Main and Mulberry Podcast – Lindsay Fruchtl, Eleanor Prater (Augusta, GA CVB)

Twenty-seven rounds of golf? Only in Augusta, Georgia. Home to the Master’s Golf Tournament, Augusta holds onto a rich history as the second oldest city in Georgia. But Augusta is also home to a flourishing vegan scene, delicious craft cocktails, distilleries, and more. Two “Augustans” are here to give us the scoop. We’re only kidding about twenty-seven rounds of golf, by the way. In fact, we may play a few more.

Transcript:

Anna Bell: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Main and Mulberry. I’m your host, Anna Bell, and I’m really excited to have with us today two representatives of the Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau in Augusta, Georgia. We have the Vice President of Marketing, Lindsay Fruchtl.

Lindsay Fruchtl: Oh. Hey, everybody. We’re so glad to be here today.

AB: Good. Thank you, Lindsay. And we also have the Marketing and Coordinator… Communications Manager, rather, Eleanor Prater.

Eleanor Prater: Hi, Anna. Hi, everybody. Thank you so much for having us Augustans on today.

AB: Yay, you’re right. We’re so excited to have you guys, and we really appreciate you all taking the time to be on the show with us. So, Eleanor, we would like to start with you. For those of us who have not yet had the opportunity to come visit you in Augusta, maybe you can tell us a little about where you’re located in Georgia, and maybe a little information about the city.

EP: Absolutely, Anna. Yes. So, if you’re not familiar with Augusta, Georgia, we are located on that South Carolina and Georgia border, right on the beautiful Savannah River. I always tell people, because I’m from South Carolina, originally, I live in Augusta now, that if you sneeze in Augusta, you’d accidentally kick the city right over the border into South Carolina. That’s how close we really are, one sneeze away from South Carolina.

AB: That’s so funny.

EP: Yeah, absolutely, and we do encompass the beautiful river region. So we take a little bit of our city and we kind of mash it all together, and we share this gorgeous river with a few areas in South Carolina and a few areas in Georgia as well. So quite a few counties encompass a little bit of the region, and the city sits right in the middle of all of that hustle and bustle. And it really just makes for a beautiful landscape, but a hustle and bustle and fun city to live in.

AB: Wow. Oh, you’re setting us up for some good conversation. I’m excited to learn more. And Lindsay, tell us, Augusta has some really colorful history, does it not? Some pretty big names have chosen Augusta as their destination of choice.

LF: Absolutely. Augusta has a real rich history. We are the second-oldest and the second-largest city in Georgia, and we were founded in 1736 by General James Edward Oglethorpe, and he also founded Savannah, Georgia. And… Yeah, really cool. And then what’s real interesting is kind of in the late 1800s, Augusta really became a resort city, and people would come from the North down to Augusta for the mild weather and the river. And we’re talking about notable people like President Taft, John D. Rockefeller, Harvey Firestone, and heirs to the Singer Sewing Machine company came here, and…

AB: Wow.

LF: I know. It’s really, really cool. And then, of course, you can’t say Augusta without thinking of the Masters Golf Tournament. And golf is a big, big part of our history that we are really proud of. And some people don’t know a lot of famous people are from Augusta. Mr. James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, is from here, Sharon Jones, Jessye Norman, a famous opera singer. So, we’ve got a really diverse and interesting history. It’s really…

AB: Sounds like it. It really sounds like it. You know, you started to touch on golf, and I do wanna do that for a minute, but at what point did Augusta really become known as a golf destination?

LF: It was really in the early 1900s. So it really became known as a resort destination. We had many large resort hotels in Augusta and in our neighboring South Carolina, in Athens, South Carolina. And then, from there, the golf courses started to pop up, and that’s when that golf heritage really started to take off.

AB: And you mentioned the weather. I’m sure it’s gorgeous weather, good Southern weather for some good golf and sports. So… Yeah.

LF: Absolutely. I mean, year-round. So we have some cold snaps but, in general, I mean, you can be outside almost every day of the year, which is so nice.

 AB: Good. And I hope to get more into the golf scene in a minute, but Augusta offers more than just a couple of rounds, right, Eleanor? Maybe you can start us off with what I like to call a virtual tour guide, if you will, of your downtown area. What’s the overall look and feel?

EP: Our downtown is absolutely funky. So, you can absolutely find a phenomenal mix of color and flavor and texture in our downtown. We are one of those very unique downtowns, where we’re pretty much situated on one main street called Broad Street, and all those restaurants and businesses and quite a few hotels for our visitors to come and stay, they’re all accessible through a walking distance. So it’s one of those really phenomenal places where you can park your car and you don’t have to get back in for an entire day’s work of fun and flavor and music and soul. And that’s really what just describes our downtown and makes it, I think, really unique. The flavors are fantastic. We’ve got a huge vegan atmosphere here, where there’s amazing and beautiful and colorful smoothies, combined with a craft cocktail scene and quite a few rooftop bars with views of the City and the Downtown. My personal favorite by far…

AB: Oh, Eleanor, you’ve got me excited now. Oh, that sounds so fun.

EP: It is. It is wonderful, Anna. We would love to have you here in downtown, either for a smoothie or for a cocktail, whichever one you’re feeling that day.

AB: Speaking of walking up, I’ve heard you’ve got a gorgeous river walk.

EP: Yes, it’s absolutely beautiful. And like I said earlier about the Savannah River, it gives that beautiful view of the river and that border, so you can actually stand on our river walk and say hello to all those wonderful South Carolinians over there, and they can do the same to us Georgians. So it is nothing but a quick short drive over the bridge. And for the river walk, it’s attached to a lot of our local businesses, quite a few of our museums and our attractions. So you can get that outdoor vibe as you just mingle and mix your way through the culture here that’s attached directly to the river walk. So, it’s really awesome, and it’s such a nice combination with our weather. You can get a suntan and a smoothie and get views. It’s perfect.

AB: That’s a good combination. That’s a good combination. I love that. Talk to us too, Eleanor, about… You’ve got the Museum of History downtown as well, right?

EP: That’s correct, Anna. Yeah, absolutely. And our Museum of History is one of our gems, by far, because Augusta is just one of those Southern cities that has a fantastic, rich historical heritage attached to it. I feel like the staff just does that incredibly well. We have a beautiful, rich history, and we definitely wanna broadcast that. So our Museum of History is one of those things that features some of those historical aspects that we like to do, but also some of those musical and soulful history pieces that we don’t really find in other cities. And we’re the home of Mr. James Brown, and so we catch our soul and our vibe and our cool factor totally from him. And our Museum of History actually has an entire exhibit dedicated to pieces from his life and from his performances, even while he was performing here locally.

AB: Wow, that sounds like a really fun place to go, and really, like you said, get into that history, really experience it. Oh, I love that. Now, Lindsay, is there a place downtown that you’d like to grab a bite? Maybe you could give us the inside scoop on one good place to grab a bite.

LF: It’s so hard to narrow it down to one, and Anna, everyone knows I’m a big foodie, so…

AB: Well, I’m going to the right person then, right?

LF: That is a real tough one. I would say kind of my go-to, if you’re looking for just a really nice date night is Craft & Vine. They have wonderful Tapas and craft cocktails and great wines. And it’s just got kind of a funky, cool vibe. And then I would definitely follow it up with a trip over to Second City Distilling Company. They make several different spirits that are really high quality, and I would probably do my night cap there.

AB: Oh, how fun. Now, I have heard that you’ve got some breweries in the area, right?

LF: We do. We do. We have Savannah River Brewing Company, and we also have Riverwatch Brewery, and both of them have tasting rooms and outdoor areas where you can just kinda chill and have a drink, and all the beers are really good, and they do some seasonal brews as well, which is nice.

AB: Ooh, yes. Fall is around the corner. You can almost feel it outside now, and so, yeah…

LF: Oh, we love it.

AB: Lindsay, how long have you been in the area?

 LF: I have been here right at about five years. I did not grow up here, but both of my parents did, and I still have a lot of family here. So I was just really glad to be able to come back and be promoting this awesome city that we get to call home.

AB: Awesome. And speaking of that, I have heard that Georgia’s second-oldest city is Augusta. Is that right, Eleanor? Maybe you can kinda speak to some of that history, and maybe if only the walls of those older homes could talk, right?

EP: Absolutely, they would have such a story to share. We are absolutely the second-oldest city and the second-largest city in Augusta. Of course, the first-largest city being our capital, Atlanta. A lot of people think Savannah takes that designation. It is actually us. We are quite a hustle and bustle city with a population of about 200,000 locals here who can give you all the fun dives, and all the best places to go. And like you said, Anna, if those walls could talk, they would have a whole slew of secrets to share. And we do have a rich history here, a lot of which is showcased in our historical halls that are still standing, that are renovated, that house a lot of those locals to this day. Some of them have been turned even into museums, and just showcases of their time, which is one of my personal favorite things to see. I’m a decor nut. I’m on Pinterest all the time. All I wanna do is decorate, especially during the fall.

AB: Oh yes, I’m right there with you, Eleanor. That sounds like so much fun. And to be able to tour some of those old homes, that’s really neat for a visitor.

EP: Yeah, absolutely. We get quite a few people coming through who just wanna take those tours and really get ingrained into that beautiful historical architecture. And honestly, it’s kind of like a living Pinterest board. You get to take those wonderful ideas back home with you, and see and feel that history and just be a part of something. And that’s really what’s awesome about Augusta.

AB: Yes, and Augusta’s African-American community, I’ve heard, has played a crucial role in shaping the city’s history and culture. Maybe we can touch on that a little bit too.

LF: Yeah, that is definitely the case, for sure. Obviously, we have Mr. James Brown, that is from here. There’s also a really great attraction called The Lucy Craft Laney Museum of Black History, and…

AB: I’m so glad you said that. Yes.

LF: Yeah. And it’s the region’s only museum dedicated to the history of African-Americans. And Miss Laney was actually a very influential educator, and she started her own institute for Black women for nursing, and she was just a real pioneer. And we are just so proud to call her an Augusta native. And so that is just a must-see when you come.

13:12 AB: Yes. Absolutely. Yeah. So, when we come, we definitely need to delve into that history, but Eleanor too, I’ve heard that you can have a lot of family fun too when we come and visit you in Augusta. With this year being a particular challenge, I guess in tourism laws with the global pandemic, and how that has affected all of us, you do have some really nice outdoor nature amenities that draw in visitors, I bet, and locals alike.

EP: Absolutely, Anna. We so do. So that weather is definitely something we love, and so getting outdoors is something that we do, and a great year, and especially this year. So we have a beautiful Augusta canal that is directly attached to the Savannah River, which is our largest and most popular outdoor attraction by far. And it’s full of walking trails, hiking trails, boating, canoeing, paddling, everything you can think of that will really get you outside and in the sun and enjoying this balmy, breezy weather. We have quite a few seasons here, sometimes it’s the devil’s doorstep, and the other time, it’s a false fall, but that’s okay, because all of those can get you outside. And so really taking your dog, your pet, your family out, the whole gang, and just getting them outside.

EP: We have Phinizy Swamp Nature Park as well, which is a full little swamp nature park that’s engaging, but still really family-friendly. So little ones can get out and really enjoy the nature and get to see the turtles and the fun little nature aspects. Especially right now, while they’re working from home, and we’re doing some homeschooling activities, I think those really play well into it. We’re just surrounded by beautiful weather and great outdoor adventures.

AB: That’s awesome. That’s something… It sounds like something my little boy would be all about coming out to see that. Yes, that sounds so fun.

LF: Absolutely.

AB: And Lindsay, kinda to that effect, this has been an interesting year when it comes to marketing and tourism and just encouraging visitors to come and experience your area safely, when they are ready. Looking back on the last few months, from a marketing VP viewpoint, what has been maybe one of your biggest takeaways?

LF: Well, you know, we have been busy. We really took this time to kinda look at our organization as a whole, and what we were doing, and re-prioritize, and really… Because we did have to make some budget cuts. We really had to hone in on those projects that would make the biggest impact and help us, coming out of this crisis. So, during this time, we have launched a new campaign. We have… It’s called the ‘Come See Augusta’ campaign. And the logo itself has an emphasis on the ‘us’ in Augusta, and it’s really all about representing our diverse local community. And through the campaign, we’re actually showcasing Augusta itineraries created by locals, highlighting the things that they love to do.

AB: That’s really fun, yeah.

LF: It is really fun, and we just launched it a couple of weeks ago, and it’s been very well received. Also, during this time, we launched a new James Brown product called the James Brown Journey. And our VP of Destination Development, Jennifer Bowen, headed up that project. And it’s a great experience during this time of COVID, as it is a sidewalk vinyl walking tour. So you can actually go around to these different spots in the city that have ties to Mr. James Brown, and learn more about his life and his legacy. So, it’s all outdoors, very safe for visitors to do. So…

AB: I love that.

LF: Those are just some of the big projects we’ve been working on during this time, but… It’s been an interesting time, but we’re coming out of it strong, and I feel good about our standing and where we are.

AB: I love it. I love to hear that, the focus on us and everything that can be done in Augusta, but we would be remiss, there would be a big, gaping hole in our conversation if we didn’t spend some time talking about one of the most… Words that is associated with Augusta, and that is golf. Right?! Eleanor, maybe you can talk to us a little bit about the golf scene. I think I’ve been told that you guys are called the winter golf capital of America, is that right?

EP: Yeah, so we’ve gotten that designation pretty recently. The Masters, as you know, due to COVID-19, did have to postpone its spring tournament, so all those florals and pastels were pushed back to a little bit more of a fall vibe, to November. And although the tournament will be patron-less this year, we are still super-excited as a city because a lot of what’s ingrained about the Masters is not only just a sport, but a culture, you know, that famous pimento cheese sandwich and those Arnold Palmer drinks that are a mix of sweet tea and a little bit of lemonade are not just something that happened on the course. They happen year-round in Augusta. It’s second nature for us here, as Augustans, but when you’re visiting, it’s so new and fresh and funky and fun to go and be able and experience a pimento cheese bacon cheddar slider with an Arnold Palmer all year round. And so…

AB: I know that one.

EP: It is. It’s so fantastic. It’s one of my absolute favorites. And so we really try to hone that in all year long, so even though we’re seeing a fall Masters, and we’re gonna be the spotlight in November for the country and the world when it comes to golf, it is definitely… It is definitely a culture here for the rest of it. You’re right, Anna, it’s so true.

AB: I love you calling it a culture, ’cause it really is. I mean, if you could only see my husband come springtime and getting ready for the Masters, he’s a big Masters fan, and now he has something really exciting to look forward to, like you said, this November. But if someone comes to visit Augusta, not all of us get the opportunity to play in the Masters, but there are other golf courses in the area, is that right, Eleanor?

EP: Yeah, there’s absolutely quite a few golf courses. I’m not a golfer myself, but just like you, Anna, I have a significant other who is a 100% ready to jump out on the golf course anytime he can to escape me, probably more than anything. Yeah, absolutely, we have the river golf club here, which is really just a gem for the area and for the river region. They really focus on those beautiful manicured lawns, and really just touch on the aspects that make Augusta what it is, the beautiful weather, the scenery, and just incorporating some of those significant outdoor adventures like the river and views of the river into their golf club, really make it one of those stand-out places where you can come, you can do a full day’s work to your heart’s content of just golf all day long, all 18 holes.

LF: I love it.

AB: Not bad.

 LF: And there’s also the Forest Hills Golf Club is a great spot, especially for a Masters enthusiast. The legendary Bobby Jones played there quite frequently, and it is a lovely course. And then, like Eleanor said, The River Golf Club is awesome. And some people may not know that we’re a big military community, and we actually are the home of Fort Gordon, which is an army base, and they actually have a really wonderful course called Gordon Lakes, and it’s actually a 27-hole course. So it would take up a full day of golf.

AB: Absolutely. Yeah, now… Yeah, now my husband would be all excited about that now. That sounds great.

LF: Yeah, you might not see him until bedtime.

AB: Yeah. I can go downtown and he can go hit the links, right?

LF: Absolutely, 100%.

AB: Thank you for sharing that, Lindsay. And just kind of talk more about this November being particularly interesting for you all. Unlike years before, the city will be hosting the Masters, not in the spring, but in the fall. How big of a draw is the Masters for the city of Augusta, Lindsay?

LF: It is a huge draw for us, actually, so much so that it’s really hard to even wrap your arms around. It fills up all of our hotels. Many of our residents, normally, at least in April, when we have it in April, that is the spring break for Augusta-Richmond County. So a lot of the residents actually go on vacation and rent their homes out. But you have people that will stay in Atlanta, Columbia, South Carolina, and then just come in for the day to go to the Masters. So we are just so proud of it, and you know, from a marketing standpoint, the Masters just gives Augusta such great brand recognition, which we are so fortunate to have.

AB: Absolutely, like you were saying about the hotels, I’m sure numbers are up all the way around between the hotels and just dining out, and having all these visitors in the city.

LF: Yes, absolutely. It’s definitely our biggest month of the year. Obviously, the November Masters is going to be patroness, so we’ll see a few less people in town, but we’re just so thrilled that they’re having it, and it’s gonna be real interesting to see the Augusta National in the fall, you know.

AB: Oh, I’m sure it’s gonna be just as beautiful, I can imagine.

LF: I’m sure, it’s always pristine.

AB: And we’ll just have to make our pimento cheeses at home this year and try to enjoy ’em next year with you when we come to visit.

LF: Yeah, and just be on the lookout, we’re gonna have some great blogs and content around that, how to do Masters at home. So…

AB: There we go. That’s right. We’ll be all having to tailgate, and party at home. Right?

LF: Absolutely. There’s nothing wrong with that.

AB: I’m sure it takes a lot of planning and coordination around Masters week and month. I bet it’s a month of planning. Would either of you be willing to talk about that a little bit kind of in preparation, what it’s like being at the CVB, kind of a tourism hub for those that are not in the area very often?

LF: Eleanor, you wanna touch on that or you want me to?

EP: I can definitely start. From a CVB aspect, it is taking our life and multiplying it by 10, in preparation for the biggest international golf tournament, one of the best in the world. And so we really take the Masters and really make it a lifestyle all year round, but it definitely amplifies when it comes in the spring, and now when it will be coming in the fall this year. So we take, from a CVB marketing destination, marketing standpoint… We do bring in travel media and travel writers to really talk about the city and talk about the golf course, but really, what Augusta has to offer off the course, and talking about how that culture rolls off of the course, you can do that pimento cheese and Arnold Palmer. But you can experience those rooftop bars and that gorgeous river walk and the beautiful Savannah River all year along. So we really have a serious effort combined with the community to bring in some really interesting, unique people to cover the golf tournament, but also what’s happening outside of those gates of the Augusta National Golf Club. And on top of that… Oh, sorry, Anna, go ahead.

AB: Yeah, no, I think that’s a perfect segue into talking about additional upcoming events, the last quarter of the year. Are you willing to share any of those upcoming events with our Main and Mulberry listeners today?

EP: Yeah, absolutely, Anna. So, unfortunately, we do not have any major events happening right now. The only thing we do have on the docket is for the patron-less Masters that will be broadcasted on CBS, which anyone can tune in to. We absolutely encourage at-home watch parties, and homemade pimento cheese. I’ll be putting up my personal recipe on our website. I know, right? I’ll give it to the users and the visitors to try it out. It might not be the best. I am from South Carolina, after all.

AB: I’m willing to try it. I’m willing to try it. That sounds good.

 EP: Yeah. So we won’t be doing too, too much in the events corner, no major events. We’ll be having some small local section events, but the really big thing is tune in to the Masters.

 AB: That’s right, and that’s a big enough thing for the rest of the year, I understand. Lindsay, now that we’re all excited to plan our visit to Augusta, and make our trail… Plus, where’s the best place for our listeners to come and really map out their trip?

LF: Well, the best place to start your trip would be Augusta & Co. It’s actually Augusta’s Experience Center, and it’s on the first floor of the Augusta CVB offices. So we actually manage that.

AB: Look out. Oh that’s great.

LF: Yeah. Yeah.

AB: And what is their websites, for those at home who are ready to plan?

LF: They can… You can just go to visitaugusta.com, and it’s right there. You can click on there and get more information, so… And visitaugusta.com is our website for all other travel resources as well. But it’s a really interesting place. Of course, we have Augusta information, but we do have a lot of wonderful products from local makers. We also have an art gallery in there. And of course, you can pick up some really cool souvenirs from your visit in Augusta there.

AB: Wow, absolutely. Ladies, thank you both so much for your time and your insight, just sharing all the wonderful things that Augusta, Georgia has to offer. Lindsay, thank you.

LF: Thank you, Anna, for having us. This has been wonderful.

AB: And Eleanor, thank you so much too.

EP: Thank you so much, Anna. We cannot wait for you to come visit us in Augusta. We love you.

AB: Aww, thank you. Sending all my love to you guys too. Alright, until next time, guys, we hope you enjoyed this episode of Main and Mulberry. Talk to you soon. I’m Anna Bell.

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