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Ellijay, GA
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Apple Festival on tap next 2 weekends

Find our annual Apple Festival Section in this week’s edition!
by Mark Millican

Hundreds of hours have been spent getting ready for Ellijay’s premier event, the Georgia Apple Festival. But without the few hours Joe Sewell and his crew put in, the whole endeavor would be a disorganized mess.

“This is the easy part,” Sewell said Monday as he and four other men measured 15 foot by 15 foot spaces  for booths and marked them with wire flags. “We’ve got 250 numbered stakes to hammer in after this.”

Paige Green, president of the Gilmer County Chamber of Commerce, said preparations are at the “99 percent” mark for the 44th annual edition.

“We’re ready to go,” she said early in the week. “The port-o-potties are delivered, ATMs and dumpsters will be delivered later this week, vendor packets are done and we’re ready to turn the lights on.”

Around 30,000 people are expected on the first weekend, with most going to the Ellijay Lions Club main venue at 1729 S. Main Street. On the weekends of Oct. 10-11 and Oct. 17-18, the festival grounds will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. The Apple Festival Parade will be held on the second Saturday in the downtown area. Festival admission is $5 and children under 10 are free.

Thousands of visitors are also expected at the Apple Arts on the Square event downtown, the antique car show sponsored by the Apple Country Auto Club at River Park (adjacent to the festival) and at apple houses east, west and south of Ellijay and East Ellijay.

“We’ve changed a couple of children’s activities,” Green said of the festival. “We have a good variety of new vendors — probably 15 to 20 percent new — and the old favorites will be back. We’ll have entertainment each day.”

Four gates to the main festival will be open to keep entrance lines down, and shuttle service will be available from all the schools inside the city — Gilmer High, Gilmer Middle and Mountain View Elementary near the fairgrounds, and the Ellijay Primary/Elementary campuses downtown.

“We do anticipate the ability to park across the river (from the Veterans Memorial Footbridge), as long as we don’t get a lot more rain,” Green added. “The property owner of the field across from the soccer fields (Soccer Fields Road off Maddox Drive) will be opening it for parking, which is convenient.”

Robert Lique, president of the co-sponsoring Ellijay Lions Club, said the civic organization is on the brink of having their facilities set up for festival-goers.

“We’ll be going into building two shortly to get it ready,” he said Monday morning. “The Lions Club will be meeting (Tuesday) evening to get the main building ready. We’ll put up tables for the dining area, because that’s pretty much all it’s used for (is) during the festival. We’re also working on getting the grounds straightened out, some weed-eating and things like that.”

Traffic congestion is expected to increase all this week, and especially as vendors pull into town and begin checking in at the fairgrounds Thursday afternoon.

“We’re pretty much on the way to being there,” Lique noted. “The Boy Scouts will come in and lay out parking spaces.”

Larry Callahan, festival public safety director, had some traffic hints most locals have already learned.

“Get your business done early in the week and stay north of the Highway 5 and Highway 282 area on festival days, and you’ll probably make it (around town) pretty well except for parade day,” he advised. “If you try to go south of there or down on Old 5, you’re just going to get into traffic. It’s just that simple. You can try to get around it on the four-lane (Highway 515), but it’s going to be congested — it’s just the nature of the beast.”

Callahan said around 22 off-duty law enforcement officers will be hired to work traffic in shifts, and several more will be working security at festival sites.

Unlike last year’s rain-plagued first weekend, the forecast is brighter for the weekend.

“The weather looks perfect right now — we’re just going to continue to send up those prayers that it stays perfect,” Green shared.
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