Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Toccoa-Stephens County Prepares for the 9th Annual Currahee Military Weekend

The Stephens County Historical Society, the Toccoa Stephens County Chamber of Commerce, and the Toccoa Main Street are once again teaming up to host the 9th annual Currahee Military Weekend Sept. 29 – Oct. 2, 2011. The events will take place in downtown Toccoa, the Stephens County Airport, and Currahee Mountain.

The event began 9 years ago to honor the men of Camp Toccoa and as a show of appreciation for the sacrifices they made. It is estimated that as many as 17,000 soldiers from the 501st, 506th, 511th, 517th Parachute Infantry Regiments trained at Camp Toccoa during the two years that they were located at the base of Currahee Mountain. With the paratrooper population being greater than the town’s population, one can imagine the impact of the soldiers on the community.

“We look forward to the paratroopers who trained at Camp Toccoa and their families coming back to Toccoa for the reunion to reminisce about their experiences with their friends who shared this very significant time in their lives,” says Brenda Carlan, County and Currahee Military Museum Executive Director. Each year, some Camp Toccoa veterans return for the first time since they left in the 1940’s. It can be very emotional for them to see some of the places they frequented while they were in training. During the weekend visitors can meet some of the paratroopers who trained here and listen to their stories. Each year the veterans and re-enactors visit local school and teach the students about WWII from a firsthand perspective.

New this year is a traveling exhibit from Russia made possible by Russia, the United States and the Joe Beyrle family that will be displayed in the Currahee Military Museum during the event. Beyrle’s story of being captured by the Germans, escaping and then joining up and fighting with the Russians against Germany is a fascinating story. Beyrle returned to Toccoa on many occasions to attend reunions, meet with old friends and to visit Stephens County Middle School, where he was very close to the students. He often shared some of his WWII experiences with them during his visits. His daughter, Julie Schugars will be the guest speaker at the Opening Ceremonies on Saturday, October 1 at 11:30 a.m.

Also, this year marks the tenth year anniversary of the release of the HBO miniseries “The Band of Brothers.” This story immortalized the lives of some of the courageous men who trained at Camp Toccoa and fought as paratroopers during WWII. James Madio, who portrayed Frank Perconte in the film, will be the special speaker for the banquet on October 1 at 7:00 p.m. at the Georgia Baptist Conference Center. “Events like this are a small fraction of what I can give back to the men and women who have served our country. It would be pleasure to join you guys,” said Madio about attending the events during the weekend. Tickets are $50.00 and can be purchased from the Stephens County Historical Society. The event is open to the general public.

This will be the first year that the Stephens County Historical Society will have possession of a part of the original property that made up Camp Toccoa. Recently the Pacolet-Milliken company donated nearly six acres of the property as well as the last remaining building of the camp, a long concrete block building that was once a mess hall. Initial plans are for a pavilion holding about 300 people to be built there. Visitors can go and visit the site during the weekend.
The weekend events also include the Hanger Dance on Friday, Sept. 30 at 7:00 p.m., a spectacular parachute jump on Boyd Field, Sat at 10:50 a.m., a Veterans’ Parade, the famous Currahee Challenge Run/Walk “3 Miles Up-3 Miles Down”, special opening ceremonies, as well as weapons displays and living history displays.

There will also be an Airport Show at the Stephens County Airport with the opportunity to ride in one of the vintage WWII aircraft flown by the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) Dixie Wing and the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation.

A solemn remembrance service on Sunday morning at the foot of Currahee Mountain is a fitting end to this special weekend. As “taps” is played in the early morning, the lives of the heroes of the past are remembered as well as the heroes of today.
This is a community-wide collaboration and celebration of Toccoa’s rich military history. The event would not be possible without broad support from community sponsors, volunteers and civic clubs.

For more information, contact the Toccoa Stephens County Chamber of Commerce at 706-886-2132 or the Stephens County Historical Society at 706-282-5055.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Currahee Military Museum to host “Joe Beyrle: A Hero for Two Nations"

Toccoa's Currahee Military Museum will host “Joe Beyrle: A Hero for Two Nations." The story of WWII Paratrooper, Joe Beyrle the only known American to fought with the Russians and America after being captured by the Germans and escaping.

The traveling exhibit from Russia will be on display in the museum Friday August 26th to October 3rd.

Hours are Monday to Saturday 10 am to 4 pm; Sunday 1pm to 4pm.

Admission: Adults $8.00; Students $3.00; Active Military and Historical Society Members Free!

Please make plans to attend this wonderful event!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Triple Crown Watercross returns to Lake Hartwell August 12-14

Upstate Watercraft Promotions-International Jet Sport Boating Association (UWP-IJSBA) national tour event returns to Lake Hartwell Aug. 12 – 14. More than 150 riders are expected to compete in this year’s “Triple Crown Watercross.”

The 2011 national tour event will take place at Saddlers Creek State Park in Anderson County, and spectators can view the race and acrobatic action from land or water. Admission is free. Race course trials begin Friday Aug. 12. Races begin at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 13 -14. For more information, visit or

This extremely popular national tour event combines the electricity and appeal of traditional beach events with the thrills of competitive motor sports. Featuring the highly explosive and exciting sport of watercraft racing, all top USA riders and race teams will be in attendance. Riders will utilize the most advanced equipment and technology to help their watercraft reach speeds of over 80 mph. This thrilling competition, referred to as NASCAR on the water, includes handle bar-to- handle bar action that pits rider and machine in a personal watercraft battlefield and creates an “extreme sports” water venue for performing Olympic-style acrobatic and choreographed freestyle shows.

“Returning to Lake Hartwell is a dream come true for these nationally recognized athletes,” said A. J. Handler, director of Upstate Watercraft Promotions in Penfield. N. Y. “Last year’s competition could not have been more fun, and now were coming back. The spectators were terrific, the course is wide open, and the race teams fell in love with the area. Lake Hartwell is where we need to be for our southern national tour stop.”

Larry Torrence, executive director of
Lake Hartwell Marketing Alliance, said that the move to Saddlers Creek State Park is a positive for all. Torrence likes the idea of this powerful event being in Anderson’s back yard giving thousands of visitors from all over the region an easy opportunity to enjoy this spectacular weekend.

“We welcome the opportunity to stage this national on-water sports event here in Anderson County,” said Kathy Benson, executive director of the Anderson Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Lake Hartwell is one of our great amenities and we expect visitors from Georgia the upstate and beyond to stay and enjoy our beautiful destination. We can’t wait to showcase our outstanding hospitality and generate a positive economic impact.”

The Triple Crown event is being coordinated by the Lake Hartwell Marketing Alliance, which is the marketing arm for the destination of Lake Hartwell. The alliance is comprised of approximately 200 tourism and business professionals with an interest in developing economic growth through tourism. All alliance members live or work in the six counties surrounding Lake Hartwell: Anderson, Oconee, and Pickens counties in South Carolina and Hart, Franklin and Stephens counties in Georgia.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Back to School Bash to be held this Saturday

Over 100 clowns will invade downtown Toccoa at the second annual Back to School Bash on Saturday, August 6. The City of Toccoa, the Stephens County School System, and Georgia Baptist Conference Center will host the event which will be held from 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. on Doyle St from Pond St to Alexander St. The clowns will have completed a week of “clown college” at the Georgia Baptist Conference Center where they studied a variety of skills. They will put their new skills to good use at the event. The clowns will be entertaining the children through juggling, face painting, puppet shows, and illusion.

Among the new things being offered this year are free haircuts for children. Students from the North Georgia Technical College Cosmetology Department will provide haircuts for any child who would like to have one. They will be located at the old Nickel Back Shoe Store on Doyle St near the public restrooms.

There are two opportunities for those interested in helping local children. The Food 2 Kids program, a program of the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia, will have a drop off at the Stephens County Board of Education booth at the event. This program helps to provide food for children who have little or no food from Friday to Monday. They are asking for packets of instant oatmeal. The oatmeal packets will be distributed by the Food Bank to students enrolled in the program during the 2011 – 2012 school year. There is also the opportunity to donate school supplies to children unable to attend Saturday’s event. The Stephens County Chamber of Commerce will be receiving donations of supplies at the Welcome Center on Alexander St. until Saturday. The Welcome Center will be open from 10:00 – 4:00.

A “Front Porch” reading area, sponsored by Partners for Success and located in front of the Stephens County Courthouse, will be available for children to just sit for a while and listen to their favorite story being read to them.

The Stephens County School System will have several booths with giveaways as well as important school related information for the children. Other businesses and nonprofits will also be there with information about their services as well as supplies for the students.

An entertainment stage will be located at Pond St and Doyle St where local dance schools, school groups and local bands will perform. Inflatable games, as well as a dunking booth will be located at Doyle St and Sage St.

For more information, call Ann Ash at 706-886-3133 or Sharon Crosby at 706-282-3309.

North Carolina Transportation Museum Plans Train Excursion to Toccoa

The North Carolina Transportation Museum Foundation and the Watauga Valley Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society will host two day trip excursions to Roanoke, Va. and Toccoa, Ga. this fall. These trips allow passengers great views of the fall colors combined with the romance of riding the rails to a great destination. If you want to see the Appalachian Mountains at their peak of beauty, these trips are for you.

The Georgia Autumn Special features a day trip to Toccoa, Ga. Oct. 30. While Roanoke was a destination for last year’s excursions, Toccoa is a new location and an exciting opportunity for those who take the trips each year.

Sunday, Oct. 30, the Georgia Autumn Special will depart from the N.C. Transportation Museum at 7:00 am with additional stop/pickup at the Spartanburg, SC Amtrak station at 9:00 am and will traverse what was once Southern Railway’s main line, running from Washington, D.C. to Atlanta, Ga. Passengers will enjoy the gala fall colors of Carolinas’ rolling foothills, before crossing the 100-foot Seneca River trestle spanning Lake Hartwell to arrive at Toccoa.

Nestled into the foothills of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, the historic town will be bustling with activity during the 29th annual Harvest Festival. Passengers will have approximately three hours to enjoy the festival, which features handmade, handcrafted and home-grown items from more than 200 vendors, as well as delicious regional foods, great entertainment on two stages, children and youth activities, buggy rides and much more.

Toccoa Falls, named for the Cherokee word “Toccoah” meaning beautiful, is a must see.Located on the campus of Toccoa College, the 186-foot falls are 26 feet taller than Niagara Falls. Shuttle buses will be making a continuous loop between downtown Toccoa and Toccoa Falls.

Departing Toccoa at 3 p.m., the Georgia Autumn Special will return to Spartanburg, SC at 5:45 pm and back to Spencer, NC at 8 p.m.

Four classes of tickets are available, Dome Class, First Class Premium tickets, Deluxe Coach tickets and Tourist Class. Tickets are on sale now. If you are interested, visit and click the available links or call 704-636-2889.