City leaders feel the opening of three downtown venues — The Amp, the city’s downtown amphitheater; the renovated Carrollton Train Depot; and the Southwestern Quilt and Textile Museum — will keep the city alive and thriving during 2013.
Those attractions add to a district that includes the Carrollton Cultural Arts Center, restaurants, retail shops and the Carroll County Judicial Center.
“The possibilities are endless for these new facilities and we expect the demand to keep growing through the year,” said Carrollton Main Street Director Jessica Reynolds. “We already have at least a dozen weddings booked for the train depot, starting in January.”
Reynolds said the depot’s attractiveness as a wedding site will be further boosted on Jan. 27 when it hosts the Times-Georgian’s annual Bridal Expo. The event gives the public a chance to view exhibits by numerous local bridal merchants.
The Expo will also be the first major, free event to bring the general public to the depot. A limited-audience, fundraising wine tasting party was held Nov. 9 at the depot, as finishing touches were being put on the building.
“The Expo will be the biggest event held in the depot so far,” said City Manager Casey Coleman. “The city plans to use it as an open house, bringing more people in to see the facility. We’re seeing quite a bit of interest in the depot.”
Carrollton Mayor Wayne Garner said last fall that the total renovation of the 9,500-square-foot depot would cost around $1.5 million or less. That is far below the original estimate of $4-6 million. Garner said the savings were due to using inmate labor.
Blair Trewhitt, chairman of the Friends of the Carrollton Depot, said Monday that his group already has numerous railroad exhibits ready for installation in the passenger area this month.
Trewhitt said placing the exhibits on display is now ready to begin since Coleman has assured him that the passenger area of the depot can be locked off from the warehouse area where construction is still going on.
“We want it to be locked so we can start putting things of value in there,” he said. “We want to make sure the valuable antiques and items donated to us won’t be pilfered.”
Trewhitt said the displays will include collections from former railroad employees, Henry Duke and the late Billy Edwards.
“We already have a pot-bellied stove in the passenger area,” he said. “It was used in either a depot or a caboose.”
Another display planned is a working railroad telegraph operation, which will include the sending apparatus, with wires going to the outside and along old-fashioned, open-wire telegraph poles, and back inside to the receiving apparatus on the other side of the building.
“We want to be able to show kids how the signal went through the wires and to the receiver, where it generated the clicking noise,” he said.
Trewhitt credits Coleman with being the driving force that has brought the dream of a renovated depot to fruition.
“In my opinion, when the depot is finished, it will be the most important generator of tourist dollars in West Georgia, Carrollton or any other place,” he said.
Reynolds is just as enthusiastic about the growth in popularity of The Amp, which opened last May. The $1.1 million, 700-seat amphitheater hosted a summer concert series, topped off by award-winning country group, Diamond Rio. It also was the venue for a summer movie series, along with numerous religious events and private parties.
Mayfest, which annually brings thousands to downtown Carrollton, had a ready stage with modern sound equipment ready for the day of entertainment.
“We already have a concert series booked for 2013 and a movie series, just like last year,” Reynolds said. “We’re hoping to expand the entertainment into the fall, so we can offer fall movies and events with Halloween and Christmas themes.”
Another factor in the popularity of The Amp or other downtown attractions was the relaxing of alcoholic beverage ordinances in downtown Carrollton, a move taken last fall by the mayor and council. The new law allows restaurant patrons to carry their drinks outdoors to The Amp or other events, and allows alcoholic drinks at private functions on city property.
“One of the first questions people ask is if they’ll be able to have alcohol at their event,” Coleman said. “It’s been very beneficial in rentals.”
Coleman reported to the mayor and council after the summer concert series that the new ordinance had caused no law enforcement problems downtown.
While appealing to a somewhat quieter audience, the Southeastern Quilt and Textile Museum, located on Bradley Street near The Amp and across from the depot, is likewise expected to grow this year and bring more tourist dollars into the city.
The museum is open on Thursdays and Fridays, from noon to 6 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. Admission is $3 per person, with special group rates available by appointment.
The museum is currently featuring the exhibit, “Not Your Grandmother’s Quilts,” through Feb. 9. It includes a collection of “Library Genre Quilts,” made by students from Bowdon Elementary School. A new exhibit is being planned for March.
The first show last September, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the West Georgia Quilters Guild, attracted hundreds of guests from Georgia and 14 other states, and the countries of Switzerland and South Africa.
“We’re looking forward to expanding our West Georgia Textile Heritage Trail this year,” said Jonathan Dorsey, executive director of Carrollton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. The trail, a joint project of the city, county and University of West Georgia, traces the history and location of textile production in West Georgia from the early 1800s through modern times.
“All these things give visitors additional reasons to stay downtown,” Dorsey said. “They may come to an event at The Amp or the depot, or to view a quilt display. They eat at the restaurants and visit the shops downtown. It’s a real gold mine for the city.”