Photo by Heather Middleton
By Kathy Jefcoats
Richard Hoffmann found his Nirvana and its name is Jonesboro.
Hoffmann, of Southern California, says he has "just an interest" in the wildly-popular ode to the south, "Gone With The Wind," but his wife begs to differ.
"We have a whole room with 'Gone With The Wind' stuff in it," said Barbara Huffmann. "And I just bought him an original version of the book on eBay."
With those telling facts exposed, the retired CPA just shrugs his shoulders.
"And I read it again before this trip," Richard Hoffmann said.
The Hoffmanns were ambling through the Road to Tara Museum in downtown Jonesboro Wednesday, catching bits and pieces of "the movie" as it plays in a loop, and marveling at the memorabilia. Just feet away are friends Gail and David Buker of California and Tennessee, and Sue and Gary Sprouse of Buford. In addition to the obvious draw, the two couples are fascinated by the history of the Confederacy.
"I was born in Atlanta, so my heritage is here," said Gail Buker. "I have been doing research on the South and really enjoy the history. I've learned a lot about the generosity of the Southern people during the Civil War. The locals here were very kind to the Union soldiers and that goes to show the warmth of the people."
Sue Sprouse said Jonesboro is a great place to send visitors who come to Georgia.
"We have some friends coming from Arizona in a few weeks, and we will be sending them here," she said.
All three couples are prime examples of the thousands of tourists who stroll through time in Clayton County every year. Some seek remnants of the Old South, others are intrigued by Margaret Mitchell's version of it -- all spend money here. The Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau joins the rest of the country in celebrating such tourists May 7-15 during National Tourism Week.
"We're going to be releasing economic impact numbers that week so people can see what tourism has done in the last year for Clayton County," said Rebekah Cline, the spokeswoman for the local bureau.
Cline said awards will be handed out Tuesday to people who have gone above and beyond local hospitality. Patrick Duncan, president of the bureau, said tourism is the lifeblood of the state's economy.
"Tourism helps bring in millions of dollars in revenue to our country and is the second largest industry in the state of Georgia," he said.
Because of the worldwide popularity of Mitchell's book, Jonesboro attracts international visitors. Wednesday, as the Hoffmanns were reveling in facts and figures behind their favorite movie, a tour bus filled with tourists from Germany, Switzerland and Austria pulled up to the museum. Lisa Yost of American Ring Travel said some 40 Europeans landed in Atlanta yesterday and boarded the bus on a 14-day tour of the Southern states. One of their first stops was Clayton County.
Patricia Tonak of Dusseldorf, Germany, said she is a big fan of the United States and ate grits for the first time that morning.
"This is my first time in Jonesboro, but of course I saw the movie, I love the clothes, dresses, they are all beautiful," she said. "I want to see all 50 states before I am 50, which is in about eight years."
Tonak said she is "impressed by everything" and may realize a favorite visit once she gets home and has time to reflect.
"I am taking in everything right now," said Tonak. "Atlanta is quite a nice city."