As published in The Florida Villager
One of the things that I love about being a travel editor is that I can bring out of the box places to my readers. There is a difference between a vacation and an experience and Dahlonega, GA on the 4th of July is definitely an experience and I will go out on a limb here and say one I doubt many of you have had.
I decided to drive but if driving doesn’t appeal to you, you can catch a quick flight to Atlanta and drive the short distance to Dahlonega. As I drove the country roads, I was thinking how nice it would be to be somewhere different for the holiday weekend but it wasn’t until I hit the mile stretch outside of town that I realized that perhaps I was about to experience something more. As I rounded the curve heading into town, I caught my breath. Before me were white crosses with the names of service men and women, the war they fought and a flag. There had to be hundreds of them lining both sides of the road. I pulled into town, parked on the town square and stepped out of my Jeep into a Norman Rockwell painting.
I had made arrangements to stay at The Hall House Hotel in Sarah’s Room, which is reportedly haunted. The hotel sits right on the town square and dates back to 1881. Mike, the proprietor was there to greet me and tell me a little bit about Sarah, the spirit the room is named after. My room was as special as the town looked. I opened the door to a four-poster bed, original hard wood floors and a claw foot tub. It was absolutely charming. Mike is not only the owner of the hotel but an accomplished artist and the gallery downstairs houses some of his work along with a wine tasting bar. I was quick to learn wine tastings are a big thing in Dahlonega.
I awoke to the hustle and bustle of the townspeople setting up their chairs in the square to watch the parade. Mind you, I have seen many a 4th of July parade and the festivities that go along with the holiday weekend but I was not prepared for what was to come. I had arrived late the night before and wasn’t able to get the full scope of the town and what I saw that morning was surreal. I stepped out of the hotel and was back in the Rockwell painting. Everyone from the elderly to babies in carriages was decked out in red, white and blue with flags waving. If you didn’t have a flag, there were volunteers walking around the square giving them out. The city hall was draped in flags, as were other buildings in town. There was a sign on the door of Woody’s Barber Shop that said closed for the 4th to enjoy the holiday right next to the sign in sheet for haircuts. There wasn’t one spot to stand as a chair or a blanket occupied every place. The sheriff’s siren hailed the start of the parade and here came the classic cars, the Dahlonega Women’s Club float, Daughter’s of the American Revolution, a huge float honoring deceased veterans, Boy Scouts and men in kilts with bagpipes. It was a small parade but it had to be the most heartfelt parade I ever saw. Afterwards, a man stood on the steps of city hall and read the Declaration of Independence. I sat there looking around in disbelief that a place like this existed and how patriotic this little town was.
Later that day, I walked around looking at the stores and not one store was without a flag. Nighttime was fast approaching and people were lining up once again only this time for the fireworks. I found a seat on a stonewall in front of a church and watched as the sky lit up. People cheered, yelled and clapped. There was no one walking around with beer cans and acting obnoxious, cursing or ill will what so ever. Everyone was truly there to celebrate our great nation.
When I checked in I was asking Mike about Dahlonega and he said it was the people that made the town and that I would see what he meant. No truer words were spoken. I met so many nice people and everyone was eager to share their story.
There is so much to tell about Dahlonega so check back next month to read about the hauntings and the vineyards.