By Joel Hall
The Southern Crescent business community, as well elected leaders and public safety officials, gathered in a show of support for the arts during the Sixth Annual Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln Mercury Golf Classic.
The charity tournament at Crystal Lake Golf and Country Club in Hampton raised thousands of dollars to support Arts Clayton and its various children's programs.
Twenty-six, four-person teams came out Tuesday morning to play 18 holes of golf. Allan Vigil, founder of Allan Vigil Ford Lincoln Mercury of Morrow - the state's largest Ford dealership - said he was impressed with the turnout.
"I was quite surprised," he said. "[The tournament] is one of [Arts Clayton's] primary fund-raisers, and it exposes a lot of the business community to what they do. There are still people who will open their pockets for a good cause ... I think it speaks well for the county."
Throughout the day, there were special prize drawings, a putting contest, and a hole-in-one challenge, in which a 2010 Ford Fusion was offered to the first person who could score a hole-in-one.
Doctors, lawyers, real estate agents, local city and county officials, and policemen from around metro Atlanta participated in the tournament.
Sam Lorenzo, a physician at Henry Medical Center in Stockbridge, said the event serves as a tangible way to support the arts community.
"I took the day off to support this event," Lorenzo said. "The arts are important in the community. In tough economic times, funds seem to dwindle ... this helps keep money flowing. It's just a neighbor helping a neighbor."
Clayton County Economic Development Director Grant Wainscott said Arts Clayton's programs, such as its ArtVan, summer arts camps, and after-school programs benefit the business community by improving the quality of life.
"They do a lot of outreach to the schools and the community," Wainscott said. "The more cultural amenities we have here, the closer people feel to the community ... the more people want to live here. That creates a quality of life that makes people want to do business here."
Linda Summerlin, executive director of Arts Clayton, said the tournament had several new sponsors this year, including AirTran Airways, Spivey Station Surgery Center, Bridgestone Golf, and Bank of North Georgia. She believes the tournament is exposing more people to what the arts do for the community.
"The funds from this allows Arts Clayton to continue the quality programs that we do," Summerlin said. "A lot of people who participate in the tournament ultimately end up supporting Arts Clayton in other ways. It's just a fun way to get your message out."