Editor’s Note: As we head into our last week of content on The Broad Collective, our talented teams of interns were given the opportunity to wrap everything up on our site as part of their final project for the semester. They chose to focus on the spirit of Athens by taking a look at five themes that have best come to represent what this city means to them. All week long they will be sharing stories, interviews, photos, videos, and most importantly, their reflections on these five rhythms that tell the story of Athens. Our intern team is made up of the following folks . . . all of which you should hire immediately before they become rock stars.
Of all the places, in all the towns, in all the world, why come to Athens? This quirky city hosts multiple colleges, strong music venues, renowned artists, townies, business owners, and students sprawling all over the map. However, it would be offensive to hoister The Classic City so haughtily and not acknowledge the blemishes – severe poverty and homelessness being huge problems we face. In face of these setbacks is a community proud of Athens, wanting to celebrate it for the wonderful qualities of food, UGA, music, nightlife, local business, and more with a stream of events including the bi-weekly Farmers Market, yearly Athfest, and Twilight. Luckily this community proves to be invested as well, mitigating the problems we face with the solutions often lying in the same prized qualities as seen by the new weekly “Get Comfortable”. By using the best elements of Athens and the events that celebrate them to also draw attention to issues and help solve them, we oppose the enforcing of separation and strive to unite the town in a broad collective.
You can experience the zest for life every day in Athens at many of the local businesses among the really good company that lives locally or visits out of town. The calendar fills up with events regularly, so there is always something to do but these next couple of events really highlight the town.
The first thing I ever heard about Twilight is that the bars stayed open until 4 a.m. If this rumor still circulates around Athens newbies, let me inform you it is not true. The bars do open earlier than usual welcoming the masses to enjoy the warm spring weather and the bike races. Athens Orthopedic Clinic hosts this annual criterium every spring, this year May 6-7th, attracting teams across the nation and globe. The day showcases incredible feats of entertaining talent in addition to bike riding such as the Red Bull Chariot Race, kids parade, Ted’s Most Best Music stage and Trans Jam BMX contest. If your favorite contest is a race against the clock to finish your beer then The Georgia Brewed Festival partnership answered your prayers when they produced the first ever Georgia Brewed Festival last year, wrapping around the race course featuring thirty of Georgia’s craft breweries. Athens’ size keeps crowds from being absurd but this weekend is packed with tons of happenings to suit the diverse crowd. Twilight uses the prestige and revenue to benefit Athens Area Habitat for Humanity striving to give all decent, affordable housing.
A month or two later, music floods the streets in the summer celebration of Athfest. The festival showcases diverse musical talent from Athens to the national scale with free access to anyone who wants to listen as well as paid wristbands benefiting AthFest Educates. “Since 2009, AthFest Educates, an Athens-based nonprofit, has awarded nearly $200,000 in grants to schools, community organizations, and government agencies to support high-quality music and arts education programming for Athens-Clarke County youth.” As many public schools across the country experience serious defunding for the arts, it’s incredible to see an outpouring of support for these. Vendors line the sidewalks serving customers of all ages. As Athfest is open to the public, it allows anyone despite their financial state access to the arts we wish to protect.
Pastoral towns and local farms encompass Athens supplying food for restaurants and The Farmers Market. Luckily, residents are more food conscious than average and The Farmers Market meets ends for the consumer and producers. Shoppers transfer their dollars into wooden chips, the official currency for the market, with sellers able to cash out post-event. Farmers can experiment with heirloom varieties as well as more specialty produce not normally seen in the grocery store because there is not as much as a demand on them to practice monoculture in vast quantities. Besides greens, many stands offer goods such as specialty vinegars, flaky croissants, honey popsicles, lavender soaps and far more. But not every Athenian has the access to this bounty. Food insecurity and food deserts persist amongst impoverished areas as well as poor nutrition knowledge persisting through the community. The Farmers Market seeks to be more than a bi-weekly grocery alternative but a force of change as a registered non-profit. Many nonprofits often team up to diminish food insecurity through community gardens, mobile food stands accepting EBT, and teaching food knowledge through school programs. The Farmers Market takes place on Saturdays at Bishop Park and Wednesdays at Creature Comforts. Although over for the season, a new campaign “Get Comfortable has started occupying Creature Comforts on Wednesdays.
Creature Comforts, an Athens brewery, has made community a pillar of their business dedicating Wednesdays to this philosophy. “Get Comfortable will feature one non-profit per month for a total of five: The Sparrow’s Nest, Action Ministries, Athens Community Council on Aging, Athens Area Homeless Shelter, and Athens Land Trust. Every Wednesday for the allotted four weeks the featured non-profit will be hosted by Creature Comforts in conjunction with special onsite events that will include live music, interactive activities to assist the non-profit, and food offerings. There will also be representatives from the non-profits onsite to speak to their respective programs, share volunteer opportunities with guests, and field questions.“
Athens is an incredible town – modest but lively. Historic districts and blocks of downtown host many incredible restaurants, music venues, bars making this place much more than a college town. The beastly size of the university’s revenue often distracts from the city’s intense socioeconomic hardship. One Athens lets us know that Athens Clarke County’s poverty rate is the fifth highest in the nation with one in four children living in poverty. Obviously the situation is not perfect, but the efforts to address these issues with using the better spaces and qualities of Athens brings these affairs to the surface. A constant population of energetic students allows for innovative projects, mentorships, and volunteers. This coupled with long time residents understanding of the area and business patrons willing to contribute makes for fun and innovative ways to alleviate the problems our city faces. We hope to see these projects grow as well as homelessness and poverty diminish. The thing that unites the townies, the students, the families is how great Athens is, which is why choose to be here. Rather than focusing on the differences in our lifestyles or incomes, we hope the community unites around what makes Athens so special – food, music, nightlife, and UGA as we celebrate and better the spirit of Athens.