Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fitzgerald, GA -The love-hate town

Imagine hundreds of Union Army veterans and their families traveling to Georgia pine country, the heart of Dixie, 25 years after the Civil War.

That's what happened in Fitzgerald, GA, a town designed for and built by Civil War veterans. Neighbors still were fighting the war but the soldiers themselves were ready for peace. They found it here alongside their former enemies in a town where streets were named for Union and Confederate leaders.

Industriousness kept Fitzgerald thriving through depressions, the railroads and the timber and pulp businesses brought prosperity and the newcomers brought understanding and amity to what had been hostile territory.

Today, Fitzgerald is a small town where neighbors keep up with one another and take the time to welcome visitors. However, the love-hate dynamic is still very much present as you'll find when you travel here.

The old railroad depot may have become the Blue and Gray Museum but a train rumbles through town every 28 minutes, stopping traffic and cutting the silence with its whistles. The inconvenience and noise annoy some, the prosperity it brings pleases others. Love-hate.

Then there are the chickens. In the 1960s the Georgia Department of Natural Resources brought in Burmese chickens as new game birds to augment the existing dove, quail and pheasant populations.

The chickens were small, feisty and more athletic and intelligent than their domesticated cousins. Flocks were released all over the state, including down by the Ocmulgee River several miles from Fitzgerald.

Other flocks disappeared, probably into the stomachs of predators, but the Ocmulgee contingent, preferring a more urban - and probably safer - environment, migrated into town and thrived.

Now they rule the roost. Some residents feed them, others shoo them away, again with the love-hate dynamic. But mostly the town folks tolerate them. Chickens have the right of way on the streets and roads and on the third weekend in March the Wild Chicken Festival attracts visitors.

Train whistles and cock-a-doodle do's are the sounds of Fitzgerald.

Tip: Nabila's Garden Restaurant is the place to eat and the Dorminy-Massee House Bed & Breakfast is the place to stay. The ever-changing buffet at Nabila's is a local favorite, especially the fried chicken and desserts although I was partial to the vegetables.

The white-columned B & B will remind you of antebellum mansions and it's listed on the National Register of Historic Places although it wasn't built until 1915. All eight bedrooms come with private bath, phone, TV and computer modem and two of them are on the first floor. However, the stairs leading to the second story aren't bad.

Also good, there are no hills in Fitzgerald and very few steps with which to contend, making it a good stop for levelers.


Marilyn said...

I found myself needing to know more about Fitzgerald, Georgia, for my day job. The fusion of history and quirky local culture (Yay Burmese Chickens!) in your article are well-researched and written in a wonderfully entertaining way. The Wild Chicken Festival sounds like a great road trip adventure. Thank you for the post!

September 13, 2012 at 11:13 AM

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