By Daniel Silliman
Clayton County's going to get crowded this weekend.
Starting Friday morning, visitors are expected to fill the county's roads, restaurants, shops and hotels, when as many as 20,000 people come to the county for the Battle of Jonesborough and the U.S. Nationals Firefighter Combat Challenge in Morrow.
At 11 a.m., today, the annual Historical Jonesboro Society event will begin at Stately Oaks Plantation, 100 Carriage Lane, in Jonesboro. The kick-off will be a seminar and panel discussion of the Atlanta Campaign of Gen. William T. Sherman's army, during the Civil War, and the causes and effects of the Battle of Jonesborough.
Five prominent local historians -- Dr. Kathryn Kemp, a History Professor at Clayton State University, Dr. Margaret Duncan , U.S. History Teacher at Henry County Public Schools, Valerie Frey, Education Coordinator at Georgia Archives, and Ted Key and Joseph Moore, local historians -- will talk about the two-day battle in 1864, which cut the railroad lines supplying Atlanta, and caused the city to fall to the Union Army.
On Saturday, the plantation and the surrounding area will be running over with crafters and concessionaires as the Autumn Oaks Festival begins at 10 a.m. There will be historical and modern craft booths, as well as a carnival midway and a host of re-enactors. There will be living history exhibits, historical house tours, "Gone With the Wind" tours, historic and modern foods, and soldiers' camps.
At 2 p.m., the event will reach its climax with the re-enactment of the Battle of Jonesborough, as men dressed as Northern and Southern Civil War soldiers will imitate the 1864 battle.
The crafts, tours, demonstrations and re-enactments will continue on Sunday, starting at 10 a.m., and conclude with the 2 p.m., battle.
The Jonesboro event costs $8 for adults, $6 for seniors over 55, and $4 for children. All proceeds will go to local historic preservation and maintenance projects.
Starting Friday afternoon, firefighters, their families and spectators are expected to pour off of Interstate 75 and fill up the parking lot at 1986 Mt. Zion Road, at the Morrow Home Depot parking lot. For the third year in a row, Clayton will host the competition, as firefighters from around the country compete on an obstacle course of fire fighting feats, starting at 4 p.m.
The event will be filmed by ESPN for a later broadcast. ESPN calls the 16-year-old event, "The toughest two minutes in sports."
The relay team, and the over-40 relay team, from the Clayton County Fire Department will be attempting to repeat last year's performance, during the two-day event, and attempting to hold onto their championship titles and maybe even set new records.
The Combat Challenge will run from 4 p.m., to 10 p.m., on Friday, and then start up again at noon on Saturday, going until 8 p.m.
There will also be a miniature course for children, in the parking lot, with opportunities to pose with firefighters and wear firefighter helmets. Party City is sponsoring a "Nothing But Kids Zone," with multiple moonwalks and games, including balloon pop, Hook's Treasure, mini golf, Quack Attack and Spin Art.
The event is free, and the proceeds from concession sales and donations will go to national, state and local charities.