McDuffie County’s 150th anniversary celebration organizers confirmed last week that the Paceline cycling event would merge with the county’s sesquicentennial and Thomson’s yearly Camellia Festival on Oct. 24.

“I think this is just going to be a date our county will never forget,” Chamber Executive Director Debbie Jones said. “It will be spectacular.”

Paceline has scheduled a 2020 ride for participating cyclists that includes Thomson as the 45- and 100-mile finish lines. The ride will begin in Augusta and finish at the Thomson-McDuffie Government Complex, according to the chamber website. Paceline raises funds for cancer research, according to thomson-mcduffie.com.

Jones said the cycling event, coupled with live music and fireworks, should draw large crowds to the 150th celebration.

“We’re starting to see some craft vendors signing up,” she said.

Individuals and businesses interested in setting up a booth at the event can find application information on the chamber website and Facebook page. Craft vendor fees are $35 and food vendor fees are $50. Chamber members have free admission, according to the website.

A link to the McDuffie County 150th Anniversary Commemorative Merchandise Catalog can also be found on the chamber Facebook page. Local businesses can purchase recommended items with the designated 150th anniversary logo for sale leading up to and during the event.

Jones added that alcohol permits must be acquired, as alcohol will be served on event grounds. The chamber director is also working on contacting car enthusiasts about putting on a classic car show.

Jones, along with other community leaders and volunteers, met virtually on June 24 to discuss projects and activities associated with the anniversary celebration. Sam Perren with the Archway Partnership facilitated the anniversary work group meeting.

One major anniversary project the group discussed further is the compilation of historical narratives for publication. McDuffie Museum Director Lewis Smith and JoAnn Smith have been formatting stories locals have submitted for the book to ensure the entries are cohesive in style. Lewis Smith said he is also drawing from stories published in the McDuffie Progress, Reflections magazine and other sources. The book is nearly complete at 394 pages.

“We didn’t try to write a complete history of McDuffie County,” Smith said. The museum director described these stories included in the anniversary edition as “fun” adding that some of the narratives are not widely known and so would not have been heard by a large audience. Some residents may be familiar with a history of the county that was produced in the 1930s by two local women, he said.

The museum and library each sell copies of the “History of McDuffie County, Georgia” compiled by W.C. McCommons and Clara Stovall and sponsored by “The Ida Evans Eve Chapter of United Daughters of the Confederacy,” according to Smith.

Anniversary event volunteer Bea Hart-Moss asked Smith if stories about area churches were included. Smith replied he had included a narrative about the First Baptist Church in Thomson that was written by Associate Pastor Matt Ward, and one about Thomson First United Methodist Church, but not others since area churches have been written about extensively. The Methodist church was established in the mid-1800s and was involved in the community’s early schools, Smith said.

Hart-Moss suggested stories about other churches be included, such as Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church. Several other volunteers in the anniversary work group agreed and offered to supply Smith with those narratives.

Perren asked Smith if he needed assistance with the project, reiterating that he could arrange for a University of Georgia student to help. Smith said he needed help designing cover art for the story collection.

Group members also discussed possible school system participation in the anniversary celebration, but were informed by educator Khrista Henry that the district would likely limit off-campus student activities such as chorus or band due to health concerns surrounding the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Another activity previously discussed was to have individual youth participate by submitting essays on historical topics. One group member suggested that these essays be published in the Progress newspaper since they could not be included in the official historical compilation.

Anniversary event volunteers also talked about an oral history project through the University of Georgia Russell Library First Person Project. Elizabeth Vance, executive director of the CVB, suggested that residents with stories to share could also be interviewed on the Old Time Radio Hour produced by local radio station WTHO/WTWA. This type of partnership could tie in well with the upcoming anniversary, according to Vance, who said she planned to reach out to the station’s owners.

Other possible activities for the 150th anniversary include a ghost walk and scavenger hunt.

The anniversary work group would meet again sometime at the end of July, Perren said.

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