By Joel Hall
For the past 10 years, the city of Jonesboro has celebrated Jonesboro Day, a sort of family reunion for Jonesboro residents and those who grew up in the city but moved away. With Jonesboro celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, the city is collecting donations to make Jonesboro Day bigger than it has ever been before.
This year's Jonesboro Day will take place on May 16. Last year, residents gathered at the Jonesboro Firehouse Museum and Community Center, ate hot-dogs and hamburgers, and viewed an exhibit of hundreds of photographs featuring Jonesboro families. This year, organizers want to expand the event to an all-day affair with barbecue, an evening concert, and an interactive exhibit illustrating the city's history.
Jonesboro City Councilman Billy Powell, who is chairman of the Jonesboro Day Committee, said the city has budgeted approximately $2,500 for the event. However, to expand the event will require the help of the community, he said.
"They've been doing [Jonesboro Day] for quite a few years," said Powell. "It's the 150th birthday of Jonesboro and we're trying to do something special. We're counting on the support of our local businesses to donate with cash or goods so we can purchase things. If we don't receive any donations, we would just have the bare necessities."
In the early 1800s, Jonesboro was originally the rural, upper-middle Georgia settlement of Leaksville. In the 1840s, Col. Samuel Goode Jones, a civil engineer instrumental in the establishment of the Macon and Western Railroad Co., took interest in Leaksville and used his skills to lay out new streets and roads. According to the city's web site, citizens renamed the village Jonesborough, in a show of gratitude, around 1845.
In 1858, Clayton County was established from portions of Henry and Fayette counties and Jonesborough (later Jonesboro) was designated as the county seat. In 1959, Jonesboro, already established as a vibrant trade and business area between Atlanta and Macon, was incorporated as a town.
In order to make Jonesboro Day more special this year, Powell said he would like to make the event "a day-long celebration, instead of one that only lasts a few hours." In addition, the 50-year reunion of the 1959 graduating class of Jonesboro High School will take place in conjunction with the event.
Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox, himself a member of the Jonesboro High School class of 1959, said that on May 15, members of his graduating class will tour the Eula Wilborn Ponds Perry Center (the former site of Jonesboro High School) and on May 16, will have a class reunion celebration at the Wyndham Peachtree Conference Center in Peachtree City.
"We are factoring that into our festivities this year," Maddox said. "We're making this weekend a big deal ... we're publicizing it as much as we can. I think it will give the residents of Jonesboro a good sense of pride."
Barbara Emert, president of Historical Jonesboro/Clayton County, Inc., said that as a part of Jonesboro Day, the historical society will attempt to videotape, record, and share the verbal, visual, and written accounts of Jonesboro's older residents.
"It is quite a milestone for any city to reach 150 [years]," she said. "I think it's important that we look back at what the city has accomplished ... we have a lot to recall and preserve. I am hoping we encourage the older residents to go through their photo albums and share them with us. We need to sit down with some of these people and interview them. If they haven't written down their family histories already, hopefully they can write that down."
Donations for Jonesboro Day can be sent to: City of Jonesboro, care of the Jonesboro Day Committee, 124 North Ave., Jonesboro, Ga., 30236. For more information, call (770) 478-3800.