By Joel Hall
For the first time in its history, the Clayton County Convention and Visitor's Bureau (CVB) will join Stately Oaks to host a Heritage Celebration this weekend.
The event will highlight the history and tourism sites of Jonesboro and the surrounding area.
Margaret Mitchell, the Southern writer who wrote the novel, "Gone With the Wind," was born on Nov. 8 in 1900. Billed as the Margaret Mitchell birthday celebration in past years, the CVB decided to take advantage of the occasion to make Clayton residents aware of the tourism opportunities in their own backyard.
The celebration will include a "Moonlight and Magnolias" dinner tour at Stately Oaks on Friday, with half-priced admission to the plantation for Clayton residents on Saturday.
From 1-3 p.m., on Saturday, the plantation will have a "Gone With the Wind" exchange and sale in the plantation schoolhouse, in which people will be able to swap and sell "Gone With the Wind" memorabilia and relics.
From 10 a.m., to 4 p.m., the CVB will offer free admission to the Road to Tara Museum as well as the Landmarks Through History bus tour. From 11 a.m. - 1 p.m., award-winning scale miniature designer, Dorothy Friedenreich, will unveil a miniature of the Tara Plantation, the fictional plantation featured in the movie adaptation of "Gone With the Wind."
"There is really a great story to tell here, not just [about] the ante-bellum Southern belle," said Pat Duncan, president and CEO of the CVB. The Heritage Celebration "is our attempt at broadening our horizons of being more than just "Gone With the Wind.""
Duncan said many people aren't aware that Alonzo Herndon, founder of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, and Atlanta's first African-American millionaire, was a Jonesboro barber before building his empire on downtown Atlanta's Auburn Avenue. He also said that several Native American Tribes lived in the area surrounding Jonesboro before European settlement.
That information, as well as visits to the Warren House, the intersection of Rhett and Scarlett Road, old Main Street, Ashley Oaks Mansion, and the Jonesboro Greenhouse would be featured in Saturday's bus tour. "We want locals to know about this," said Duncan. "Hopefully its the start of something that over the next few years will grow."
Brenda Star Jenkins, a docent at Stately Oaks Plantation, said the "Moonlight and Magnolias" dinner tour was one of the recent additions to the plantation's services. While the event is private, Jenkins said that parties of 20 or more could schedule a dinner at anytime for $80 per person.
The dinner tour includes a candle-lit tour of the plantation as well as a full-course Southern dinner, featuring menu items named after characters from "Gone With the Wind." Dinner items include "Mrs. O'Hara's Pecan-Crusted Fried Chicken," "Prissy's Peach and Cream Cobbler," and "Belle Watling Fancy Carrot-Pineapple Salad."
Following the dinner, guests will be able to burn off their dinner by learning the Virginia Reel, a popular dance during the ante-bellum area.
For more information on the events, call the Clayton County Convention and Visitor's Bureau at (770) 478-4800 or Stately Oaks Plantation at (770) 473-0197.