Editorial: BRAG shows us potential

This week, Jefferson County opened its arms to welcome more than 1,200 people into our community. One of our schools opened its doors as a place for cyclists and their support people to sleep; and, the Mary Clark Memorial Park grounds allowed them an inviting place to rest, repair their bikes and enjoy a variety of food offered by local people and civic clubs.
The cyclists were riding through as part of an annual event, BRAG or Bicycle Ride Across Georgia; and, although no one here asked the organization to include Jefferson County in their route, the Chamber of Commerce pulled out all the stops to make them feel welcome.
The former Chamber of Commerce President Lil Easterlin said city, county and chamber officials have been preparing for BRAG for months. 
“When we were first contacted, we were told their own research shows that this group spends about $75,000 a day,” she said. The group plans to be in the area for three days.
Over the course of a week the cyclists pedal around 350 miles from Athens to Brunswick, camping along the way.
The chamber worked with local businesses and vendors to set up events in the park. These events included performances by three local bands, movies provided by local churches and even a shuttle service around Louisville and as far as Bartow.
We congratulate how well the event came together. As a community, we welcomed people who may have never seen this area. Their three-day layover allowed them to tour our county and meet our people.
On Wednesday, a 100-mile daytrip, called a Century, took our visitors from Louisville, through Edgehill, Avera, Gibson, Mitchell, Jewell and back. 
The success of this event rests partly with the Chamber, partly with area businesses and partly with our people all of whom gave this a lot of thought, energy and effort.
When you invite strangers into your home, you begin to see it through their eyes. In preparing for this event, we were able to take a good look at what our community offers tourists, where we are strong and what services need improvement. We have a lot to offer in our parks, our history, our shops and restaurants, our community and our hospitality. 
Hosting 1,200 or so cyclists for two nights and three days has opened our eyes to the fact that people from other places really do want to visit small towns and there is a market here for festivals and other events that can make a real difference to our local economy, not to mention let the world in on our little secret...just how wonderful our little corner of the world can be.