More Jackson County Opinions...

April 17, 2002


Column
By: Angela Gary
The Jackson Herald
April 17, 2002

Imagination and adventure come to life at Dollywood
Dolly Parton grew up in the East Tennessee mountains with a lot of imagination and adventure with her 12 brothers and sisters. It took a lot of imagination for the young teenager to leave her beloved home the day after graduation and head to Nashville, Tenn., to become a star. Many in the small town surely laughed at her big dreams, but her imagination had no boundaries and her hard work and talent took her on more adventures than even she had dreamed of.
With several decades behind her and much success in the music, television and movie business, the star shows no sign of slowing down. She recently unveiled the latest addition in her Pigeon Forge, Tenn., amusement park, a $10 million project aptly named “Adventures in Imagination.”
During the weekend grand opening ceremony, Dolly announced plans to tour for the first time in 10 years. She has formed a new band to head out on the road with. The band has been named, “Blue-Nique” and Dolly said it will include her own unique form of bluegrass, which has recently become widely popular across the country. Dolly also told her fans to be on the lookout for her latest album, “Halos and Horns,” which is coming out in July.
Thousands attended the grand opening celebration in early April where Dolly could be spotted throughout the weekend introducing the latest attractions at the park. She kicked off the weekend with a special day on April 5 for season pass holders and the media.
Dolly was first spotted early that morning in front of “Smoky Mountain Wilderness Adventure,” which takes riders on a thrill-filled journey through the Smoky Mountains. Dolly and her inventor friend, Clovis, narrate this simulator ride which was a favorite of the crowd on opening weekend. Screams of excitement and terror could be heard above Dolly’s narration of the adventure. Riders are actually strapped into seats, but with a little imagination they are on the S.S. Dolly, an all-terrain vehicle that flips, flies and floats throughout the Smoky Mountains.
Another new attraction is “Chasing Rainbows,” which is more than just a museum as it features a special narrated tour of Dolly’s “attic” and several interactive areas. The first stop is the “attic,” which is filled with mementos that take visitors on a journey through her life. Some of the more humorous ones are the exercise machines she used in the early days.
The downstairs portion of the museum includes replicas of Dolly’s school and church and mementos from her career such as dresses, wigs and awards. Her famous, “Coat of Many Colors” is in a special glass case alongside the messy notes she made when writing the song.
During opening weekend, a special presentation was made in the new museum. The National Teachers Association presented Dolly with a “Chasing Rainbows Award” for her work with education and children. Dolly has a foundation that provides $500 to every student who graduates from high school in her hometown. She also has a program in which each child born in her hometown is enrolled in a book of the month club and receives books until they begin school.
Every year, a teacher will be chosen to receive the “Chasing Rainbows Award.” There are teachers who have overcome obstacles in their lives and chased rainbows and they will be recognized.
The weekend also included several concerts by Dolly. She performs at the park several times each year, with a series of holiday performances already planned for December.
For more information on Dollywood, check out www.dollywood.com.
Angela Gary is associate editor of The Jackson Herald and editor of The Banks County News.

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Column
By: Virgil Adams
The Jackson Herald
April 17, 2002

Rock Eagle dream coming true
The Talmadge nobody knew
On August 19, 1952, two and a half months after 100 prisoners arrived at Rock Eagle, the first two cottages were dedicated. It was a historic event, rivaled only by the groundbreaking the year before. And like the groundbreaking, the cottage dedication was a part of the State 4-H Council meeting. The delegates and their leaders drove over from Milledgeville for the occasion.
The man who approved the prison labor and jump-started construction three months earlier came and played a large role in dedicating cottages No. 1 and No. 2. Governor Talmadge was the principal speaker.
On September 15, 1952, the 4-H Foundation issued its fifth Rock Eagle newsletter. Among the items: “The governor has sent a check, the amount of which was equal to the total of all funds collected through June 30, 1952 - this was $83,986.24. The state has also matched funds collected during July, which amounts to $38,818.94.”
The newsletter pointed out the value of the prison labor. “The total cost of labor per man per day is approximately $2.75. It is easy to see how much we are saving. The cheapest labor available would be $5 to $6 a day. Many of the skilled workers would cost more per hour than we are now paying per day.”
Minutes of the 4-H Foundation meeting on January 22, 1953, contained this: “The Executive Committee unanimously joins the Building Committee in expressing appreciation to Sears, Roebuck and Company for the beautiful and practical furnishings given for the Sears Roebuck Foundation cottage (number 4).”
In August of that year it was time for another event to call attention to the 4-H Center and to keep interest high. Four additional cottages were dedicated, thus completing the first unit of six.
One of the highlights of that dedication was a tour of the Sears cottage to see how all of the other cottages at Rock Eagle would be furnished.
Before long there would be many more cottages (54 in all) to furnish.
Here’s why. On November 19, 1953, a newspaper headline proclaimed, “Kellogg Foundation grants $2,144,000 and Governor makes $1,600,000 in State Funds available to build Educational Center.”
The Educational Center referred to was the Center for Continuing Education on the University of Georgia campus in Athens.
Rock Eagle was not mentioned in the headline or in the first paragraph of the story. But the second paragraph, which explained in detail how the Kellogg grant and state money would be spent, concluded with these words, “and completion of the world’s largest 4-H Club Center at Rock Eagle Lake in Putnam County.”
The following week Tom Gregory, a member of the Putnam County Advisory Committee on Rock Eagle and editor of The Eatonton Messenger, commented editorially, “It made us want to sit down and eat corn flakes and read The Statesman.” (The Statesman was Gov. Talmadge’s paper, published and mailed out of his office in Atlanta.)
From that November day in 1953, enthusiasm and construction moved into high gear at Rock Eagle. No, the Center was not completed in 1954, but by October 30 it was complete enough to dedicate. And some dedication it was!
Between 25 and 30 State Patrolmen were on hand to direct traffic and supervise parking. (You don’t have to guess who approved this service; the governor, of course.) They estimated the crowd at 10,000.
NBC’s National Farm and Home Hour originated from Rock Eagle that day. More than a dozen leading Georgia newspapers sent reporters to cover the event. Every leading farm magazine in the country was represented. Two television stations filmed the proceedings.
Elmo Hester, farm editor of The Atlanta Journal, had probably written more stories and taken more photographs of the Center under construction than anybody in the world. His lead in the Sunday paper following the dedication read, “The greatest youth camp in the world was dedicated to Georgia’s rural boys and girls here Saturday.”
Hester quoted extensively from remarks of the principal speaker. That would be none other than Gov. Herman Talmadge.
“This Center,” the governor stated, “is an achievement made possible by close cooperation of the state government, the U. S. Department of Agriculture, the Georgia Extension Service, many large business enterprises, and masses of citizens of the state. It is a revelation to stand here and see this magnificent Center nearing completion.”
Gov. Talmadge then “called the roll” of accomplishments since construction began that first day of June, 1952: 54 cottages, three assembly buildings, a chapel, an auditorium to seat 1,200, a dining hall for 1,000, a warehouse, a guest house, a swimming pool, a complete water and sewer system, and 12 miles of paved roads.
It was fitting that the governor, who was helping make the dream of Rock Eagle come true, would speak at the dedication. But the day also belonged to the man who dreamed the dream.
Bill Sutton, state 4-H Club leader and later director of the Extension Service, never claimed or admitted it, but he- more than any other person - was responsible for the Rock Eagle 4-H Center. But with Gov. Talmadge on his side, the dream came true a lot quicker than he ever imagined.
(Note from Virgil: The dream continues. Bear with me through the grand opening, another dedication, and the Jackson County connection. This is about a not-so-small decision in the life and legacy of Herman Talmadge. It was a decision that has impacted thousands upon thousands of Georgians for half a century, and will continue its influence for good for many years to come.)
Virgil Adams is a former owner and editor of The Jackson Herald.


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