Hillside festival draws hundreds
LaGRANGE — The Hillside Art, Music and Food Festival on Garfield Street on Saturday attracted hundreds of shoppers as the morning’s overcast skies gave way to a clear, crisp April day.
In its second year, the annual festival celebrates the revitalization of a neighborhood that was once in disrepair and is now seeing a resurgence — thanks in large part to the affordable housing nonprofit DASH for LaGrange, which sponsored the festival.
Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia also sponsored a 5K run early in the morning. Olivia Salgado of Columbus won the women’s competition with a time of 24 minutes, 15 seconds, and Gardner Newman Middle School eighth grader Matthew Callaway won the men’s race with a time of 19 minutes, 45 seconds. The race attracted runners from as far away as Tanzania.
“It was an awesome race, and it was cool to see all the people from Kia, and from all around,” said Brack Hassell, one of the race’s organizers. “It really was an international race.”
Vendors lined Garfield Street following the race, selling everything from fresh collard greens to brightly colored paintings of late singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse and movie star Clint Eastwood.
Terri Codlin, a local artist who sold her paintings at the festival, said she enjoyed the day and even made a little money.
“This is the second festival I’ve done,” she said. “I like it because it’s one day, it’s local, so that’s something I can do. It’s been so much fun, I’ve seen people I haven’t seen in a long time. I’ll definitely be back next year.”
Twenty years ago, the Hillside neighborhood in southwest LaGrange had fallen into disrepair.
Shops sat boarded up and people felt unsafe, City Council member Nick Woodson said as he stood on Garfield Street during the festival on Saturday. A lot of that has changed.
“But it’s really coming back,” he said. “(The housing nonprofit) DASH has really done a lot for this neighborhood.”
He remembered fondly growing up on nearby Lincoln Street in the 1950s. Standing in front of a now-boarded up shop, he remembered what was once a thriving neighborhood.
“This building behind me used to have two shops. This one was a barber shop,” he said, pointing to a brick storefront. “And this one was a beer joint.”
Woodson, and many others, are hoping to see the revitalization continue. DASH for LaGrange had vinyl stickers printed that read “I wish this was …” and people wrote their suggestions and stuck them on the empty building that was once a beer joint and barber shop. Ice cream shop, coffee house, bakery and art supply store were all suggestions.
Ben Wheeler, who works for DASH for LaGrange and helped organize the festival, said he hopes the festival will spur people’s imaginations and get them thinking about how creative minds in the community can collectively solve problems.
“I think the thing is, it (the festival) draws attention to all the creative aspects in our community,” he said. “LaGrange is full of some great people from so many backgrounds.”
He added that DASH for LaGrange recently partnered with Auburn University with the goal of studying the Hillside Neighborhood for the possibility of increased green space. The Auburn group is slated to visit LaGrange in January for the study, he added.
For more information about DASH for LaGrange, visit www.dashlagrange.org.