Ellijay Lions Club and Gilmer County Chamber of Commerce: Making a Difference in our Community
For many visitors to Gilmer County, fall is the perfect time to visit. There are crisp apples, colorful rustling leaves and cool mountain breezes to enjoy. AND the best time to come is October for the annual Georgia Apple Festival held the second and third weekends.
In 1934 the Ellijay Lions Club was chartered and Lion L.L. Daughtery served as President. This year the Ellijay Lions Club will celebrate their 80th year with Lion W. Scott Griffith as President.
In 1972, Ellijay Lion President William ‘Bill’ Miller wanted to bring recognition to the Apple Growers in Gilmer County and the first Apple Festival born. Held on the square in downtown Ellijay, a banquet to honor the apple growers was provided and the first Apple Queen was crowned. It was slow going at first, but when everyone realized this was a chance to show off their handmade crafts and goods, more vendors wanted to participate.
As the Festival grew, it moved to the River Park Pavilion and Harold Hefner Park, also in downtown Ellijay. By 1979 the festival had expanded largely and the Ellijay Lions Club invited the Gilmer Chamber of Commerce to lend a hand and eventually the two became co-sponsors. Lions Club and Chamber Member Scott Sharp took over the reigns and became manager of the Apple Festival in the 1990’s. After 18 years as manager, Sharp retired from managing the Festival in 2012. Today an equal number of officers from the Lions Club and Chamber of Commerce serve on the Apple Festival Committee. The Apple Festival is held the 2nd and 3rd weekends in October (after the apple harvest is in) on the Lion’s Club grounds at 1729 South Main Street, Ellijay, GA.
If you are browsing the antique shops in Ellijay, you can take a shuttle-bus ‘to and from’ the GA Apple Festival, about two miles south of the City of Ellijay. The Festival opens at 9am with the posting of the American Flag. The Lions host a ‘COUNTRY COOKIN’ with fried chicken or b-b-q with greens, pinto beans, stewed apples, corn bread and tea and breakfast is served from their snack bar. Entertainment is enjoyed at the Lions Pavilion all day, beginning with a cake walk to benefit kennels and pet rescue. As usual, the long-standing policy that pets – except for service animals – are NOT allowed onto the Ellijay Lions Club grounds. There is a volunteer kennel available at the main facility for your pet while you enjoy the festival.
Anywhere for 40,000 to 50,000 will visit the Festival, walking the aisles of handmade crafts, unique gifts and delicious foods offered next to the river at the Lions facility. Fresh fried pies, cold apple cider and buttery apple dumplings and funnel cakes can be found tempting, but so can the Greek gyro, Cajun cooking, blooming onion or the bratwurst and let’s don’t forget the boiled peanuts! Children can ride on a train at the children’s center that has been expanded. Ever seen a blacksmith at work? Take the time to watch.
The proceeds from the Apple Festival are split between the Ellijay Lions and the Gilmer Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber uses their part of the profit to fund their office to promote the county businesses through its programs and member services. It provides an integral connection that keeps Gilmer County a productive environment for local business. Residents and visitors frequently use the chamber for recommendations, directions and general information about the area. The work the Chamber does is very important to the continued growth of the county.
The Ellijay Lions Club facility and grounds are maintained through member dues freeing up the profit from their hard work at the Apple Festival to charity. The Ellijay Lions uses one hundred percent of its portion to fund various charities; local, State and International, such as educational programs, Star Student, scholarships, food pantry, ‘Special Friends’ program, cadets for the Civil Air Patrol, American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, GA Lions Camp for the Blind, GA Lions Lighthouse Foundation, totaling about 34 different charities plus some one-time donations.
The Gilmer Lions Club works hard to make a difference. They are the proud sponsors of the Ellijay LEO Club made up of students from Gilmer High School. Ellijay Lions sponsored the first Boy Scout Troop formed in Ellijay, January 1935 and continue to sponsor both the Boy & Girl Scouts.
How can you help? Visitors to the Apple Festival can always help the community by donating a pair of old eyeglasses, loose lenses, hearing aids or cell phones at the Apple Festival entrance. The Lions Club recycles these items or sells them to buy new vision and hearing devices for people in need.
For more information about the Apple Festival contact:
706. 636. 4500
For more info about the Gilmer County Chamber of Commerce:
696 1st Ave, East Ellijay, GA 30540
(Cross Streets: Between Maddox Dr/Old Orchard Sq/Yukon Rd and Martin St.)
706. 635. 7400 www.gilmerchamber.com
For more information about The Lions Club contact:
P. O. Box 746, Ellijay, GA 30540.