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‘Gone With The Wind’ movie tours blowing into town

Clayton County Economic Development Director Grant Wainscott talks about “Gone With The Wind” tours that are being created by Atlanta Movie Tours during the Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau holiday luncheon Tuesday. The Road to Tara Museum is a partner with the tourism company that is creating the tours. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

Clayton County Economic Development Director Grant Wainscott talks about “Gone With The Wind” tours that are being created by Atlanta Movie Tours during the Clayton County Convention and Visitors Bureau holiday luncheon Tuesday. The Road to Tara Museum is a partner with the tourism company that is creating the tours. (Staff Photo: Curt Yeomans)

JONESBORO — Well, fiddle-dee-dee. A new “Gone With The Wind” movie tour is coming to town.

Clayton County Economic Development Director Grant Wainscott announced Atlanta Movie Tours is setting up new tours of Atlanta area sites that are tied to the literary and cinema versions of the novel. Atlanta Movie Tours is the same group that created the “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” tours that includes a stop at Clayton County International Beach.

The tours will begin in 2014 and the Road to Tara Museum will be a partner for the tour, Wainscott said. Between the “Hunger Games” and “Gone With the Wind” tours, Clayton County is positioned to build itself into a film tourism destination.

“It’s going to provide two incredible tours to bring money from outside the area in,” said Wainscott. “It’s great when we can generate our own resources from within but I think we all know the challenges we face when the economy has a rough time.

“It’s incumbent upon all of us to try and find those retail tax dollars, those hotel tax dollars and the tourist spending that we need, and you do that by increasing your film tourism product,” he added.

Long before Katniss Everdeen fought her way to a cornucopia at an international park disguised as Hawaii, and long before The Bandit rode through downtown Jonesboro, there was Scarlett O’Hara. Although none of the movie was filmed in Georgia, the story in “Gone With the Wind” was partially set in Clayton County.

The county was the fictional home to Scarlett’s beloved Tara plantation, and the movie based upon the novel turns 75 next year.

And the county’s ties to the book are not lost on fans who still visit Jonesboro to get a “Gone With The Wind” experience. Commission Chairman Jeff Turner recounted a time recently when he was driving past the old train depot in Jonesboro, where the museum is located, and saw a group of tourists leaving it.

“As I looked closely, it was a whole lot of Japanese people and I just thought that was the greatest thing in the world that they took that interest in ‘Gone With The Wind’ exhibits and stuff,” said Turner.

Convention and Visitors Bureau Marketing Director Beth Bailey said she and officials from other sites around Atlanta with ties to the book and film were recently at an international tourism trade show in Nashville, Tenn. They had foreign tour companies trying to line up “Gone With the Wind” tours.

“Basically, you have appointments where they request you and we had up to 40 slots available, and we were full and had people on a waiting list,” said Bailey. “It was people from China, and Germany, and Italy and the UK all desperate for ‘Gone With The Wind’ tourism products.”

Bailey said the Road to Tara Museum is one of several “Gone With The wind”-related sites partnering with Atlanta Movie Tours for the new tourism product. She said Atlanta Movie Tours is still finalizing agreements with some sites in Atlanta.

It will build upon the established “Gone With The Wind” Trail which includes the Marietta Gone With The Wind Museum, the Margaret Mitchell House in Atlanta, the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System’s Central Library which houses personal items belonging to Mitchell, Oakland Cemetery where Mitchell is buried and the Road to Tara Museum.

Mitchell authored the novel and based it upon trips her family took to Jonesboro as a child and stories she heard from relative during those trips.

“We are still waiting on all of the partners to sign off on everything for Atlanta Movie Tours to offer a tour that will be the attractions in Atlanta, but the pre-paid ticket that people will buy will also include a voucher so they can go to the Marietta Gone With The Wind Museum and the Road to Tara Museum on their own,” said Bailey.

The day tours may begin in January, and more expansive weekend tours along the lines of ones done for the “Hunger Games” tours are expected to begin a few months later, she said.

“We’re very excited about the partnership and it’s something that we’ve working with the Gone With the Wind Trail on and Grant has been working with them on the ‘Hunger Games’ tours,” said Bailey. “It’s something that allows us to really expand what we have to offer.”

More than Scarlett O’Hara, though

But the “Gone With The Wind” movie tours are just one way the county is capitalizing on its ties to movies. Wainscott said the county’s film experience museum is set to open next year in Lake City. It will chronicle the more than 40 films and television shows that have been filmed in the county, he said.

The range of projects shot in Clayton County over the years includes “Smokey and The Bandit,” “Scary Movie 5,” “Flight” and “Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”

Wainscott also said the county is also working to improve the experience for “Hunger Games” fans who come to the county to see where the cornucopia scenes for “Catching Fire” were filmed. One of those efforts will be the bottling parts of The Beach at Clayton County International Park.

“As we speak, with the department of parks and recreation’s help, we’re filling 5,000 little vials with sand from The Beach and we’re going to sell them for $9.95 a piece,” said Wainscott. “It comes directly from the set and I promise you we’re going to sell them out before we really even begin to market them.”