Tying the Knot: Small-Town Affair

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The historic buildings and Norman Rockwell-esque setting of Rolater Park in Cave Spring, Ga., create a relaxed atmosphere for weddings of any size.

story by BRETT JAILLET

Matthew and Amanda Groover were out on a Sunday drive one fall afternoon – something they do often – when they stumbled upon a one-stoplight town oozing with historic architecture: Cave Spring, Ga., just a 40-mile trip from their home in Dallas, Ga.

The couple hadn’t set out to look for the right spot to hold the rustic-chic wedding they had in mind (they were still considering a few other Southern locations), but shortly after exploring the town, browsing boutiques and chatting up locals, they knew they had found it.

“Everyone was so friendly. It just had a feel about it,” Amanda Groover says.[s2If !is_user_logged_in()]

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[/s2If][s2If is_user_logged_in()]So planning ensued, invitations went out and the couple soon exchanged vows at the Old Baptist Church in Cave Spring. A reception followed at Hearn Academy, which was a school for boys in the mid-1800s and has since been restored with elegant features like polished hardwood floors, floor-to-ceiling windows and a grand staircase.

Both properties are located in Rolater Park, just off the town square, and are managed by the Cave Spring Historical Society, which was incorporated in 1977 because of the buildings, says Dianna Edwards, president of the society. “We led the community’s efforts to restore them,” she says of the structures.

And Cave Spring often attracts out-of-towners like the Groovers for simple reason: “There are very few little towns like Cave Spring left in America,” Edwards says. With around 1,000 people, the town contains more historic architecture per capita than any city in Georgia, she says.

In addition to weddings, Hearn Academy has hosted corporate events, theater and film nights and retirement and reunion parties, Edwards says.

Donna Phillips, who handles rentals and upkeep of the buildings, says the classic, historic architecture lends itself to events grand and small.

“It’s like stepping back in time,” she says.

“People like that feeling of getting away from the hustle and bustle.”

Plus, couples can plan their big day on a budget – Hearn Academy rents for $1,000 for three days (exact space and rental periods can be adjusted) and the church for $300 for three days, Phillips says.

Couples can bring in their own vendors and even rent the entire Hearn Inn, also located in the park, for their out-of-town guests. The inn was originally a dormitory for Hearn Academy and now serves as a bed and breakfast.

Guests to the Groover wedding were close enough that they decided to drive in, but the town’s quaintness and charm made it a destination, the bride says.

“I don’t think a lot of people know this place is here, to be honest, but depending on the season, you can utilize the space in many different ways,”

Groover says. “You can host something outdoors or indoors. You can have a huge wedding or a small, intimate affair.”

Amanda and Matthew held a gathering of about 75 people, and their daughter, Ansley, was the flower girl. From caterer Ginger Bridges (a home-cooked style was in order, including a spread of pies) to the jewelry she purchased at an antiques store in town, Groover says she tried to keep everything local.

And any piece of decor she didn’t find nearby, she made herself. Her creations included wooden slabs that served as pedestals for desserts, signs directing guests and floral arrangements of sunflowers and wheat.

Today, Cave Spring is still near to the couple’s hearts – they still take those Sunday drives 40 miles down the road.

“We’ve gone back several times since our wedding,” Groover says.

From the spring-fed ponds to the mountains surrounding the town to the carpets of lily of the valley that grace the area, Edwards says the town is always welcoming to day-trippers and those who want to stay awhile.

“Life is good here, and we welcome those who will help us make it better,” she says.

A Day at the Park

Cave Spring and Rolater Park make a great getaway even if you aren’t attending or hosting an event. Here’s what you can expect to find:

THE TOWN – One-of-a-kind shops and eateries line the town square.

THE CAVE – Tour a limestone cave with impressive stalagmites. Open daily from May to September; Monday through Friday, 11a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; also by appointment, 706-777-9944 or 706-777-0299.

AN ABUNDANCE OF WATER – Visible in the cave is the town’s namesake spring that produces 2 million gallons of pure water a day. People from miles around come to fill jugs. The cave’s spring overflows into a serene reflection pond and shallow stream perfect for wading. It then fills the park’s 1.5-acre, Georgia-shaped swimming lake, second-largest in the state, with its invigorating mineral water. The pool complex includes a snack bar, volleyball area, picnic tables and bathhouse. The lake opens Thursday-Sunday at noon, weather permitting, from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and hosts events with live bands. www.rolaterlake.com

PICNIC PAVILIONS – Tables and pavilions dot the tree-shaded park.

TROUT FISHING – Visitors can fish in Little Cedar Creek inside the park. Fishing is allowed in the park pond on Kids’ Fishing Day, for children ages 3 to 12 and held the day before Father’s Day. www.coosavalleytu.org

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