Gov. Brian Kemp paid a visit to Dawson County on Tuesday, Sept. 29, to attend a grand reopening event for the Dawsonville Pool Room.
The Pool Room, which was closed in the spring due to complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, reopened in mid-September, renovated, staffed up and ready to feed hungry people in the Dawson County area.
After ringing the Pool Room siren with Pool Room owner Gordon Pirkle on Tuesday afternoon, Kemp took the podium and addressed a crowd of media, locals and community leaders, expressing his admiration for the Pirkle and Elliott families, and iconic small-town businesses like the Pool Room.
"This has been a historic year for myself, for my family and for our state, we've got a worldwide pandemic and then I got to ring the siren at the Dawsonville Pool [Room], so I'll take it," Kemp said.
Kemp said that as a young man, he would drive three hours from Athens to Statesboro every Sunday for work and would listen to NASCAR on the radio, becoming a fan of Dawsonville NASCAR Driver Bill Elliott.
Listing to those races made him realize how much went on behind the scene for every win that Elliott and other drivers took home, he said.
"I think about that in what we're facing now. If Bill or Chase wins a race, they get a lot of the accolades, but you have so many people that are behind the scenes and make it happen,” he said. “That's kind of how I view the Pirkles, [Christie Moore], the local delegation, the community leaders working with the state, because small businesses are the backbone of our economy."
"This is literally the fabric of our state,” he said.
Kemp also praised the crowd of masked onlookers for heeding the state’s guidelines on COVID-19 safety and congratulated the Pool Room for taking the time to reopen their business safely.
"It is a tough row to hoe to come up with that balance, where people can reopen and protect livelihood, while also protecting life. We have literally been working on that, every day for months now," he said.
Pointing out that not all small business stories during the pandemic have had as good of outcomes as the Pool Room’s, Kemp concluded his time by reminding people not to relax on COVID-19 safety just because numbers in Georgia are showing a positive trend.
"We're still in very tough times and have difficult days ahead, but we are in so much better shape than others," he said. "We can not rest on our laurels and I can assure you that I am not."