Browsing through an old-fashioned general store, meandering through a museum filled with pottery from North Georgia artists, taking a swing around the dance floor at a community contra dance and enjoying some of the most wonderful cuisine were all part of a recent visit to the Sautee-Nacoochee Community.
The Sautee-Nacoochee Community, located in White County near Alpine Helen, is filled with arts and crafts stores, unique dining experiences, historic inns, entertainment and boutique wineries.
Our first stop was at the rustic Old Sautee Store, which has served the area since 1872. Fresh baked breads, snacks and local souvenirs are among the items to be found in this charming store.
We also spent some time in the Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia which is filled with displays, photos and information on potters from this area.
Dean and Kay Swanson were inspired to create the museum after a visit with Lula potter Michael Crocker. At Crocker's suggestion, the Swansons acquired a significant private collection of 40 items that led them to build the present inventory of more than 150 pieces.
“When you start to learn the history of these people, their pots tell stories,” says benefactor and collector Dean Swanson.
Kay Swanson said education and preservation are the main goals for the museum. Her first exposure to northeast Georgia folk potters was as a child when she accompanied her dad on his “over the mountains rambles” in his 1939 Dodge.
“Sometimes we take for granted these things will be here for our grandchildren and we shouldn't,” she said.
The museum, which opened in September 2006, is housed in a 5,000 square foot building. Southern architecture, including the yellow pine and tin roof, is featured throughout the museum.
One wing of the museum features exhibits on the history of pottery. The other wing of the museum features four areas in the state where pottery is prominent.
The museum is open Mondays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $2 for children.
The Sautee-Nacoochee Community Center, located in a 1925 schoolhouse, features performances by the wonderful Sautee Nacoochee Community Chorale, as well as special productions by the Sautee Nacoochee Community Association.
Next up is “Headwaters,” stories of the “birth, death and places in-between.” Old-timers from the community were interviewed to create the stories for this production. Performances are scheduled for July 9-25.
Our visit to Sautee-Nacoochee Community ended with some contra dancing in the community center. Dances are offered at least once each month and visitors are welcome. No experience is necessary and if you don't have a partner, no worries. A regular will be glad to swing you around the floor. From the warm welcome at the door to the smiles on the dance floor, you will leave planning a return visit.
Coming up on Aug. 7 at the Sautee Nacoochee Center and the Folk Pottery Museum is the Folklife Festival, which will feature demonstrations of centuries-old handcrafts, hear music of the northeast Georgia mountains and taste foods grown locally.
DINING IN SAUTEE-NACOOCHEE
Fine dining is to be found throughout Sautee-Nacooche. We enjoyed wonderful dishes from the Nacoochee Grill, Stovall House, Vines Restaurant and Bernie's at the Nacoochee Valley Guest House. Among those special delicacies not to be missed are the following:
•Smoked pickled shrimp gazpacho from Nacoochee Grill. It's a spicy and cool treat that will delight seafood fans.
•Rack of lamb from Bernie's at the Nacoochee Valley Guest House (grilled and roasted with cherry tomatoes accented by balsamic vinegar reduction) and rack of lamb from Vines Restaurant (hickory smoked with peach mustard glaze). Both are wonderful and filled with flavors that work together to create a special meal.
•Mixed green salad with craisins, feta cheese, walnuts and raspberry vinaigrette from the Stovall House. A wonderful way to start your meal. It's light and refreshing.
•Sour cream pound cake and coffee from Sweetwater Coffee House. Scrumptious as an end to your meal or as a snack.
•Fresh baked breads from Old Sautee Store. Many wonderful selections to choose from and they are all great.
Also located in Sautree-Nacoochee Community are Habersham Winery, Sautee Nacoochee Vineyards and Yonah Mountain Vineyards, as well as many other unique and interesting retail shops.
For more information on the Sautee-Nacoochee Community, go to www.snca.org.
VISITED HELEN LATELY?
Located near the Sautee area is the Bavarian mountain town of Helen, which has been a tourist destination for North Georgians for decades. Located only a short drive away, it now offers even more, including a pottery, more arts and crafts and a “Goats on the Roof” store.
“Goats on the Roof” is located at 1204 Ridge Road in Helen (turn at the tubing business above town) and it has all of the same features as the original location in Tiger, Ga. Visitors can feed the goats and watch them walk atop the business before going inside to check out the local products and souvenirs.
The Willows, a working artist studio and paint your own pottery studio is a favorite destination for children and adults alike. Everyone will enjoy the opportunity for this hands-on experience.
Other local artists include Keith Wright, The Bowl Maker; Philip and Janine Shelby of Glass Mountain Gallery; gourd artist Priscilla Wilson of The Gourd Place; and Thomas Carr, a woodcarver who creates toys using 90 percent recycled materials.
Old favorites that are always fun stops are Hofer's Bakery for the fabulous apple strudel, Hansel and Gretel Candy Shop for chocolate delicacies and the other shops lining the downtown area that have unique gifts.
Annual events include the July 4 festival, Oktoberfest in October and November and Holidays in Helen in November and December.
The summer is also a great time for tubing in Helen. Helen has two tubing companies with drop off service to the river. This is a great way to spend a warm day in Helen. If you don't want to get in the water, sit in one of the sidewalk cafes and watch the tubers go by. This is also a great way to spend an afternoon.
For more information, go to www.helenga.org.
Angela Gary is an editor with MainStreet Newspapers. She can be reached at AngieEditor@aol.com.