Monday, May 14, 2012

So long y’all: My farewell to Coastal Georgia

Spanish moss-draped live oaks in one of Savannah's famous squares
 (my last column for The Frontline)

When I moved to Savannah nearly five years ago, I was expecting to find a black hole of sports. I moved to Georgia from the Washington, DC, area, where Redskins football, Capitals hockey and Nationals baseball ruled the airways and going to the stadium or arena was a common occurrence. Before that, I’d spent my life in and around Boston, growing up at Fenway Park and living and breathing the Patriots, Bruins and Celtics. So Savannah, while a lovely town, was an anomaly to a major sports fan – who did the people in Savannah even follow, the Braves and the Falcons? Really, Savannah is much closer to Jacksonville, so I wondered if it was a town of Jaguars fans – if a town of Jaguars fans even exists?

When I first arrived and made my way down River Street, around Forsyth Park and to Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, I quickly realized that I was deep in Southeastern Conference country. In fact, early on I learned that THE Georgia Bulldog, Uga himself, was a fellow Savannahian. My goal soon became to meet the pride of the University of Georgia in person, as I heard his caretakers took him on daily jaunts around Forsyth. Alas, four-plus years later, the closest I’ve ever come to the revered pooch is watching him on TV. But every time I go to Forsyth, my eyes are peeled for the gorgeous four-legged creature.
At Grayson Stadium watching a Sand Gnats game with my then-two month old (never too young for sports!)

While there aren’t any major professional sports in town, I quickly came to appreciate the “small townness” of Savannah Sand Gnats games – I mean, what major sports team has “Thirsty Thursdays” where you get two drinks for the price of one? I reveled in sitting in Historic Grayson Stadium with locals and fellow transplants, watching the “maybe” stars of tomorrow on a warm summer night under the "Big Ass Fans" (the actual name), all for a $5 ticket. And where else can you watch a game live, have a drink (or two on Thursdays) and dinner for less than $15?

Once I looked below the surface, I found so many other sports around Savannah to love, from the annual St. Patrick’s Day Rugby tournament at Forsyth Park, to the annual run over the Tallmadge Bridge, to the Rock and Roll Marathon that made its debut last November, and even the annual “Weiner Dog Races” on River Street during Oktoberfest. All of these events are uniquely Savannah, along with Spanish moss draped live oaks, Paula Deen and Southern hospitality.

Savannah's Tallmadge Bridge
As I venture to leave this town I’ve fallen in love with, I look back on my time in Coastal Georgia to see how much I’ve learned and grown here. Savannah is the first place my family called home – it’s where I met and married my husband and where my daughter was born; it’s where I met some of the most wonderful people I have had the privilege to know, from neighbors and coworkers to those I met around Fort Stewart, Hunter Army Airfield and Savannah; it’s a town and a community that has truly captured my heart.

I will miss Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield and I will deeply miss working for the Army; I will miss the historic district, the true Southern hospitality and the frequent references to “the book”; I will miss the Savannah Sand Gnats, but not the pesky sand gnats; but most of all, I will miss the people that make this charming town so exquisite.

Savannah's (in)famous River Street
So in a couple of weeks, when I hop in my Jeep and head down the road to Atlanta, I will leave a small piece of my  heart in this lovely, sleepy town that I will always call “home.”

But at least I’ll have the Braves, Falcons and Hawks.

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