WHAT’S IN A NAME: Sweetland Amphitheatre

Published 11:00 am Sunday, February 26, 2023

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A jewel of downtown LaGrange, Sweetland Amphitheatre, sits at the end of Church St., just a few hundred yards from Lafayette Square. The area where the amphitheater currently sits is an important part of the history of LaGrange and has long been a beloved recreation area in town.

Originally the home of City Park or Municipal Park, the park was a popular destination with its swimming pool and later for a baseball field that was added.

The park was renamed Boyd Park in 2004 in honor of Jim and Annette Boyd for their work starting the Sweet Land of Liberty children’s parade in 1985, which is held on the Fourth of July each year and still begins at the park.

When the park became unused and deteriorated, a public-private partnership between LaGrange, Troup County and the Callaway Foundation allowed for the former park to be renovated into the amphitheater that we know today and preserve the memories and image of historic Boyd Park.

Sweetland Amphitheatre was chosen as the name for the new venue in tribute to the Boyds and the parade.

Affectionately known as the “parade lady,” Annette ran the parade for decades before turning it over. The parade is currently overseen by the Junior Service League.

Annette and Jim have since passed, but their daughter, Lynne Holle, remains in LaGrange and still works to support the parade and Sweetland.

Holle said her family’s patriotism led them to them starting the parade. She said they wanted to do something to improve the city’s patriotism, so Annette approached then-LaGrange Mayor James Gardner Newman about starting the children’s parade.

Holle said her mother then organized the parade with only six months before July 4.

“It was a difficult task, but she had a whole bunch of help from a lot of people,” Holle said. “The goal was to instill patriotism into the younger generation and to appreciate everything that we have as citizens of the United States and how lucky we were.”

“We all jumped in as a family to help. My dad was the silent partner. She was the outlandish one,” Holle said,

Holle said her father was to attend the ribbon cutting for Sweetland Amphitheatre when it opened in 2016, but he tragically passed away just before the official dedication. Annette had previously passed in 2004.

“I was on my way to pick him up, so I had to call them and say I’m sorry, we’re not going to be there,” Holle said. 

Holle currently works at Visit LaGrange, the city’s visitors center, just a couple blocks away from the amphitheater, almost watching over the building that bears her family’s legacy in LaGrange.

“It’s got a lot of history for us,” Holle said. “Even though I don’t work for Sweetland, I am extremely protective of it.”

She said her son, Tom, did his Eagle Scout project at the former park, doing all of the landscaping at the time.

Holle said she volunteers at Sweetland, which gets her in for events, but she still buys tickets just to give away.

“I volunteer, so I buy tickets to give tickets away. Because I volunteer, I’m there already. I want everybody to be able to experience going there.”

Holle said she still helps with the parade and attends every year. 

“Last year, they got me to talk about the parade on TV. I’m always there to help if they need me,” Holle said. “A lot of people asked me if I was going to take it over and I was like, ‘I absolutely could not do it justice.’”

“Now I have grandchildren, so I hope to have them in there next year. My oldest is 18 months and the youngest is one. We’re actually expecting another one on July 4 of all things,” Holle said.