Dahlonega Christmas 2019

dahlonega christmas decorations

Imagine yourself in a quaint historic town with thousands of holiday lights, music playing, stores decorated with greenery and Christmas decorations, Santa visiting children, horse-drawn lighted carriages taking people around the decorated square. It almost sounds like a scene from an old holiday movie or something out of a Charles Dickens book. It’s a Dahlonega Christmas and it’s only a short drive from Atlanta and the shopping malls.

Dahlonega Christmas is a longstanding tradition. Last year it was featured in Southern Living bringing thousands of tourists to the area. The event which starts the end of November with holiday lights running through mid-January has also been featured in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Better Homes and Gardens, and Country Living. The Hallmark channel also discovered that Dahlonega makes a great Christmas town and filmed “Christmas in Homestead” a few years ago on the historic square.

The festivities begin the last Friday in November with the lighting of the square and the downtown Christmas tree at 6:00 pm. For the first time ever food trucks will be at Hancock Park from 3:00-7:00 pm Friday and Saturday and for the second and third Saturdays in December. This year Forever Plaid will be performing Christmas songs from their “Plaid Tidings” show on the Visitor Center Plaza Friday and Saturday – November 29 & 30 at 8:00 pm. Stores will also be open later than usual and carriage rides will be available for that romantic ride around the square.

If you can’t make the Dahlonega Christmas holiday kick off weekend the festivities will continue throughout the month and the lights will be lit until January 15th.

Winter Wine Walk Wednesdays will happen the first three Wednesdays in December from 5:00-8:00 pm.. For one price ($35.00 pp) enjoy wine and Charcuterie board hors d’oeuvres at five tasting rooms around the square.

The Holly Theater will have A Christmas Story stage performance the first three weekends in December on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons.

Saturday December 7th will be filled with holiday cheer all day long with visits with Santa, a free Christmas concert at Hancock Park and the Old Fashioned Christmas parade from 4:00-5:00 pm. Having attended the parade in the past it is definitely a small town parade. It’s short on the floats but is still fun to attend. At 7:30 pm you can head to the Dahlonega United Methodist Church for The North Georgia Chamber Symphony holiday concert or catch A Christmas Story at the Holly Theater at 8:00 pm. In between activities enjoy the decorations and holiday atmosphere that greet you everywhere you turn whether you’re eating at one of our downtown’s great restaurants or food trucks, sipping wine at our tasting rooms, window shopping, snuggling with your sweetie on a carriage ride, or checking off that last item on your holiday shopping list.

As you can gather there is plenty to do to put you in the holiday spirit. The link below provides a complete calendar of all the activities. We hope you come and stay with us and experience the Dahlonega Christmas.

https://dahlonegachristmas.com

HemlockFest- Dahlonega’s Little Woodstock

hemlockfest festival

Hemlockfest is a unique 3 day music festival with a Woodstock vibe that happens the first full weekend in November. Since 2005 Hemlockfest has been raising funds to save the southeastern forests’ Hemlocks which are in peril and to reintroduce the American Chestnuts (more details below).

Festival guests have the option of purchasing passes to the events for 1 to 3 days. On site primitive tent camping sites are available for an additional fee- no trailers or motorhomes. Campers have access to pit toilets and primitive showers. Since it is an environmental festival campers are required to leave no trace and leave the campsite like they found it.

The Hemlockfest venue is Starbridge – a 50 acre private event facility east of Dahlonega (see map below) and provides an ideal location for the event. There is a nice 5 acre lake on the property for paddling canoes provided by Appalachian Outfitters. The event stage where the bands perform uses a sound system powered by solar panels.

As mentioned earlier the purpose of Hemockfest is to save the hemlock trees and reintroduce the southeastern chestnut trees. The hemlocks are being threatened by a parasitic insect called the wooly adelgid and festival proceeds are used to fund predator beetle labs at the local universities to raise the beetles for release in hemlock populated forests. Hemlocks are large evergreen trees that thrive in the shade and provide wildlife habitat and help with soil erosion on mountainsides and streams. They like acid soil and grow in higher elevations where other trees cannot survive. Ten years ago we visited western North Carolina near Grandfather Mountain and saw hundreds of miles of dead hemlocks, as far as you could see. The National Forest Service claims millions of hemlocks have been lost already. Such a loss is devastating to the eco system.

Since 2016 Hemlockfest has also raised money for the American Chestnut tree that has been wiped out by a fungal blight. 100 years ago the tree was a dominant hardwood species in the Appalachian forests. A blight resistant version of the tree is now being introduced in the forests.

Now for the fun part of this blog. When we attend Hemlockfest it seems like a small version of Woodstock. With live bands playing most of the day and into the evening, and attendees dancing and singing it is always a festive event. Food and local craft beer are available so you won’t go hungry or thirsty. Shenanigan’s is always there with a volunteer staff serving food and donating the proceeds to the cause. Artists are there selling their unique creations as well and we always seem to bring something back. Educational exhibits and talks about the hemlocks are also provided. A silent auction with unique items is located near the main stage area.

Come stay us and spend the day at Hemlockfest. Enjoy a unique festival while helping save the hemlocks and reintroduce the chestnuts.

For more information on Hemlockfest and to purchase tickets online visit their web site. http://hemlockfest.org/blog/

Hardman Farm

Hardman Farm house

This week when we didn’t have guests or chores that needed our immediate attention we decided to play tourists and took a short excursion (33 minutes) to the Hardman Farm State Historic Site just south of Helen, Georgia. A guided tour of the restored and furnished main house, outbuildings, and grounds took us back in time.

Situated on the historic Unicoi Turnpike, the farm was actually occupied by three different families with the Hardmans being the last family to own the property. In 1999 it was donated to the State of Georgia and as of this writing it is the newest Georgia State historic site. Our tour guide shared the rich history of the estate and its influence on the area.

The Nichols Family- The First Residents

Confederate Captain James Hall Nichols of Milledgeville, GA purchased the property and built many of the original buildings as a permanent home for his wife Kate and daughter Anna Ruby – namesake of Anna Ruby Falls. The main house called West End was built in the early 1870s using an Italianate design. It is identical to his brother-in-law’s home in Milledgeville with a few innovative exceptions to make the home more comfortable. Captain Nichols added a cupola or solar chimney on top for cooling and a larger wrap around porch to take advantage of the mountain breezes from any direction as well as beautiful views of Mount Yonah. He also made his own acetylene gas on the property that produced lighting in the home. The now iconic gazebo on top of the Indian mound across the road from West End was also built by Captain Nichols as a picnic spot inadvertently saving the mound from destruction – several other mounds in the area were leveled to create farm land.

The Hunnicut Family

The Hunnicuts of Atlanta purchased the property from James Nichols in 1893 for $22,500. Calvin Hunnicut, like Captain James Nichols, was active in the Civil War but became impoverished after the war. He formed a plumbing and stove company in Atlanta to make his fortune. Unlike the Nichols family who used the property as their full time home, the Hunnicuts only came to the farm for summer getaways. They enjoyed the Atlanta social life too much to leave Atlanta for too long.

The Hardman Family

Dr. Lamartine Griffin Hardman best known as Governor of Georgia between 1927 and 1931, purchased the property in 1903 renaming it Elizabeth on the Chattahoochee for his mother. The farm was just one of his many properties and an opportunity to practice innovations in farming, dairy farming, the use of electricity and more. The grist mill just around the corner from the main house was part of the purchase and renamed Nora Mill in memory of his sister and used to produce electricity for the home – much safer than the acetylene gas originally used on the property. Hardman married Emma Griffin of Valdosta in 1907 and they raised four children who enjoyed their summers at the farm as did their children.

The Hardman Farm has 15 structures that you can see including several that you can tour. You must purchase a ticket for a guided tour if you want to tour the main house most of the year. During the Christmas holidays the farm is decorated and docents in period dress share the history of the farm with visitors. Farm to table dinners are offered from time to time using fresh produce from the gardens. For special event dates, check the site below.

Also make sure to hike the Hardman Heritage Trail which starts at the farm and follows the Chattohoochee River to Helen. The hike is flat and easy on a concrete trail. Informational signs posted along the trail explain the history of the area. You can hike the trail even when the farm is closed and see Nora Mill from a different perspective across the river.

For more information on the Hardman Farm and tour information visit https://gastateparks.org/HardmanFarm

Directions: https://goo.gl/maps/ZtWDsqwkqmn7VS8a6