The cities of Ellijay and East Ellijay welcome 50,000-70,000 visitors to the Gilmer County Chamber of Commerce and the Lions Club-sponsored Georgia Apple Festival.
Learning how to bank on natural resources, special events, history, landmarks and new development is key to cities attracting visitors, businesses and even new residents to their communities.
Forty-five years ago the cities of Gilmer County—Ellijay and East Ellijay—honored local farmers with an appreciation dinner sponsored by the Gilmer County Chamber of Commerce and the Lions Club. It was a small affair that has blossomed into the county’s biggest event, the Georgia Apple Festival.
The festival is now a four-day celebration taking place this year on October 8-9 and October 15-16. The Georgia Apple Festival hosts more than 300 vendors, 50,000-70,000 visitors and provides approximately 1,000 service hours to volunteers. It includes a 5K race, car show, parade as well as a spin-off event “Apple Arts.” Proceeds from the race aid a drug court and revenue from the car show supports local scholarships. The funds from the Georgia Apple Fest also pay for chamber operations and training, as well as support for the chamber’s 523 members.
According to Ellijay city officials, the festival has great impact on the city. “It [the Georgia Apple Festival] exposes new visitors to our community,” said Ellijay Mayor Al Hoyle, adding it also “increases sales for local businesses [as well as] brings a tremendous amount of people to our downtown.”
Hoyle hopes that visitors to the festival remember Ellijay as a “quaint, welcoming, historic town full of friendly people,” and will return for trips, to rent cabins, shop, eat and take advantage of the many recreational opportunities.
Rockmart’s Silver Comet Trail Welcomes International Talent
In Rockmart, something some once considered old and used has been turned into something new and vibrant, and it’s paying dividends for the city of approximately 4,200.
The Silver Comet Trail, built on an abandoned rail line that transported passengers and mail from New York to Alabama from 1947-1969, now is a route for walkers, runners, bikers and skateboarders. According to Rockmart City Manager Jeff Ellis, the trail has been a magnet not only for locals, but for visitors from across the country and around the world. “It’s been a great help to us,” said Ellis.
The 100-mile long trail, which stretches from Smyrna to Anniston, Ala., was established in 2000 and cuts through Cobb, Paulding and Polk counties.
Since the opening of the trail, Rockmart has hosted several events that draw new audiences to the northwest Georgia city, such as the SK8 race, a competition for long board skateboarders that’s brought international athletes to the city for the past five years. According to Ellis, competitors have come from as far away as England, France, Germany and the Czech Republic
Thanks to the trail, Rockmart also has experienced steady growth in the attendance at its annual Rockmart Homespun Festival, which will celebrate its 39th year this July.
Ellis said city officials have future plans of linking Rockmart and the Silver Comet Trail in marketing efforts that will create a distinctive brand to lure more tourists and events to the area. He’s also optimistic that it will prove beneficial for economic development of Rockmart’s downtown.