Photo by Heather Middleton
By M.J. Subiria Arauz
The festivities began with a dedication-and ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of the Old Jonesboro Train Depot, to acknowledge the city's new, spruced-up downtown area, complete with freshly paved streets and new brick-inlaid sidewalks.
Jonesboro Mayor Luther Maddox, and other current and former officials, including Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell and former Jonesboro Mayor Joy Day, celebrated the completion of the first phase of the city's "Streetscape" project.
Then, it was time for the 18th annual "Taste of Clayton," which, this year, included a Sweet Tea Challenge, with a competition for those who think they make the best sweet tea around.
More than 200 people were on hand, Saturday, in the early going of the event that was scheduled to last from 11 a.m., to 3 p.m. That 200 didn't include Robert Ladouceur, one of the many vendors set up to offer tempting tastes of foods and beverages to participants. Ladouceur, the manager at the Mt. Zion-Chili's, said the restaurant decided to participate in the "Taste of Clayton" event to show its support, as well as to generate more business for its Morrow location.
"It's also a way to get away from work for a few hours," he said, with a chuckle.
Daniel Eddings, of Jonesboro, said he came to the event to show his support for his roommate, Crystal Black, vice president of the county's chamber of commerce. The chamber was a sponsor for the event.
"I've been to a lot of events in Clayton County, but this is by far one of the better ones," said Eddings, while he enjoyed a smoothie, from Smoothie King, in Morrow.
Loren Ivie, of the Jonesboro Masonic Lodge No. 87, took a big bite from his brownie. He said the atmosphere was "wonderful," but that he had expected a bigger turnout, due to the festival's new location in downtown Jonesboro.
"It's not as big of a turnout as everybody had expected," he said. "I guess you're supposed to be thankful for what you get."
Contrary to Ivie's opinion, Patrick Duncan, president and CEO of the Clayton County Convention & Visitors Bureau, said there was a good turnout at the event.
"So far, so good," he said. "It looks like a good turnout. It looks like it's gotten off to a successful start for the first hour."
Duncan explained that the Clayton County Convention & Visitors Bureau, the City of Jonesboro and Historical Jonesboro/Clayton County, Inc., partnered for the event, which was a fund-raiser for Historical Jonesboro/Clayton County, Inc., a non-profit organization that, among things, operates Stately Oaks Plantation, a tourist attraction in Jonesboro.
In addition to Mt.Zion-Chili's, some of the vendors included: The Pastry Shoppe, in Morrow; Blue Bell Creameries, in Jonesboro; Peachtree City Convention Visitors Bureau, in Peachtree City; and McDonough Hospitality & Tourism Bureau, in McDonough.
Yulonda Beauford, president and CEO of the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce, said she was enjoying the event, and was prepared to see what participating local restaurants had to offer her taste buds.
"It's great for us to have an annual signature event that we can promote throughout the region, to see what great restaurants and businesses we have in our county, " said Beauford. "It is an opportunity for us to truly showcase Clayton County."
A big addition to the the food-tasting and the musical entertainment this year, was the "Sweet Tea Challenge," in which participants had to make sweet tea, for an opportunity to win in four categories.
The winners included: U-Stor Self Storage, in Riverdale, in the "Best Individual Sweet Tea," category; Ms. Movale's Eatery Soul Food, in Jonesboro, for the "Best Commercial Sweet Tea:" and IntimaTea, for the "Best Flavored Tea" and "Best Unsweet Tea" categories.