It was a big day on Thursday, Nov. 13, 1969, when Georgia Gov. Lester Maddox came to Augusta to dedicate the eighth “Welcome Center” in the state.
The seven-acre site on I-20 at the Savannah River was said to be large enough to accommodate 41 cars and 10 trucks or travel trailers.
The dedication was held in conjunction with the ninth annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism also being held that week in Augusta at the Town House with an estimated 150 tourism-related officials in attendance over three days.
It’s interesting to note the 2014 Governor’s Conference on Tourism will be back in Augusta on Sept. 3-5 at the Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center. It still is the state’s largest annual gathering of tourism professionals.
If you get away anytime between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Friday, July 11, you can enjoy the 2014 Georgia On My Mind Day at what is now known as the Georgia Visitor Information Center.
Anyone from the Augusta area can come and enjoy free food (peaches, sausage from Ogeechee Meat Market, popcorn, etc.) and souvenirs (such as key chains) from tourism and business promoters throughout the state.
Confirmed participants will include the Fort Gordon Color Guard for opening ceremonies, Atlanta Braves, the new Cabela’s sporting goods store, Augusta State Farmers Market, Augusta Trolley, Woodruff Arts Center, Georgia Lottery, Somewhere in Augusta, Woodrow Wilson Boyhood Home and Convention & Visitors Bureau or tourism representatives from Liberty County (Hinesville), DeKalb County (Decatur), Gwinnett County (Larenceville), Social Circle, Douglasville, Morrow, Macon, Milledgeville, Greensboro and LaGrange.
Besides the center’s manager, Keri Ogletree, also greeting visitors to Georgia from afar at the center are full-time staffers Kenny Davis and Kate LaPonzina and part-time staffers Lee Udell and Sharla Tomberlin.
Ogletree said on a normal busy Friday, the center gets around 700 to 800 cars during the operating hours from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
According to the Web site marketgeorgia.org, the tourism industry in Georgia is the fifth largest employer in the state with a total economic annual impact of $53.6 billion.
The site also notes the tourism industry in Georgia supports 411,000 jobs with taxes of $6.4 billion directly and indirectly generated by tourism in 2013.
For more about the state’s tourism offerings, visit exploregeorgia.org.
GET YOUR RED HOTS: A concert to celebrate the 55th anniversary of Johnny Hensley’s legendary Red Hots band is planned for 8 p.m. Saturday, July 26, at Imperial Theatre.
Tickets are $20, $25 and $30 at the Imperial Theatre box office or imperialtheatre.com.
BIRTHDAY BASH: The fifth anniversary party for the North Augusta Arts and Heritage Center will be from 6:30-10 p.m. Friday, July 18, on the top floor Palmetto Room of North Augusta’s Municipal Building, Georgia Avenue and Centre Street. Performing will be Flo Carter, Carey Murdock and The Henrys (Henry Wynn Jr., Henry Wynn III and Deveran Roof). WRDW-TV’s Laura Warren will be the emcee.
Attendees will vote on a birthday cake competition with entries from BBQ Barn, Bayou Catering, Bi-Lo Bakery, Boll Weevil Café & Sweetery, Kyndra’s Cakes, Jennifer’s Cakes and Publix.
Tickets are $10 for Arts and Heritage Center members and $15 for others available at the center or online at artsandheritagecenter.com.
CHASING ELVIS: Elvis tribute artist Travis Powell, of Shelby, N.C., and guest artist Jeff Barnes, of Evans, with the Change of Habit band from Chicago; 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 18, at the Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Center, 7022 Evans Town Road, in Evans.
Tickets are $30. Visit elvisfestival.com or call (888) 406-5885.