Monday, November 30, 2009

Georgia Traveler “Courage on Display at Lake Blackshear”

Right now I’m buckled in a white mini-van, driving along Highway 280 past thick fields of Georgia grown cotton, heading back to GPB headquarters in Atlanta. It’s November and still over 70 degrees. That makes for a comfortable ride on a high-powered wave-runner at Lake Blackshear Resort and Golf Club. Our crew was out today shooting the beautiful Georgia Veterans Memorial Golf Course in Cordele for the final segment in the Georgia Traveler Golf Tour of Georgia. Not only does Blackshear offer regular golf all year round, you can also take on the frisbee, or disc golf course.

After putting on a clinic with his clubs, golf pro Ryan Snider goofed around with us for a couple of hours on the heavily wooded frisbee course. Ryan and I started off in a dead heat for the lowest score, but the game quickly morphed into a skills challenge. Cameraman extraordinaire Mitch Zastrow needed close-up shots of the discs hitting the “holes”, which are odd looking contraptions that resemble a parking meter decorated in a halo of chain-links. These chains, when struck by the discs, make a loud and strangely rewarding clang/jingle noise…that sweet “disc golf” sound of accomplishment!

With all of the action going on during this shoot, it’s a wonder that we only had two injuries. Traveler’s sadistic associate producer Sammy “slammy” Jones took several takes to successfully hit me with a disc while I was swinging my golf club. There was a point to this stunt…It’s the only way I could think of to transition from regular golf to disc golf. The problem is that these discs are rather heavy compared to regular beach frisbees, and Sammy drilled me in delicate spots like the ankle, elbow and most painfully, the hip. Never again will I ask someone to throw hard objects at me over and over again.
Injury number two is a mystery. Cameraman extraordinaire Mitch Zastrow, who I introduced earlier in this story, twisted his ankle…however, he doesn’t remember when…Hmmmm…As the day went on, the ankle progressively got worse to the point where he could barely walk, more importantly shoot, but today he showed the true courage of a grizzled and dedicated veteran, and continued to work until the shoot was a wrap.

So readers, when you ever feel like giving up on anything in life, think of Mitch and how he finished the Lake Blackshear shoot with a bum ankle… Until the next Georgia Traveler adventure…Pleasant Journeys.

David Zelski

P.S. My hip still hurts and Sammy cut his finger on something…

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

The Georgia Traveler Team wants to wish everyone a very happy Thanksgiving. Remember to drive safely when traveling around the state this holiday weekend! New episodes of Georgia Traveler will resume December 18th with "The Holiday Tour of Georgia."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Welcome Valarie Edwards!

You’ve seen her hunt ghosts at the Windsor Hotel in Americus for the “Ghost Tour of Georgia”. She’s rolled up her sleeves to make fruitcake with the monks at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers for the “Made in Georgia Tour”. She has explored Westville in Lumpkin for our “Historic Tour of Georgia”. This weekend, you can see her visit Andalusia, the home of author Flannery O’Connor in Milledgeville for the “Book Tour of Georgia”. But who is Valarie Edwards?

Red is her favorite color, she’s saving up to buy a Shih Tzu, she was born wearing heels, and considers chocolate and wine the only true food groups. Valarie was born in New York City. And like a true New Yorker, she speaks a little Spanish, less Italian and even less Yiddish. She has lived in Hong Kong and the Phillippines, but considers the San Francisco-Bay Area her hometown.

A 1997 graduate of Golden Gate University’s School of Arts And Letters, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. In 1999, she received her Master of Journalism from the University of California, Berkeley. She has been a Reporter for Georgia Public Broadcasting Radio since 2007 and in 2009, joined her television colleagues for “Lawmakers”, our coverage of the Georgia General Assembly. Her hard work under the gold dome resulted in a 1st Place award from CapitolBeat (National Association of Statehouse Reporters) for her coverage of the Home Mortgage Crisis.

In May 2009, she officially joined the Georgia Traveler team and hit the road, exploring the Empire State of the South. We’re excited that Valarie has joined the team and hope that you’ll welcome her if you should see her in your community.

Welcome our newest Georgia Traveler, Valarie Edwards!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

This Week: Book Tour of Georgia

This week the Georgia Traveler team embarks on a Book Tour of Georgia. Peach State authors have made their mark in the literary world, from grand epics to stories of little critters. We journey to a few places you can learn about these legendary Georgia talents.

Georgia Traveler 305, The Book Tour of Georgia, premieres Friday, November 20th at 9:00 PM on GPB, then repeats Saturday, November 21st at 7:00 PM and Wednesday, November 18 at 7:30 PM.

For more information about those upcoming episodes, check out our website at:

Georgia Traveler is produced in partnership with the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Check out the new Georgia Tourism website at

Behind the Scenes: Flannery O'Connor on the Book Tour

Our upcoming episode of Georgia Traveler that premieres this weekend is all about Georgia authors. It's called the "Book Tour of Georgia" and highlights only a few of Georgia's many, many talented authors. Included in our program are Joel Chandler Harris, Margaret Mitchell, Jessica Green and Ted Hafer (authors of The Grit Cookbook), and Flannery O'Connor.

Georgia Traveler co-host Valarie Edwards takes you on a journey to Milledgeville, where Mary Flannery O'Connor spent most of her adult life. Here's a picture of Valarie on the front porch of Andalusia, the O'Connor family farm. Andalusia has been preserved as a museum by the Flannery O'Connor Andalusia Foundation.

Born in 1925 in Savannah, Flannery was the only child of Regine Cline and Edwin Francis O'Connor. The family lived in a three story home on Lafayette Square, just steps away from Savannah's Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. Her childhood home is also a museum managed by the Flannery O'Connor Childhood Home Foundation.

After a brief residence in Atlanta beginning in 1938, the O’Connor family moved in 1940 to Milledgeville to live in the Cline family home on Greene Street. Flannery's father, Edward, died of lupus early in 1941, and Mrs. O’Connor and Flannery continued to live in the Milledgeville family home along with Flannery’s aunts. It was in that home on Greene Street that Flannery continued to live while she attended Peabody High School and Georgia State College for Women, which is now Georgia College & State University. The University is home to the Flannery O'Connor collection. Here's a picture of our photographer Mitch Zastrow in the Flannery O'Connor Room, shooting footage of one of Flannery's typewriters.

Flannery O’Connor left Milledgeville in 1945 to attend the State University of Iowa. She received a Master of Fine Arts degree after two years but remained in Iowa for another year before going to the Yaddo Foundation's artist colony near Saratoga Springs, New York. Afterwards she lived in New York City where she was introduced to Robert and Sally Fitzgerald, with whom she lived for over a year in Ridgefield, Connecticut. During this time she was writing her first novel Wise Blood. In late 1950 Flannery O’Connor began to exhibit symptoms of lupus, the disease that had killed her father. Her health forced Flannery to return to Milledgeville in 1951, where she and her mother moved to the family farm, Andalusia, where Flannery lived for thirteen years, until her death in 1964.

Georgia Traveler visited GCSU and spoke with Professor Bruce Gentry, the Editor of the Flannery O'Connor Review. We then visited Andalusia and spoke with Craig Amason, Executive Director of the Flannery O’Connor Andalusia Foundation. Here's a picture of Valarie and Craig as they walk some of the grounds at Andalusia. The farm's original 21 acres have been recently augmented to include nearly 500 adjoining acres, which have been set aside as a nature preserve. There are nature trails with signage about some of the types of trees on the property as well. This is definitely an excellent outdoor activity for literary buffs!

Back in the city limits of Milledgeville, you can hop a hospitality trolley that leaves from the headquarters of our good friends at the Milledgeville Convention and Visitors Bureau on West Hancock Street and see other Flannery highlights, like the Sacred Heart Catholic Church where O’Connor and her mother attended Mass daily.

You can catch our segment on Flannery O'Connor in Georgia Traveler 305, the Book Tour of Georgia this Friday, November 20 at 9 PM, Saturday, November 21 at 7 PM and Wednesday, November 25 at 7:30 PM.

We hope you enjoy the segment as much as we enjoyed our visit to Milledgeville. Until my next Behind the Scenes post, this is Executive Producer Ashlie Wilson wishing you pleasant journeys... from the beautiful front porch of the Andalusia farm!

This Weekend in Georgia

The Holiday Season is almost upon us. Here are a few events to get you in the holiday mood this weekend.

Candlelight Tour Festival
November 20 - 22, 2009
Warm Springs, Georgia

Visit the city FDR made his second home! Discover the Magic of Christmas in Warm Springs as the Village is transformed into a glowing wonderland of lights. Horse and buggy tours are available as visitors shop by candlelight and hear carolers and musicians serenade the streets. Restaurants and shops keep extended hours November 20, 21, and 22 to help you find that unique gift for a special someone. More information is available here. While visiting Warm Springs, be sure to visit Roosevelt's Little White House. Visitors can tour FDR's home away from home and discover why President Roosevelt retreated to Georgia to try to recuperate from his polio. Here's their website for more information.

Magical Nights of Lights
November 21 - November 22, 2009
Lake Lanier Islands

Known as the world’s largest animated light extravaganza, the seven-and-a-half mile driving tour features giant illuminated characters that are comprised of millions of twinkling and moving lights. After the tour, visit the Holiday Village for amusement rides, pony rides, marshmallow roasting, holiday shopping, and a visit with Santa Claus. For more information, visit the Lake Lanier Islands website. Georgia Traveler's Keely Muse and her husband, Wynn, will be visiting the Nights of Lights in an upcoming episode of Georgia Traveler, The Holiday Tour of Georgia. Look for it on GPB in December!

Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival
November 21 - 22, 2009
Thomasville, Georgia

And finally, for those festival fans among us, be sure not to miss the 14th annual Plantation Wildlife Arts Festival in Thomasville, Georgia. The festival is one of America's premier wildlife and sporting art festvials. There's fun for the whole family, with wildlife, painting, sculpture, photography, and carving exhibits. The festival draws on the centuries-old tradition of wildlife management and conservation coupled with support of wildlife art in the Thomasville area. It all begins Saturday, November 21 at 10 AM, and runs through Sunday, November 22. For more information visit the official website.

And those are just a few ideas for things to do in the Peach State this weekend. For more ideas, visit, a great website operated by our production partners at the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Behind the Scenes: Madison on the Historic Tour

This weekend, you'll have the opportunity to watch Georgia Traveler's "Historic Tour of Georgia". That program will be broadcast Friday, November 13 at 9 PM, Saturday, November 14 at 7 PM and Wednesday, November 18 at 7:30 PM. In the show, we feature The Smith House in Dahlonega as our Food Find, Family Fun can be found at Westville in Lumpkin, Our Local Legend is The Prison Museum & Last Meal Cafe in Ashburn and our Getaway is the lovely, historic Madison, Georgia! Just to the left is a picture of the Morgan County Courthouse which sits on the downtown square. As you may know, Madison is often called the "town too pretty to burn" because it escaped the torches of Sherman's army during the March to the Sea. The reality is that Madison was home to Joshua Hill, a pro-Union Senator, who resigned his seat in the US Senate at the beginning of the War Between the States despite his opposition to succession. He returned home to Madison and so was able to intervene on the towns behalf with General Slocum when Sherman's Army was razing the countryside. Here's a picture of co-host David Zelski in front of the Joshua Hill Home, which has been preserved, like many of the town's antebellum homes. You can find out more about Joshua Hill by visiting the Madison Morgan Cultural Center's exhibit about the history of Madison. As a matter of fact, the MMCC is a great place to begin any visit to Madison. Our new friend Patricia DuBose is the Marketing Manager there and helped our production team in so many ways!
The Traveler crew actually visited Madison on two occasions- once on May 1 for the "Madison in May" tour of homes and again on June 24 during the Madison Morgan Cultural Center's Chamber Music Festival. Here is a picture of co-host David Zelski with Christine Lambert, the gracious hostess of Hilltop. The home was built in 1832 and has been in the Lambert family since 1922. Hilltop was originally an L shaped house with three rooms down stairs and three rooms above. There are three chimneys which makes the home have six fireplaces. There's a fireplace in all of the original rooms. Chris told us that the rooms more or less are 20 by 20 square and the ceilings are 12 feet high. Definitely a sight to see- we hope Hilltop is on future Tours of Homes. Another beautiful home, which is just outside of Madison city proper, has been in the Ainslie family since 1870. Ardenlea is the farm of Andrew Ainslie's Scottish-born great-grandfather, who actually fought for the Union Army and camped on the property when Slocum's troops came through the area. After the War, Ainslie left Sandusky, Ohio and came South to Madison. There have been six generations of Andrew Ainslies to live on the property... and four generations of Ainslies still live in the Madison area. The current Andrew Ainslie that resides at Ardenlea is an accomplished gardener. Just look at these beautiful flowers! We had such a lovely time in Madison. Hope you might have the time to visit there soon!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

This Weekend in Georgia

The weekend approaches once more, and here are some tips on how to spend it--Georgia Traveler Style!

The Pink Pig
Saturday, November 14 - Sunday, November 15, 2009
Lenox Square, Atlanta
All aboard for the Pink Pig! Macy's 56-year-old tradition continues this year at Lenox Square in Atlanta. Kids young and old will thrill to the unforgettable experience of riding in Priscilla. There is a small fee involved, and portions of the proceeds go to benefit Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Click here for more information on dates and times. Georgia Traveler's David Zelski takes a ride on the Pink Pig on an upcoming episode, "The Holiday Tour of Georgia," which is set to premiere Wednesday, December 16 at 7:30 PM on GPB.

Cumming Steam, Antique Tractor, and Gas Engine Exposition

Friday, November 13 - Saturday, November 14, 2009
Cumming Fairgrounds, Cumming

The Steam, Antique Tractor, and Gas Engine Exposition takes you back in time as you gaze through the various forms of antique farming equipment. There's also a cotton gin, sawmill, and shingle mill! With interactive displays of how all the machines and tractors work, you'll be leaving here with a whole new realm of information! For details, here's the website.

Sportman's Festival

Friday, November 13, 2009 Downtown Warrenton
Hunters and fishermen won't want to miss their very own festival. The Sportman's Festival is being held this Friday, November 13 in Warrenton and will feature sporting vendors, exhibitors, demonstrations, and Okenfenokee Joe! There will also be a turkey shoot, big buck contest, and gun raffle. There will also be great food, a children's carnival, and Smokey the Bear! Okefenokee Joe is the host of several popular GPTV-produced documentaries including Swampwise and The Joy of Snakes. For more information visit the website.

And those are just a few ideas for things to do in the Peach State this weekend. For more ideas, visit, a great website operated by our production partners at the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

Friday, November 6, 2009

This Weekend in Georgia

It's the first full weekend in November and what are you going to do? Here are some ideas for some great events happening in Georgia:

Big Pig Jig Barbeque Cooking Championship
November 6-7, 2009 in Vienna
Barbeque, arts and crafts, rides and games and numerous competitions- that's the Big Pig Jig! The stew and sauce contest and the Tyson Chicken Q contest are tonight, but tomorrow at 10 AM, the judging of the barbeque begins. For more information, check out their website. To get a glimpse of a past Big Pig Jig, click here and watch Georgia Traveler's Gerald Bryant attend the festivities!

Granite City Fall Festival
November 7 in dowtown Elberton
Organizers tell us this is the 10th annual Granite City Fall Festival in Elberton, the Granite Capital of the World. The festival will feature arts and crafts, food, entertainment, granite demonstrations, quarry tours and a petting zoo. For more information, visit the Elbert County Chamber of Commerce's website. Georgia Traveler's own David Zelski has explored the sites of Elberton- click here to watch that segment.

Mule Day
November 7, 2009 in Calvary
Come on down to Calvary to celebrate one of the hardest workin' animals on the farm- the mule. The local Lions Club sponsors this annual festival that features arts and crafts, mule parade and contest, cane griding and syrup making. For more information, you can visit the website or call 229-377-3663. David Zelski has also explored the Mule Day festivities- click here to watch Georgia Traveler's Mule Day segment.

Of course, one of the best things happening in Georgia this weekend is the premiere of Georgia Traveler's third show of our new season in HD. This week's episode is the "Made in Georgia Tour". You can see that episode Friday, November 6 at 9 PM, Saturday, November 7 at 7 PM and Wednesday, November 11 at 7:30 PM. For more information about that episode, check out the Georgia Traveler website.

And those are just a few ideas for things to do in the Peach State this weekend. For more ideas, visit, a great website operated by our production partners at the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

This Week: Made in Georgia Tour in HD!

On this episode of Georgia Traveler…It’s the Made in Georgia Tour. From moonshine and soda to paintings and prayers we’ll show you a few peach state originals…

World of Coca Cola Museum - Atlanta
David Zelski would like to teach the world to sing during his exciting, thirst quenching exploration of the World of Coca-Cola. When you think of a brand that is made in Georgia and recognized around the world...Coke is it! So sit back, have a Coke and a smile and enjoy our tasty tour of the World of Coca-Cola.

Monastery of the Holy Spirit – Conyers
Valarie Edwards visits the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. Established nearly 65 years ago, the monks who live and work at the Monastery have a long tradition of supporting themselves ‘by the sweat of their brow.’ Join Valarie as she samples all the home made goodies the Monastery has to offer. Watch as she rolls up her sleeves for a hands-on demonstration on how to make fruitcake.

Plein Air Watercolor Class with the Glynn Art Association - St. Simons Island
Join Traveler Host Keely Muse as she learns about creating art outdoors with painter Bob Fisher on St. Simon’s Island. The Glynn Art Association offers classes of all kinds, but when it comes to enjoying island beauty while painting, a watercolor “Plein Air” class is definitely the way to go! For more information about classes and everything Glynn Art has to offer, check out their website.

Mountain Moonshine Festival – Dawsonville
The Georgia Traveler crew heads up to Dawsonville for this high octane adventure. Though active moonshine stills no longer exist up in the North Georgia mountains, (right?)… David and Phil find plenty of good food, fun and “moonshine free” drinks called “monkey nuts” to keep them entertained. Meanwhile, Keely hangs out with a few Mountain Moonshine Festival historians who explain how the origins of stock car racing began with moonshine runners feeling the law.

Tune in for Georgia Traveler 302: Made in Georgia this weekend:
Friday, November 6 at 9 PM
Saturday, November 7 at 7 PM
Wednesday, November 11 at 7:30 PM

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Behind the Scenes: Dahlonega's Gold Rush Days

Saturday, October 18th, 2008 dawned a wee bit chilly, but the Georgia Traveler crew couldn't have been more excited to set out at 7 AM for the Northeast Georgia mountains. Our desitination: Dahlonega and the annual Gold Rush Days festival. Now, as excited as we were about the festival, the reason for great anticipation was the arrival of our new Sony HD cameras. Gold Rush days was our first shoot with the new technology and we were really looking forward to getting out there and starting the shooting for our 3rd season and our first in HIGH DEFINITION! Here you can see (L-R) Keely Muse, photographer Dan Hodlick, producer Jennifer Houston Wood, David Zelski and associate producer Sammy Jones. These next two shots are of photographer Mitchell Zastrow and Dan Hodlick showing off the new gear. For those that are interested, the cameras are Sony 335 XD Cams. That's the Dahlonega Courthouse Museum there in the background of the photo of Dan and this group shot. This is where we shot the open for the Gold Rush Days segment with Traveler co-hosts David Zelski, Phil Proctor and Keely Muse. Georgia's State Parks and Historic Sites operates the Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site there in the old courthouse- and you can't miss it, it's in the middle of the square downtown. For more info about the museum, visit their website by clicking here. After the open was "on disc", our hosts split up to cover the festival, Keely heading for the arts and crafts vendors, David and Phil headed for activities and competitions. Wherever we went, it seemed that Traveler fans were never far away. We were so pleased and flattered to have folks come and tell us how much they enjoy the show. And we're always happy to take a few fan photos like these. David and Phil competed in the "wheelbarrow" contest- you can see their different approaches to the competition in these two photos!

The crowds for the Gold Rush Days grew as the day went on (and grew warmer). Soon it was time for the parade through the square. The North Georgia College and State University located in Dahlonega has a long military history. One of only six senior military colleges in the United States, the Corps of Cadets from the University were participants in the parade. For more information about North Georgia College and State University in Dahlonega, visit their website by clicking here. The Traveler crew was lucky enough to be able to view the parade from higher ground- the balcony above the visitor's center afforded an excellent view of the festivities below... and the rocking chairs provided an excellent place to rest for Phil and our associate producer, Sammy Jones. This next shot- also taken on the balcony- is one of my favorites. Segment producer Jennifer Houston Wood holding our first complete HD disc! The thrill of having our first HD footage could only be matched by the delectable goodies at Dahlonega's The Fudge Factory. If you've never had a "Dahlonega nugget" from the factory, you're missing out! Fresh, rich caramel- homemade with REAL butter and REAL cream- with your choice of pecans, almonds, cashews or peanuts and topped with your choice of dark, milk or white chocolate! What's not to love? For more about the Fudge Factory and all it has to offer, click here. And of course, it's more than just the nuggets- there is FUDGE! My personal favorite is the probably the Butter Brickle, but I'm awfully fond of the Maple Walnut too... humm, so hard to decide. There are many flavors to choose from and these folks don't mind helping you out with a sample. Enjoy and tell 'em Georgia Traveler sent you! Our crew certainly enjoyed our time in Dahlonega. Here's a group shot of the GPB staff that went that day. From left to right, that's me, executive producer Ashlie Wilson, photographer Mitch Zastrow, associate producer Sammy Jones, Keely Muse, Phil Proctor, David Zelski, photographer Dan Hodlick and producer Jenny Wood. You can see the fabulous segment, written and produced by Jenny and edited by the amazing Charlene Fisk tomorrow- Wednesday, November 4 at 7:30 PM on GPB. For more about the "Fall Colors Tour of Georgia" episode and to WATCH ONLINE, visit the Georgia Traveler website.