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Festivals, leaves bring in tourists
Activities fun, good for economy
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When fall festivals and activities dot the landscape of Northeast Georgia, it’s not only fun but good for the local economy, too.


Fall is arguably the region’s finest season, drawing in tourists who want to experience the vibrant leaves and beautiful weather.


Cities in North Georgia play host to fall festivals such as the Cumming Country Fair & Festival, Gold Rush Days in Dahlonega, Mountain Moonshine Festival in Dawsonville and Oktoberfest in Helen.


“The Moonshine Festival and many of our other North Georgia fall festivals affect our local economy as the leaf lookers and the festival folks pass through,” said Cathy Brooks, Dawson County government and community affairs director.


“They shop in our outlet malls, they eat at our restaurants, they stay in our hotels. Travel and tourism lends greatly to our sales tax here.”


Dawson County is very reliant on sales tax as a source of revenue, Brooks said, and the extra activities during the fall generate lots of sales tax money.


“We get a lot of traffic in the fall,” Brooks said. “The finer the weather, the more people get out and about. We do have a lot of outdoor activities here. We have the pumpkin farms and the corn maze where people would want to be outside.”


Dave Horton, administrator of the Cumming Fairgrounds, said this year’s fair, which ran from Oct. 7-17, drew just shy of 123,000. The total attendance almost set a record, but didn’t quite top the 2006 total of 127,500.


Gainesville Main Street manager Angela Thompson said fall has brought a lot of visitors to the square in downtown.


“I have been unbelievably impressed with September, October and November,” Thompson said.


“The schedule and the number of events that go on, because it’s so beautiful in Northeast Georgia, it really brings people in to do things in our community.”


Main Street hosted its first citywide tailgate party downtown after Gainesville High School’s homecoming football game last week and it hosted a trick-or-treat event on the square Friday


“Any kind of event we do downtown is great for our downtown and it’s great for the community,” Thompson said. “It brings people downtown to participate in activities and to see our great shops and restaurants.”


When it comes to fall activities, colorful leaves have a lot to do with drawing people into the area.


State Climatologist David Stooksbury said the ideal environment for changing leaves is a combination of wet and dry weather.


“It triggers that more brilliant color,” Stooksbury said.


“If it remains too wet, the trees seem to be a little more muted. If it’s dry through the summer and into the fall, then we’re into a situation where the trees quite often will start shedding the leaves to conserve water.”


In this region, leaves typically peak at the end of October and into the first days of November, Stooksbury said.


“In many ways, this year is kind of playing out what we would expect. It’s pretty ideal conditions,” Stooksbury said. “This should be one of our more prettier, more spectacular weeks as long as the wind and the rain doesn’t knock the leaves off too early.”


Regional staff writer Jennifer Sami contributed this report.