Friday, April 10, 2015

On Hometown Fame

Within the past couple of years, I have had to begin convincing those that I meet that my hometown actually exists—something folks are generally not prepared to do. Woodbury, GA, has experienced its own little fifteen minutes of fame in recent years through its being featured on cable television’s The Walking Dead, a show largely dedicated to showing the numerous possibilities and permutations of dismemberment. Dismemberment tends not to be a terrible drawback to the titular “biters,” as the fictional Woodburites call them; we’re not going after realism in watching a show about zombies, after all. Further, the show keeps its viewers perpetually on the brink of an emotional crisis from week to week as their favorite characters are perpetually at death’s door, be it from the zombies, unfortunate choice of traveling companion, or some other misfortune. (If word that characters can be killed off by means of angry bull or malfunctioning tractor brake, Dead fans may break the internet.) Far more intriguing to me about the Walking Dead phenomenon is how West Central Georgia became part of the American cultural landscape since the premiere of the show. Senoia, the town portraying Woodbury, has made a tidy sum of tourism dollars in drawing folks in to walk the streets of America’s favorite zombie survival camp. Senoia-as-Woodbury is a bit more idyllic on the show, even with the constant threat of zombie apocalypse, due to the tireless efforts of its townsfolk to keep it free of the undead and the downtown areas open for business. At the time of writing, Senoia has not elected to pay the real Woodbury any royalties for using our name; we are prepared to cut off their supply of farm-raised peaches and new residents for their gaudy subdivisions if the situation doesn’t correct itself PDQ.

Milledgeville, thankfully, has had little trouble in its history of attracting people to it. Many of these, of course, did not come willingly, as Central State Hospital very literally has its own ZIP code and was instrumental in keeping this town employed once the business of the capitol moved to Atlanta. Further, the square which now holds the lion’s share of Georgia College was, prior to our visit from General Sherman and the accompanying fire, the state penitentiary. We, then, have historically had little trouble attracting the sick, criminal, and political classes, not that I am in any way equating them or anything. Flannery’s own reunion with Milledgeville was not a volitional one, either; she returned to the farm as a lupus patient but was thankfully able to put out her best works while here.

Thanks to higher education and the efforts of the local historical preservationists, new residents and visitors are a constant here in Milledgeville, many of whom come on their own free will and harbor little to no criminal tendencies. Each day that Andalusia is open is a look into not only the life of who is likely our most famous resident, but also how a place like Milledgeville keeps its head above water. From the handy types who come out to work on the equipment shed to the artistic set who hang their works in the house, it truly does “take all kinds,” as Ruby Turpin puts it. I personally am lucky enough to spend significant amounts of time at Andalusia and at a pair of other Milledgeville museums: the Old Capital Museum and the Brown-Stetson-Sanford House. With continued support from both locals and tourists, sites like these will keep our town from the ranks of the walking dead.

Daniel emcees Andalusia's 10th Annual Bluegrass Festival
-- Daniel Wilkinson is a museum worker, Interim Choir Director for the Milledgeville First United Methodist Church, and a recovering amateur humorist. Coming to Milledgeville in search of a bachelor's degree, the town eventually found ways to keep him. When not with the choirs and tourists, he enjoys Southern literature, sci-fi, trivia contests, and the Oxford comma.

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