By Joel Hall
For several years, local author and historian, Peter Bonner, has been giving his famed "Gone With the Wind Tour" to private groups by appointment only.
Later this month, that event, which allows individuals to learn about Jonesboro's unique connection to author Margaret Mitchell and her classic book, will be open to all, on a regular basis.
In conjunction with the 70th anniversary of the movie adaptation of "Gone With the Wind," the museum with introduce a new, Peter Bonner Gone With the Wind Tour on Saturday, April 18.
To kick things off, Bonner will be at the Road to Tara Museum all day that Saturday, greeting tour groups, answering questions about the history of "Gone With the Wind" and Jonesboro, and signing copies of his book, "Lost in Yesterday," which connects present-day Jonesboro to the events of the Civil War era.
Bonner, a Clayton County native and Civil War historian, said he has given the tour personally, and through appointed guides, since 1996. By recording the tour, visitors will be able to enjoy it in large or small groups without having to accommodate his schedule, he said.
"In the process of doing research for a book on the Battle of Jonesborough, I started doing this tour," said Bonner, who resides in Hampton. "We didn't have a bus ... the tourists would literally have to follow us in their cars. I got so busy that I really can't do the daily tours anymore, so that really suffered.
"A lot of our international visitors don't have cars," he said. "This way, everybody can just sit on the van and go. I think it's going to be good for the county, good for the city, and good for the state of Georgia."
From the comfort of the Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau's (CCCVB) climate-controlled tour bus, visitors will be able to enjoy a 70-minute, narrated tour, highlighting the people and stories of Jonesboro, which parallel those found in the pages of "Gone With the Wind." The tour will feature the voices of Bonner, as well as Melly Meadows, a professional actress and Clayton County's official "Scarlett O'Hara."
On Sunday, April 19 at 12:30 p.m., Turner Classic Movies, the Literary Center at the Margaret Mitchell House, and the Atlanta Film Festival will host a special 70th anniversary viewing of the movie, "Gone With the Wind," at the Fox Theatre in downtown Atlanta. Pat Duncan, president of the CCCVB, said premiering Bonner's new tour on the weekend of the movie screening will provide history buffs and movie fans a chance to have a week-long "Gone With the Wind" experience.
"The history of Jonesboro is the history of 'Gone With the Wind' and we are excited to be able to tell both stories simultaneously," Duncan said. "We are hoping to attract those 'Gone With the Wind' fans that will be in town to see the re-released movie at the Fox Theatre. ... We are giving them another opportunity to enrich their experience and learn a little bit more about the history of Margaret Mitchell's classic novel."
Megan Spears, marketing spokesperson for the CCCVB, believes the new tour will have a positive impact on local tourism, and introduce Jonesboro's Margaret Mitchell connection to a new audience.
"One of the things Jonesboro has that no other city can say is, that it is the official home of 'Gone with the Wind,'" Spears said. "Peter's tour really validates that. You get to see the history come to life, and you really get to see how the people of Jonesboro inspired this, literally."
On April 18, tours will be available at 11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3:30 p.m., for the special price of $19.99, which includes entrance to the Road to Tara Museum, located at 104 North Main Street in Jonesboro.
Tickets for the April 19 viewing of the movie, "Gone With the Wind," at the Fox Theatre are available for $10 or $15 dollars at www.ticketmaster.com.
For more information, call (770) 478-4800, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.