should make you want to come and dine at The View Grill featuring breathtaking views of Butternut Creek Golf Course. They have a fun day planned beginning with Mexican inspired lunch specials at 11am. From 5pm-8pm, enjoy a full Mexican buffet for only $10 including sweet tea. A full bar is available with margarita and pina colada specials, but you can’t leave without trying a Mountain Sangria featuring Grandaddy Mimms moonshine! You’ll even have a chance to win up to $500 in giveaways when you play their fun piñata games. For more information, please follow this link: https://www.facebook.com/The-View-Grill-at-Butternut-Creek-1654395681507288/
  3.  Tri State Business Women’s Cinco de Mayo: If you are looking for enthusiasm, you won’t find a better group to celebrate with than the Tri-State Business Women. Their first Cinco de Mayo event last year sold out, so they moved to a bigger venue – North Georgia Technical College. Amazing Grace Catering & Events will be serving up a terrific Mexican feast and live music will be playing for your entertainment. All proceeds from the event go to support local charities and scholarships. For more information, please follow this link: https://www.facebook.com/TriStateBusinessWomen/
  4. Monte Alban: The most authentic place in Union County to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Put on your sombrero and celebrate with food and drink specials and lots of giveaways! For more information, please follow this link: https://www.facebook.com/MonteAlbanMexicanRestaurantBlairsville/?hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf

If Cinco de Mayo celebrations don’t really appeal to you, we have a variety of other options to enjoy your Friday evening:

  1. Kilted Golf Classic: The Blairsville Scottish Festival & Highland Games hosts a golf tournament annually known as the Kilted Golf Classic. However, no kilts are required to play, they are simply encouraged. The event is held at the Old Union Golf Course beginning at 11am with a tee time of 1pm. Enjoy food and prizes and lunch from Chick-fil-A. For more information, please follow this link: http://blairsvillescottishfestival.com/golf-classic/
  2. Girls Night Out: Enjoy one stop shopping at The Hackney Warehouse. Grab your girl friends for a fun night out while supporting local vendors. The event begins at 5pm with yummy food and drinks available. Don’t forget that Mother’s Day is coming up so this is the perfect opportunity to find something for Mom! For more information, please follow this link: https://www.facebook.com/events/2064447500448802/
  3. Cruise In to the Farmers Market: The Blairsville Cruisers have big hearts and cool cars. Head over to the Union County Farmers Market from 4pm-7pm for music, food, trophies, door prizes, and of course some of the coolest rides in Northeast Georgia. For more information, please follow this link: http://blairsvillecruisers.com/
  4. Reservoir Dogs @ Copperhead Lodge: If you’re not really in the mood for mariachi then maybe some good ‘ol classic rock will get your toes tapping and your hands clapping. Not only does Copperhead Lodge feature a full restaurant and bar, but there is also lodging on site. For more information, please follow this link: http://www.thelodgeatcopperhead.com/index.cfm?content=1&Menu=1
  5. Old Courthouse Concert: It’s time for the summer concert season to begin in The Old Courthouse on the Square in Blairsville.  They have secured local resident and Hiawassee native, Alan Kendall for the first concert on Friday, May 5th, at 7:00 PM. Alan’s music is steeped in ministry, but he also performs a wide variety of musical styles from traditional and contemporary country to popular standards.  He easily presents a clean, family-oriented variety program for all ages. The summer concerts are presented by the Union County Historical Society as a public service and to keep alive the tradition of music in The Old Courthouse,  There is never an admission charge to the concerts.  Voluntary contributions to the maintenance fund are always welcomed and appreciated.

There is always something going on in the mountains from the peace and solitude of nature to events all around town. Keep up with the latest happenings by signing up for weekly events e-newsletters that will be delivered to your inbox every Monday morning by Clicking Here, or bookmark our event calendar and check back often: http://members.visitblairsvillega.com/events/calendar/2017-05-02

 

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3 Questions with Commissioner Lamar Paris

Commissioner Lamar Paris is a very visible figure in Blairsville-Union County as he has served as the Union County Commissioner for the last 16 years and counting. As someone born and raised in the area, Commissioner Paris has seen the County grow and develop over time and works to continually improve his hometown for the better. We caught up with Commissioner Paris to get his thoughts on where Blairsville-Union County has been and where he’d like to see it go in the future.

As the Union County Commissioner and a lifelong resident of Blairsville-Union County, you have seen a lot of change and development in the area over the years. How do you feel that this growth has affected Blairsville-Union County?
As a 9-year-old riding my bicycle to town every day, to gathering with friends in the summer on Wellborn Mountain, to hunting and playing all day, it was a wonderful place to be raised.  Unfortunately, almost everyone was poor because there were so few employment opportunities.  Many people had to leave for Michigan and other areas of the United States to find work.

So, while everyone may not agree, I feel the growth that has happened in our County has mostly been positive. There are more jobs now, a great hospital, a great school system, and exceptional recreation opportunities which would not have been possible if there had been no growth over the years. This allows more people to grow up here and then stay and raise their own families here also.  

Blairsville-Union County is a place that supports businesses that support the community. What would you recommend to current or prospective business owners in the area looking to get involved in the community?
I would recommend they join one of our exceptional community service organizations and participate from a business perspective. By doing this, business owners can meet others who can assist with their business or with simply getting to know our community. We are a very newcomer friendly community and welcome new residents and businesses. In addition to joining a civic organization newcomers can join Butternut Creek Golf Course, boat and fish on Lake Nottely, or simply enjoy the many miles of trails to better understand our community and its citizens.

What would you like to see happen in Blairsville-Union County in the next 5-10 years?
I would like to see Blairsville and Union County continue on the path we are currently following. If a community is not growing, it is usually dying, so progress is part of a vibrant community. Naturally, we hope growth is steady so that it does not overwhelm our infrastructure, but continuing to provide jobs and better employment opportunities should always be part of the focus. At the same time, we do not want to destroy what makes people want to move to Union County and the City of Blairsville. We are blessed with over 50% of our land being owned by the National Forest or TVA which is a real advantage in helping maintain a rural atmosphere as we continue to grow.

 

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The State of Tourism in Blairsville-Union County: Part 2

In 2016, the Tourism Division of the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce began the implementation of the Community Rebranding project. A well-rounded and detailed plan was designed and ready for execution. There are many parts and pieces that go into re-branding a community. Internally, all of our literature and collateral needed to be updated. Some of these include name tags, business cards, signature tags and promotional pieces like t-shirts, hats, and pens. We also updated the Visitor’s Guide and postcards that are sent out to all of the Welcome Centers around the state, other Chambers, and to leads that we receive from advertising.

Externally, there was a mandatory refresh of our website. From color scheme to layout and verbiage, an overhaul was completed in early May. Filming began for seven videos highlighting three of our local entrepreneur success stories: Sunrise Grocery, Paradise Hills, and Lamin-X, three highlighting our community’s assets: Mountains, Lakes, Families, and one commercial. We increased our presence in printed publications with messages geared towards enjoying our natural resources like Helton Creek Falls, Vogel State Park, the Appalachian Trail, Lake Nottely, etc. We proudly shared information about our many festivals and the fine dining, shopping and lodging establishments located within Union County.

We had a few “firsts” in 2016. Blairsville-Union County ventured into outdoor marketing with our first ever billboards. We also debuted our first TV commercial through Comcast in the Roswell and Cherokee markets which was aired more than 4,400 times over 22 networks including Fox news, Bravo, ESPN, HGTV, CNBC, CNN and more. Also new was the opportunity to host the Cabella’s crew at they spent three weeks here doing a photo shoot for the 2016 fall catalogue. Not only did they contribute to our economy by renting cabins, buying gas and groceries, eating at our restaurants and shopping in our stores, they also used local children and dogs as models as well as local residents’ bass boats, drift boats and canoes.

Some other notable successes include our community being designated as “Four for the Future” for Georgia Trend. We hosted renowned travel writer Bill Vanderford who experienced our community and wrote a great article in Lakeside on our behalf. Additionally, we had a media request picked up for Roadside Attractions which featured the World’s Largest Amish Chair at Owl Town Market and four films/tv shows filmed in our area; The Hunted, Moonshine Still, Beacon Point, and Logan Lucky.

Our statistical numbers have soared as well this year. Phone calls to the Chamber increased more than 22%, visitors to the Chamber increased more than 39%, and our website hits increased by more than 50%! Additionally, the quantity of leads we send out to prospective visitors increased by 89% and our social media presence saw a whopping 180% increase!

In Part 3 we will discuss why it is important to advertise our community. For more information about the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce, call 706-745-5789 or go to VisitBlairsvilleGA.com.

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Spring Break Adventure Agenda

It’s Spring Break season, and there’s no better place for your spring break adventures than Blairsville-Union County! From exploring the Greater Outdoors to experiencing all of the food, culture, and shopping that Blairsville has to offer, we’ve got everything you need for the perfect spring break trip. Ready to book your mountain getaway? Great! Here are just a few things that should make your Spring Break Adventure Agenda…

Brasstown Bald
Get an unforgettable view of four states from Georgia’s highest peak. Learn more about Brasstown Bald here.

Vogel State Park
Enjoy swimming, fishing, hiking, paddle boats, and more at Vogel. Learn more about Vogel State Park, and other parks in our area here.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail
Union County boasts the only covered portion of the famous Appalachian Trail. You can also hike to the peak of Blood Mountain or brave one of the many other connecting trails. Learn more about hiking and other outdoor activities in Blairsville-Union County here.

Disc Golf
Play 18 holes of Frisbee Golf at Meeks park’s excellent 18-hole course. Learn more here.

Eat Well
Dine at one of Blairsville’s many amazing restaurants. There’s something to please every palette, from traditional southern food to fine dining! Browse listings and see a map of restaurants in the area here.

Waterfalls
We have many waterfalls here in Blairsville-Union County, like Helton Creek Falls and Wolf Creek Falls, to name a few. Learn more about our waterfalls and where to find them here.

Horseback Riding
Riders of all ages and levels can experience the countryside on horseback. Find out more about riding and a listing of stables here.

Shop ‘til You Drop
Blairsville offers a unique shopping experience, from local artisans to designer duds! Plan your shopping trip here.

As you can see, Blairsville-Union County offers something for everyone! This little list is just the tip of the iceberg, so call us today at 877-745-5789 or visit us online to learn more about all the fun your family can get into over spring break!

 

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Hiking the Appalachian Trail in Blairsville

It’s impossible to walk in the woods and be in a bad mood at the same time. Fortunately for us, Union County has a plethora of hiking trails to choose from. You can choose from moderate trails like those in our beautiful Meeks Park, the new Nottely Dam Reservoir Trails, or the scenic trail down to Helton Creek Falls. You may also choose more strenuous hikes like the Duncan Ridge Trail, the Arkaquah Trail, or the Coosa Backcountry Trail. The most famed trail, The Appalachian Trail, also crosses through Union County at Woody Gap and Neel Gap. In fact, the only covered portion of the white blaze 2,181 mile trail passes right through the structure of Mountain Crossings at Walasi-Yi.

Blairsville-Union County was designated an Appalachian Trail Community in March of 2011. This designation recognizes our community as one that is committed to promoting and protecting the AT and are neighborly to those who trod the Trail. A core group of volunteers have been working hard on several projects including compiling a FREE Union County Hiking Guide, a FREE Union County History Guide, and most recently a project showcasing the History of the AT in North Georgia which is displayed on a kinetic sculpture at Mountain Crossings created by Blairsville’s own local artist, Al Garnto.

In preparation for the hiking season this spring, Mountain Crossings is preparing for their Thru Hiker Kick Off party on Saturday, February 25th and everyone is invited!  Festivities will include bluegrass music from 1 pm to 5 pm, a gear raffle, hot dogs on the grill with all the fixin’s, a S’more making station, face painting and a scavenger hunt for the kids, unique photo ops, gear rep booths and much more! Proceeds from the gear raffle go to funding the Appalachian Trail History Project in Union County as well as Disaster Relief Efforts in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevier County, Tennessee. Raffle tickets are only $10 and enter you into a chance to win gear or bundles of gear ranging from daypacks, t-shirts, Keen hiking shoes, water bottles, stickers and much, much more. Tickets can be purchased at Mountain Crossings in advance and on the day of the event or at the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce. Tip: car pool with your friends and family, parking is limited.

For more information about your business becoming an AT Community supporter or to pick up a Union County History or Hiking Trail Guide 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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Top 10 things to do in Blairsville-Union County for 2017

  1. Eat collard greens & black eyed peas
    After all, it’s a southern tradition. Eat these as your first meal for the New Year and you will increase your luck and prosperity for the year ahead. Let the Chamber connect you with local farmers so all your meals are sure to be fresh.
  2. Hike Brasstown Bald
    Experience the wonders of nature at 4,784 feet above sea level. Get your blood pumping and oxygen flowing through your lungs with this moderate difficulty 0.6 mile Summit hike.
  3. Wear a kilt at the Scottish Festival
    You don’t have to be Scottish to wear a kilt. Find out your tartan colors, enjoy the Highland Games and nosh on some Scottish delicacies the second weekend in June.
  4. Fly fish on the Nottely River
    Brown trout, rainbow trout, and native trout are abundant in our freshwater mountain streams. Stop by Southern Highroads Outfitter shop for some flies and a pole and head out to the headwaters of the Nottely River, Coopers Creek, or Rock Creek for premier trout fishing.
  5. Sip Moonshine
    You can’t visit the south without tasting our famous moonshine. Grandaddy Mimms’ moonshine recipe has been passed down through the generations since the days of prohibition. Swing by the moonshine museum and learn about the history of this beverage.
  6. Take a garden tour at GMREC
    Meander through a .25 mile loop of The Woodland Medicine Trail and discover numerous woodland wildflowers, herbs, fern and shrubs that were used extensively by Native Americans and early settlers. Then enjoy the Ethnobotanic Gardens containing plants that were harvested and often cultivated by early inhabitants of the region for medicinal, food, and craft uses.
  7. Get wet at Helton Creek Falls
    A rock slide for the kids and a veil of water to stand behind make Helton Creek Falls a must do activity for the young and young at heart. A short hike allows you to explore the beauty of both the upper and lower falls of Helton Creek.
  8. Enjoy some grits & boiled peanuts
    Highway 129 South hosts Logan Turnpike Mill and Sunrise Grocery, home to the best stone ground grits and world famous boiled peanuts, respectively. Grab a couple of bags of each and enjoy with your family and friends.
  9. Discover past & present ghosts
    History is alive in Union County. With abundant heritage tracking resources at the Union County Public Library, the Historic Courthouse on the Square, and a plethora of cemeteries, exploring your heritage back to the pre-Civil War era is a great way to connect with the past.
  10. Sop up some sorghum biscuits
    Nothing says Union County like the sweet smell of sorghum syrup cooking. Join the festivities of the Blairsville Sorghum Festival the second and third weekends in October for biscuit sopping, pole climbing, rock throwing, horseshoe throwing, and log sawing fun!

For more information about any of the above or various other activities available in Blairsville-Union County, please contact the Blairsville-Union County Chamber of Commerce at 706-745-5789, online at www.VisitBlairsvilleGa.com, or by visiting the Welcome Center inside the Union County Community Center at 129 Union County Recreation Road.