County Line Showing!

By Julie Paysen

The Historic Ritz Theatre at The Schaefer Center will
host the first theatrical release of INSP Films “County Line”.

INSP Films has chosen Toccoa, GA, to host the premiere of its newest release, County Line.  The action-packed crime drama was shot in Toccoa in 2016.  Gary Wheeler, Vice President of Original Movies at INSP Films, said “the city of Toccoa provided the perfect backdrop for County Line.” “We needed rural landscapes, a racetrack, a small-town diner, a courthouse and other unique shoot locations.  Toccoa provided these and more.  It’s fitting that the townspeople, many of whom played extras in the film, will be one of the first audiences to see it.”

This is the second film that INSP has shot in Toccoa-Stephens County. The first was Heritage Falls. It premiered in Toccoa last fall. Then just a few months later INSP Films decided to shoot their next movie here as well. The INSP cast and crew were such a delight to work with and were very grateful for the warm welcome they received in our community.

The film industry is booming in Georgia. According to a new report by FilmL.A., “17 feature films shot in Georgia in 2016, beating California as the top location for feature film production and making it the number one filming location in the world! Georgia’s film industry not only shot the most movies but, had some of the highest grossing movies films in the state as well.”

Toccoa-Stephens County is a Camera Ready  Community.  According to the website, “Georgia’s Camera Ready Communities program connects film and TV productions with skilled county liaisons across the state to provide local expertise and support.” Being a Camera Ready Community in the State of Georgia helps tremendously when it comes to the exposure that we receive with those in the film industry; and the benefits to our community are many. The dollars that are invested in our community during the many weeks of filming have a definite impact on our local economy. Not to mention the opportunity for our folks to be part of the production as cast members and extras along with the sense of pride that comes to our residents to see our town promoted on the “big screen”.

County Line tells the story of Alden Rockwell, an aging ex-sheriff dealing with the recent death of his wife and forced into retirement after losing a re-election bid.  When his old war buddy, closest friend and neighboring sheriff, Clint Thorne, is shot, Rockwell finds himself in the middle of a non-sanctioned investigation.  Amidst a dangerous threat to his own life, Rockwell refuses to stand by while a ruthless element takes over the town.

Cast in the leading role as Alden Rockwell is Tom Wopat (The Dukes of Hazzard, Longmire, Django Unchained). Sheriff Clint Thorne is played by Jeff Fahey (Texas Rising, Justified, Lost, Under the Dome). Patricia Richardson (Home Improvement, The West Wing) plays the spunky diner owner, Maddie Hall.  Dendrie Taylor (Saving Mr. Banks, Out of the Furnace, True Blood) plays Clint’s straightforward but fiery wife, Jordan Thorne.

INSP Films debuts its newest movie in Toccoa, June 16-18 at the Historic Ritz Theatre @ the Schaefer Center. For show times call or stop by the Chamber of Commerce office and purchase your tickets! They’re going fast! To see the County Line movie trailer, please visit our Visit Toccoa page on Facebook or


From All Over the World They Come to Toccoa…

We often take for granted the very things that others see as most amazing. Our natural resources and abundance of history is what helps to make Toccoa beautiful. Last year alone 14,704 visitors walked through the doors of our Welcome Center, located in the historic train depot. Those visitors included residents from all 50 of the United States of America and 27 foreign countries.

We hear all kinds of interesting stories from those who enter our doors. We always ask “Where are y’all from?” And after hearing about their journey, I have often asked, ”Where are y’all headed?” More often than not, I get the response “Right here in Toccoa!” As surprising as that may seem, it’s the truth! Folks from all over the globe set out to make the trek to Toccoa, Georgia to experience the natural beauty of our mountains, lake and rivers, hiking trails and water falls and to visit our Currahee Military Museum.

Last year alone we welcomed visitors into our Welcome Center from:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Brazil, Canada, China, Dominican Republic, England, Finland, France, Germany, Holland, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Scotland, South Africa, South Korea, South Wales, Thailand, the United Kingdom and from every State in the U.S.A.

What’s the big draw, you might ask? The Stephens County Historical Society maintains the Currahee Military Museum located in the old train depot where soldiers arrived before they made the five-mile hike to Camp Toccoa. The Museum is the home of photos, documents and memorabilia of World War II, including one of the most popular exhibits which is a horse stable from Aldbourne, England that served as housing for 506th Infantry Regiment, American paratroopers. The stable,17x70 feet long, serves as a reminder of some of the finer living conditions during the war. More than 18,000 paratroopers trained at Camp Toccoa prior to and after D-Day. Also located in the train depot is the Stephens County History Museum full of local exhibits that tell the history of Stephens County for the past 100 years.

The Currahee Military Museum and Toccoa's annual Currahee Military Weekend, (which is the first weekend in October every year) celebrate and preserve the legacy of Camp Toccoa, which took men directly from civilian life to the battlefields of World War II as a new type of soldier called “paratrooper”.

In recent years, Camp Toccoa has become a destination for historians, tour groups, reunions, and especially veterans returning to visit their "home" during training. Currahee Mountain is part of the Piedmont province and rises sharply about 800 feet above its surroundings and is the highest peak in Stephens County Georgia. Adjacent to the Chattahoochee National Forest, Camp Toccoa has become a favorite place for camping, hiking, horseback riding, sightseeing, and to the place to run footraces following the footsteps of the soldiers run of "Three Miles up, Three Miles down" – CURRAHEE!

For more information about Camp Toccoa visit . For more specifics about the museums call the Stephens County Historical Society at 706-282-5055 or check out the Currahee Military Museum website, Stop by for a visit, Currahee Military Museum, over 15,000square feet of history, right in our own backyard in Toccoa! See you soon!




From the Eyes of a West Point Mom

From the eyes of a West Point mom…little did I know what was ahead when my son was accepted and signed a letter of commitment with the United States Military Academy – West Point. It was early in his senior year when he made the decision and was accepted. I had always been told that Joey was an exceptional baseball player. I was his mom so of course I was proud but I certainly was far from an expert in baseball. All I knew was that he loved the game and that’s all he ever wanted to do…play Major League Baseball. And from the time he could swing a bat, he played baseball and played it well.

He is my oldest child, with a crew coming up behind him, who practically grew up at the ballfield playing in the dirt with the other younger siblings as their brothers played baseball. The years went on and before I knew it he was talking about where he wanted to play ball in college. He was on many scouts’ radar. But never had we even discussed the possibility of a military academy. Until one day I received a call from his high school coach asking me if we would even consider talking with USMA-West Point. I responded by saying of course, we would consider all options.

To make a long story short, we met the baseball coach from West Point and there was great interest on his part. He encouraged Joey to consider USMA West Point. He made it clear that USMA West Point looks for well-rounded leadership characteristics that will in turn make the strongest leaders. What a compliment to even be considered.

He applied, and it was quite the extensive process. Even though he was being considered to play baseball, he still had to meet all academic requirements and receive a Congressional nomination before being accepted.  At that time, he had to look at the future with the realization that he was always just one injury away from being done with baseball. His thoughts had to be farther down the road. And when the time comes that he is done with baseball, what then? What education will he prefer to have, what will be in his best interest? How will he be best prepared to accomplish what God has created him to do and be?

The decision was clear, apples and oranges, not even a comparison in our book. What a privilege and honor to be accepted into the USMA – West Point. The Academy provides a superb four-year education, which focuses on the leader development of cadets in the academic, military, and physical domains, all underwritten by adherence to a code of honor.

So off to West Point we went to drop him off for “BEAST” – USMA  West Point boot camp. All of a sudden, the parents, friends and family are given just minute or two, literally, to say their good-byes and out the door walked our children, young men and women with the initial goal of becoming Cadets at USMA West Point, looking forward to the day that they would be commissioned as an officer on the US Army!

The United States Military Academy's mission is to educate, train and inspire the Corps of Cadets so that each graduate is a commissioned leader of character committed to the values of Duty, Honor, Country and prepared for a career of professional excellence and service to the nation as an officer in the United States Army.

After a rigorous four years of balancing the challenge of military training, academics and baseball, that time finally came. Graduation Day! What a celebration! As a mom, I reflected of the challenges and obstacles Joey had faced, the endurance, discipline and dedication he had demonstrated and the fine young man he had become. I am so thankful that he was given the opportunity to be part of the West Point Long Gray Line.

After graduation, the challenge and the commitment continued at a whole new level. Joey is now an Airborne Ranger and Captain in the US Army. He has proudly served his country well. Alongside many others with the same commitment, some of whom paid the ultimate price, he has fought for and defended our freedom on the ground in the Middle East. And from this mom’s perspective, I am forever grateful for their sacrifice, their dedication to protect and defend, and for their love for the people of the United States of America.

This year we are again a proud community in Toccoa-Stephens County as we have two more of our very own who have been accepted into USMA West Point from Stephens County High School. A.J. Howard and Nikhil Patel will be reporting to The Academy in just a few short months. They will be joining another former SCHS Indian, Abigail Vickery, also from Toccoa, who began her military career at West Point in 2015.

To all who have served and to those who currently serve in our U.S. Military, thank you for your commitment to protect and defend the freedoms that we so enjoy in this great Country. May God continue to bless the United States of America!


Tomorrow's Leaders Have Arrived

One of the best investments any community can make in its future is the development of its future leaders. This month we will celebrate yet another group of leaders as they graduate through Leadership Toccoa-Stephens County, Class of 2017! 

The purpose of the program is to provide emerging leaders both adults and youth with a greater awareness of community issues, needs, services, and resources. Participants will gain insight into ways to exercise meaningful leadership - for the betterment of our community. 

The Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce supports the Leadership Board of Directors as they annually hold an Adult Leadership Class as well as a Youth Leadership Class. Each year full-day sessions are planned from August through February, including graduation.   Although the participants get traditional leadership training, the focus is on the past, present and future of Toccoa-Stephens County and the systems that make it work. The program curriculum was developed by the Fanning Leadership Institute, at the University of Georgia. The Fanning Institute is nationally recognized in the field of community leadership development.

We are blessed to have the support of our local government and business leaders as they volunteer their time and expertise to facilitate each class and invest in the futures of each participant which ultimately strengthens the future of Toccoa-Stephens County. Both the instructors (our local leaders) and the curriculum guide and encourage participants to put into practice the concepts and skills they learned during the program. 

The first session kicks off with a personality profile for each participant and team building challenges. Topics covered in the sessions to follow include Understanding Leadership, Understanding Local Government and Making Group Decisions,

Building Communities Through Collaboration, and Leading Community Change. The participants learn about local government including fire and police protection; social services, civic organizations and community programs; education; the health care industry; and Toccoa-Stephens County legal and political structure.  They take field trips to local businesses and industries and get a behind-the- scenes look at these companies.  They see economic development in the making and create bonds with fellow participants that last a lifetime. 

Each year both the Adult Leadership Class and the Youth Leadership Class take on a community project that they choose to focus their influence and passion. That becomes their first “official” opportunity as a group to make a direct and positive impact on our community. Some of the Leadership Projects in the past include the 1) Development of the Toccoa Walking Trail 2) Leaders and Legacy Recognition Banquet, which raised funding to help our local schools with needed supplies 3) Helping to Promote and Fill the existing need for our local Mentoring Program 4) Partnering with Keep Toccoa-Stephens County Beautiful on local beautification and clean-up projects…and the list goes on.

These Leadership participants groom themselves for leadership positions in their jobs, the local community and the State. The program has alumni in leadership positions at all these levels.  Most say their experiences in this program helped them advance and reach their goals.  Call the Chamber today at 706-886- 2132 for more detailed information and application. 

Strong leadership is key to the future of Toccoa-Stephens County. The Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber takes this charge and opportunity very seriously.

Let's Get on the Team!

Can you believe that the 2016 chapter has closed and the page has turned to another year? Welcome 2017, and we have hit the ground running! What does the turn of a new year mean to you? Have you set specific goals? Are you looking for a fresh start or simply moving on down the road that you’re on because it’s where you are meant to be?

This year called 2017 is a new beginning for all of us on many fronts.  But in the end…we are on the same team!

At this point, it matters not who each of us voted for in the elections… from the President of our great Nation right down to our local leadership. Or whether or not the folks that we voted for actually won. Though I will say, kudos to all who took the time to exercise their right to vote. We must do our part. At this point in the game, the decisions have been made and our leaders have accepted the challenge. Let us be careful to not underestimate the difficult jobs that they face. 

We waste our opportunity to make a difference if we spend our time arguing, grumbling and complaining. Do we all think just alike…of course not! How boring would that be?  Might we have some opposing ideas? Sure. Might we think that things could be handled differently. Sure. We must accept our differences and show respect to one another as we learn to work together to make this world a better place to be.

We are all created with different gifts and strengths that can be used best when we choose to work together to make a positive difference for the common good. Let’s be sure to stay on track and not get distracted bickering amongst ourselves. Don’t be part of the problem…be part of the solution! If we want our Nation, our State and our Community to be the best that it can be, to be most effective and prosperous, then we must all get on board. Join the team and get on the field.

What exactly does that look like in our little town? There are so many places to serve and ways to share your gifts and talents. Find the good things to talk about and to highlight…there are so many! We live in such a wonderful place, nestled here in the foothills of the mountains, full of natural resources, beauty and rich history. That’s a great place to start…

Would you like to invest in the life of a child…be a Mentor…it’s just an hour a week and makes a difference! Find a local charity to volunteer your time. Look into the local opportunities to volunteer at the Chamber, Community Events, The Arts and Community and Downtown Development. The list of ways to be a part and to make a difference is vast. 

Toccoa is a great place to do business and a greater place to do life! Purpose in 2017 to find a way to get on board…join the team! Team Toccoa-Stephens County! There is a place just for you…we need your help!

INSP Films in Toccoa-Stephens County

As we come off the one week a year that as a nation, we come together with hearts of thankfulness. We have so much for which to be thankful. From the freedoms we enjoy in our great Country, our family and friends, to the blessings of this beautiful community called Toccoa!

As our tag line reads…Toccoa means more than Beautiful! What makes our town a community is the people! This has once again been demonstrated as just before Thanksgiving we were blessed to once again be the location for a second movie to be filmed right in our backyard. As the local contact for the Georgia Film Industry, I have had the privilege to be on the front lines of the filming process, twice now. 

INSP Films chose Toccoa-Stephens County to be the home of its next movie, County Line.

According to their recent press release, “County Line tells the story of Alden Rockwell, an aging ex-sheriff dealing with the recent death of his wife and forced into retirement after losing a re-election bid.  When his old war buddy, closest friend and neighboring sheriff, Clint Thorne, is critically shot, Rockwell finds himself in the middle of a non-sanctioned investigation.  Amidst a dangerous threat to his own life, Rockwell refuses to stand by while a ruthless element takes over the town.

Cast in the leading role as Alden Rockwell is Tom Wopat (The Dukes of Hazzard).  Sheriff Clint Thorne will be played by Jeff Fahey (Texas Rising, Lost).  The movie also features Patricia Richardson, (Home Improvement, The West Wing) who plays the spunky diner owner, Maddie Hall” and Grant Goodeve (Eight is Enough) , newly elected Sheriff.

The making of this movie was much more action packed and labor intensive than Heritage Falls (the INSP movie previously filmed in Toccoa-Stephens County earlier this year). The cast was much larger, the need for special effects and props was much greater and required much organization, cooperation and support from the community. Once again, the people of Toccoa stepped up, with smiling faces and generous attitudes excited to be involved and help in any way possible.

As our town came together again and rallied to the call, whether it be for extras in the movie, vehicles used as props, law enforcement services, City and County organizations, and local business owners, the people of Toccoa helped to make it happen! And we will reap the benefits and see that sacrifice brings progress, humility brings favor and unity brings prosperity.

Let us be careful not tomove too quickly from a time of Thanksgiving to the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. Let’s continue to be grateful for the blessing of living in a community where people care about one another and come together to accomplish the task at hand! Let’s celebrate the true meaning of the season, the birth of Jesus! Merry Christmas to all!

A Picture of Community

Toccoa is more than beautiful… it is the picture of community! A community that rallies around those in need. My heart was so blessed to see this demonstrated just a few weeks ago when the need arose in South Carolina for victims of Hurricane Matthew.

The little town of Nichols, S.C. sits between the Pee Dee River and the Lumber River. Soon after the hurricane, the rivers rose and the levy broke. The people of Nichols, S.C. had only a thirty minute warning to evacuate.

Governor Nicky Haley has since condemned the entire community. Including a 3 year old school, churches, businesses, residential homes …all destroyed. Entire contents of the homes and buildings from furniture to insulation has now been cleaned out and hauled to the street for pick-up. Everything was lost and the people were all displaced. The drinking water has all been compromised.

There was and still is, such great need.

The Lord placed this burden on the heart of my husband, Steve Paysen - P230 Foundation ( and he made a plea to our community to help us fill a 53 ft. tractor trailer with clean folded clothes, food, and water. And with only a 2-day notice…Toccoa-Stephens County showed up. In just a matter of a few hours, we filled that truck with HOPE for the people of another community that we do not know but we did know that they needed our help.

I was so blessed to hear the stories of so many who donated. People of all walks of life and backgrounds, from the “haves” to the “have nots” across this great community, people gave what they could give. From a small grocery bag of clothes, to pick-up truck loads of clean, folded clothes…some still warm from the dryer…were delivered. It was non-stop all day.

The people of Toccoa-Stephens County came together to make a difference in the lives of people we don’t even know. It took this village to get it done. So together with P230, Hemphill Trucking, Quality Foods, Ebenezer Baptist Church, local business leaders and the people of this community, we filled that truck with supplies to meet the needs of the residents of Nichols, S.C. and in doing so, we sent the message of HOPE right along with it!

I have always said that it’s the people of Toccoa-Stephens County that make this community different and this is just one more example of just that! A very special, heartfelt “Thank you” to all who took the time to wash and fold clothes, bag and box them up, donate time and money to the cause, and shared personal stories of how you have before been in a place of need how the experience has lead you to want to be part of blessing someone else in need.

What a joy to be just a small part of how the Lord chooses to faithfully provide for our every need. How grateful I am to live in a community that comes together for those in need.

Community At Its Best!

As I reflect over this past weekend…Currahee Military Weekend 2016…the word that comes to mind is COMMUNITY!

As a few thousand people took part in the celebration it took the core of our community to make the experience great! The Stephens County Historical Society and Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce, along with Main Street Toccoa teams worked for months in preparation for this annual event. The City of Toccoa and Stephens County teams worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make sure the details were handled and the first impressions for our visitors was a positive one! And the countless volunteers that poured out of the woodworks in support of the weekend full of activities was unbelievable!


Main Street Toccoa hosted the “The Story of Joe Beyrle, WWII” Thursday evening at the Historic Ritz Theatre to officially kick off the weekend! Followed by the Annual Chamber BBQ which was held again this year at the National Guard Armory Hall. The “cooking crew” headed up by Tommy Moon and Burt Holmes got started at the Elks Lodge and EMT BBQ pits before 5am to successfully cook 1000 chicken halves. I showed up with biscuits for the teams around 7am and they were all having a blast and getting the job done! The chicken was delivered to the armory by 9:30am. Where they were greeted by more volunteers to pack the 1000 boxes, then deliver 700 plates throughout the town and serve the remaining 300 in the Armory Hall. All well planned and a smooth operation by Melvia Lynn Dickinson, Ashley Sharpe and The Chicken Team of volunteers!


We then rolled right into the Annual USO Swing Dance at the Armory where we were joined by 325 wonderful friends and neighbors dressed in vintage attire all dancing the night away! The David Fry Band and The Freedom Belles provided our live entertainment. The Civil Air Patrol, VFW and Stephens County Middle School PTO all served up refreshments. Marilyn Hall was the Hostess and Organizer for the event and did a wonderful job again delivering a night of enjoyment and great memories. Leaving us all looking forward to next year!


We rose up early Saturday morning to the Currahee Challenge 5k and 10k up Currahee Mountain. The event was organized by Craig and Melvia Lynn Dickinson and hosted 250 runners who participated from all across the country. The weather cooperated this year and it was a perfect fall day in Georgia. We were welcomed by another group of early bird volunteers who helped with registration, water stations, refreshments and awards. We started the morning off with prayer and a beautiful rendition of our National Anthem sung by Shauna Fortson, which brought cause for reflection on the very reason we are able to gather freely because of all who have gone before us fighting for our freedom.

The day of celebration continued with a parade down Main Street and Opening Ceremonies hosted by our Historical Society. Toccoa was lined with visitors enjoying the WWII Reenactors, Veterans Book Signing, and Memorabilia Show. We gathered again that evening at the Armory Hall as the Historical Society hosted their Annual Veterans Banquet. The evening was full of acknowledgement and appreciation for those who trained here in WWII and for our Toccoa soldiers. 4-Star General David Petraeus was the Guest of Honor and spoke to a full room of patrons. It was a wonderful evening hosted by Lyn Hack and Brenda Carlan for the Stephens County Historical Society and all who pitched in to help.

We wrapped the 16th Annual Currahee Military Weekend with the Remembrance Service held at Camp Toccoa, Parachute Infantry Regimental Memorial, which was well attended as we paid tribute. In 1942, the U.S. Government acquired a site in Toccoa, Georgia, where a new type of soldier, the paratrooper, was trained. Some 18,000 soldiers of the 501 st , 506 th , 511 th and 517 th Parachute Infantry Regiment trained at Camp Toccoa during World War II. This is our history of which we are so proud!

This weekend we saw the fruit of the collaborative efforts of or City and County governments, the extensions of those entities, the Chamber of Commerce, the Historical Society, the businesses in our town and the residents all working together to promote Toccoa-Stephens County, all that we have to offer and the history that we hold so dear.


This is Community

What a wonderful night to remember, as our community gathered to celebrate the business leaders of Toccoa-Stephens County.

Our 70th Annual Chamber Recognition and Awards Banquet was such a wonderful demonstration of the commitment and dedication of the people in this town that make this place so special and set apart!

The room was full of over two hundred and thirty guests, including our State and local elected officials, business leaders, volunteers, family and citizens of Toccoa-Stephens County. The evening is best described in the words of Christy LeCroy, who chaired the event, “What a community of team players, amazing business people, entrepreneurs, board members, teachers, farmers, volunteers, retirees, bankers, accountants, doctors, cosmetologist, bakers, journalists, pastors, lawyers, rising young adults, accomplished senior adults, leaders, life time achievers, friends and family!! Caring people that show up and tackle whatever task is at hand! We ate, met, awarded, laughed, may have shed a tear or two, prayed, praised, laughed some more and celebrated Toccoa and Stephens County!! What a great place that God has blessed us with to live, work, play and to be a part of!

Moving forward we keep in mind that it’s our privilege at the Chamber to be your advocate and community partner to promote, develop and support commerce & tourism in Toccoa-Stephens County. Just as we have seen in example after example in our community, when we decide to be intentional for the purpose at hand, we put aside personal differences and recognize each other’s strengths then, we can best work better together and accomplish the goal! 

Always remembering that we are stronger together than alone. We have passionate and gifted leaders in Toccoa-Stephens County, with a like-minded goal of bringing new industry, new opportunities and new jobs to our community. Our eyes are fixed on the prize!

Fully utilizing all of our resources is the solution, and you are part of the plan. It can be done…one step at a time, and we need your help! We have opportunities every day to make a difference. We can’t afford to let them pass us by. We all must find our place to serve. Shop here, volunteer here, invest here, start a business here, enjoy life here! 

Our enemy delights when we get caught up in our differences and take our eyes off the goal. Let’s not get side-tracked but instead continue to come together in one accord and be part of the plan to make Toccoa a town to remember! We are moving in the right direction. We are partners in progress!! Opportunities continue to come our way and new doors are opening every day. As we continue to move ahead together let us be sure to appreciate the gift of community that is right here among us. Toccoa-Stephens County is a great place to do business and an even greater place to do life!

An Evening With the Stars

You won’t want to miss an Evening with the Stars of Toccoa-Stephens County!! Our Annual Chamber Recognition Banquet is just around the corner! Plan to gather with us at the Georgia Baptist Conference Center, August 18th at 6:30pm for a night to remember! 

Together we will share a delicious dinner and an evening of community fellowship, reflection of our last year as a Chamber, the direction that we are headed in the coming year and celebration of our local Business Leaders and those who have made a lasting impression in this community. There will be live entertainment and a Silent Auction as well. You will surely want to be there!

 Some of the available items in the Silent Auction will include… 

Attorney Services for a WILL, Men’s Suit, Mountain Cabin Weekend Get-away, One week of Camp, Gas Fireplace Insert, One-year Tuition for Dance, Dental Services, Gas Grill, Gift Baskets, Surprise Money Account, Foursome Round of Golf, Lawn Mower, Home Furnishings, Gift Cards and much more. 

If your business would like to participate, please let us know. It’s certainly not too late to add to the collection of silent auction gifts. Tickets for the Annual Chamber Recognition Banquet are available at the Chamber, so plan to join us August 18th for a wonderful evening with the Stars of Toccoa-Stephens County! 

Plan to attend the premiere of Heritage Falls, the first movie ever filmed at Toccoa Falls and featuring our amazing community! This is the INSP Films movie that was filmed here in Toccoa this past spring. Heritage Falls is a dramatic comedy that follows three generations of headstrong men as they venture into the American wilderness for a rugged weekend ‘retreat.’  Family patriarch Charlie Fitzgerald is the most celebrated high school basketball coach in Georgia history, and is seen as a father figure to many of his players.  However, his adult son Evan does not share local sentiment.  In an effort to mend their relationship, Charlie plans a rustic mountain retreat for he, Evan, and Evan's son, Marky.  What follows is a touching and humorous adventure that showcases the trials and triumphs of three generations of dramatically different family members as they are forced to come to terms with longstanding differences. 

Heritage Falls will premiere at the Schaefer Center the evenings of September 8th and 9th , with a matinee on September 11th . Stay tuned for more details…coming soon! 

It’s our privilege at the Chamber to be your advocate and community partner to promote, develop and support commerce & tourism in Toccoa-Stephens County. Join the team and let’s work together for a better Toccoa. We are Partners in Progress!

Partners in Progress

So as I enjoy the fond memories of our most recent Independence Day celebrations and festivities, I have cause to reflect on just how much we so often take for granted. We live in a country where we are free to own our own business, vacation with our family, choose our path for education, all with the freedom to worship our Almighty God! As the headlines have read for quite some time now, it is more and more evident that others who live in this world are not afforded such freedoms.

In this fast paced society of ours, it seems that we too easily overlook the privileges and the blessings in our lives while we get caught up in the challenges that we face and the circumstances that arise in our day to day life. Why do we allow this to happen? I guess it's just human nature, but something that is worth revisiting on a regular basis to help keep our eyes focused on life’s treasures.

The grass is rarely ever greener on the other side of the fence. But if it is, it is probably due to the hard work that has been invested to gain the results that everyone else envies. Success takes hard work. And generally that hard work is by a village of those willing to make the sacrifice.

We are all faced with the temptation to gripe but at the same time we are also faced with the opportunity to make a difference every day regardless of where we live or what circumstances we encounter.

Let us not take lightly the sacrifices made by those who have gone before us and those who currently serve our great Country today, to protect the very freedoms that we enjoy. Let us be careful to see the opportunities and blessings around us every day. Let us be intentional to take advantage of being part of the solution and to always be looking for ways to make this world better.

Specifically, right here in our very own Toccoa-Stephens County, we should all be looking for new ways to get involved and be part of making things better in our hometown. If you see something that you believe could be improved upon, then get on the team and share your ideas and together make it happen. That’s the way we will continue to move our community to the next level and beyond. Teamwork makes all the difference. We are stronger together than we are individually. Plus, if we are part of the solution then we own the outcome and therefore, will be less likely to sit around and critique. And our friends and family will likely follow our lead. So let’s join forces and keep moving forward. This is our Toccoa and we are partners in progress!

Discover Summer in Toccoa

What is there to do in Toccoa? Perched at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Toccoa is home to so many sights and destinations and offers recreational boating, competitive fishing, watersports, camping, hunting, golfing, and scenic drives. Toccoa Falls stand 186 feet – nineteen feet higher than Niagara. The stream that flows from the base of the falls runs through the lower portion of the college’s 1,100 wooded acre campus. Toccoa Falls is known to be one of the highest free-falling waterfalls east of the Mississippi River and attracts guests from all over the nation. is located on the campus of Toccoa Falls College.

Traveler’s Rest, also known as Jarrett Manor, which is an early 19th Century stage coach inn and plantation house located at the crossroads of King’s Highway and the end of the Unicoi Turnpike, which lead across the mountains to the west. Visitors can tour the house and see the original furnishings, artifacts, and documents. Grounds are open daily, interior open every Saturday and Sunday.

Tugaloo Bend is an 87-acre site that has four trails that meander along the Tugaloo River. It is the site of Estatoe (a Native American - Cherokee village and subsequently the site of a 19th and 20th Century operating farm, which now features a pavilion and picnic tables, as well as wheelchair accessibility.

Tugaloo Bend is the Tugaloo River Corridor Heritage Site and is located on Yonah Dam Road just before Walker Creek Access.

The Currahee Vineyards award-winning winery and tasting room. A local favorite is the Three-Mile White Wine honoring the soldiers who trained by running up and down the Currahee Mountain, which you can try for yourself, 3 miles up… 3 miles down, just like the paratroopers! You can also check out the Currahee Military Museum at the historic train depot and Camp Toccoa, which was a WWII paratrooper training camp.

For the huntsman, there is the Chattahoochee National Forest, where you can hunt small game and birds, fish, bear, turkey, and deer. Even if you are not interested in hunting, the Chattahoochee National Forest is welcome to horseback riders, hikers, bicyclists, and campers. Campers can bring their own RV, tents, or rent a cabin.

Toccoa Raceway is the fastest 1650 feet of dirt in Georgia! The high-banked, oval dirt track is the oldest operating track in Georgia. Races are every Saturday night March through September. Family fun for all ages.

Golfers can also get away and visit The Links at Lake Toccoa, a nine-hole golf course that is newly renovated and features Tifeagle greens, a fully renovated clubhouse, and access to beautiful Lake Toccoa. Treat yourself to Ping’s Grill after your round! Lake Hartwell is renowned for its striped bass fishing, and catering to sportsmen and amateurs alike. The lake and surrounding rivers offer a wide variety of species. Public and private streams, and guided trips are also available. Swimming is also an option, and there are plenty of secluded beaches and islands. So, whether you want to set a hook off the docks, paddle around in a rented kayak, or take to the open water and cruise on the pontoon, Lake Hartwell makes a fantastic destination for a day on the water.

So when you’re asked, what is there to do in Toccoa…here is the answer…Toccoa means more than beautiful! Whether you want to picnic for an afternoon or take off on a trail around the lake on a horse and come back to a campsite, there are gorgeous sights to see and all kinds of adventure to be had!

Discover Toccoa…a beautiful place to live, work and play!

Toccoa Meets Hollywood!

Lights…camera…action! Our very own Toccoa is going to be in the movies! As you may have heard by now, it’s happening! INSP Films, a division of INSP Network out of Charlotte, North Carolina produces films that are inspiring, heartwarming and family-friendly is currently wrapping up the filming of their next feature film here in Stephens County, called “Heritage Falls.”

I have the privilege to be the Stephens County contact for Camera Ready Georgia and have had the distinct pleasure getting to work closely with the team from INSP. We are excited and certainly grateful that they have chosen our community for their next film. This process began in early March…of this year! When I met INSP Producer and Director, and they had a hit list of things that they were looking for before deciding where to shoot their next film. Of course, this was our opportunity to show off our community, and off we went to work our way through the list! It started off with “Would you happen to know of where we could find a remote cabin? And that was just the beginning…

Everywhere we went in this town… I was so very proud. Not only did we have the pieces of the puzzle that they were looking for, everyone was so excited to hear about the possibility of what might be coming our way. In the words of Gary Wheeler, VP of INSP Films,“We are thrilled to have an opportunity to work in Toccoa. The site has a natural beauty that makes it the perfect backdrop for this project. With location playing such a central role in the film, it was critical that we find the right environment. Toccoa and the surrounding area has exceeded our expectations.”

From the first day on location with gorgeous lake views, a breathtaking mountain top, to our quaint shops and restaurants on Main Street, Toccoa Falls, Trembly Bald, beautiful local homes, to caterers, lodging, you name it, we were happy to be able to show off this town. And as always, our local leadership with the City of Toccoa and Stephens County have all been so intentionally accommodating and welcoming. Our merchants and residents have shown such warm customer service. But that’s who we are in Toccoa-Stephens County! The people in our community set us apart…southern hospitality at its best!

Heritage Falls is a dramatic comedy that follows three generations of headstrong men as they venture into the American wilderness for a rugged weekend ‘retreat.’  In an effort to mend relationships, the family patriarch plans a rustic mountain getaway. What follows is a touching and humorous adventure that showcases the trials and triumphs of three generations of dramatically different family members as they are forced to come to terms with longstanding differences.

Of course, the production of Heritage Falls will generate income into our local economy. But in addition to that, we are thrilled that we have this opportunity to showcase our wonderful community and all the resources that are right in our midst. The word is getting out that Toccoa really does mean …more than “beautiful!”

Every Vote Counts

What a privilege we have in this United Stated of America to vote. That right was fought for and we must not take it for granted. Voting is our voice in the process of growing and improving our community, State and Country. With that in mind, The Chamber would like to provide the taxpayers and residents of Stephens County the opportunity to get to know the candidates of our 2016 Republican Primary a little better.

Join us tonight at The Schaefer Center for the first of two Town Hall Meetings. The Government Affairs Committee of the Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce and WNEG Radio are sponsoring the events. The format of each meeting will be such that each candidate will take the platform alone and will be given 2 minutes for an opening statement, then each candidate will be asked a series of questions and have two minutes to respond. Each candidate of the same race will be asked the same questions. The candidates will have 15 minutes to field questions and address the audience.

Questions must be submitted to The Chamber ahead of time or put in writing, signed and submitted before the beginning of the Town Hall Meeting to be considered. Please take advantage of this event to ask relevant, issue-based questions so that when it comes time to place your vote, you will be better informed.

Tonight the Town Hall Meeting will be held at The Schaefer Center and begins at 6pm (doors open at 5:30pm) the candidates will be welcomed to the stage from the following races:

  • Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney
    • Honorable George Christian
    • Bruce Russell, Jr.
  • U.S. House, 9th District
    • Congressman Doug Collins, Incumbent
    • Bernard Fontaine
    • Mike Scupin
    • Paul Broun
    • Roger Fitzpatrick
  • State Senate, 50th District
    • Senator John Wilkinson, Incumbent
    • Roy Benifield
  • Stephens County Sheriff
    • Sheriff Randy Shirley, Incumbent
    • Jim Davis

Next Thursday evening, April 21 st again at The Schaefer Center, 6pm (doors open at 5:30pm) we will host the candidates for the following races:

  • Chief Magistrate
    • Donald Tabor, Incumbent
    • Ralph Stowe
  • Stephens County School Board, At Large
    • Tony Crunkleton, Incumbent
    • Len Stovall
  • Stephens County School Board, District 3, Post 2
    • Jim Ledford, Incumbent
    • Mark Smith
  • Stephens County Commission, Post 2
    • Debbie Whitlock, Incumbent
    • Jonesy Haygood
    • Larry Krul
    • Henry Moore
    • Kenny Yearwood

We should all be aware of the challenges that exist in our community. We must see it as an opportunity to involve ourselves in the resolution process and elect the right leaders who will work hard on our behalf and forge through the challenges that we face. When we take advantage of our right to vote, we send the message that our Community, State and Country matter! Be a difference maker and VOTE!!

See you at the polls May 24th; early voting begins May 2nd.

Did you know...?

It’s always fun to spend the day touring Toccoa-Stephens County, but last week I had the privilege to be included on this month's Stephens County Development Authority (SCDA) Industry Tour lead by Tim Martin (Executive Director for the SCDA), Tammy Caudell (Georgia Department of Economic Development), Danette Smith (Georgia Department of Labor), and Dennis Bell (SCDA board member and County Commission Chairman). We met with Trachte, Team Metal Finishing, Toccoa Machine Products, Cotton Conversions, Robertson Furniture, and Morgan Concrete. Here are a few things that I learned.

Did you know...
that right here in Toccoa…Trachte…(pronounced Trock-tee) is a company that designs, manufactures, and erects a full line of durable, pre-engineered and customized steel self-storage systems and is one of the largest manufacturers of steel self-storage systems in the industry. They got to Toccoa by deciding to open a satellite office to better serve their customer, Patterson Pump Company (which is one of the world's leading suppliers of quality pumps for the Fire, Municipal, Industrial, Flood Control, Plumbing, and HVAC Markets). Growth breeds more growth!

Did you know…
that Team Metal Finishing (TMF) is one of the largest and most respected metal finishers in the Southeast? TMF is a World Class metal finishing operation. Their quality and customer service are unmatched within the industry. Combined with competitive pricing, flexible turnaround, and over 150 years of combined experience! They provide services for Porsche parts too, from right here in Toccoa!

Did you know…
locally owned and operated, Toccoa Machine Products has been in business for over forty years providing quality fabrication, CNC work, welding, and machine work for manufactures and textile companies throughout the region. 

Did you know…
that when you buy online from or purchase a computer from Apple, Inc. that it very well may arrive packaged with materials produced from right here in Toccoa from Cotton Conversions?

Did you know…
Robertson Furniture began in 1946, when George Robertson rented an old cotton warehouse and started making restaurant booths? It was a small operation, serving a local market, but what his company lacked in size, George made up with quality and service. Over the years, Robertson has grown from that small local company into an industry leader providing furnishing from the small coffee shops to popular national chain restaurants to the featured restaurant in an international hotel. So take note the next time you’re eating out at one of your favorite restaurants, you may be enjoying furnishings produced from right here in Toccoa.

Did you know…
The “Family Grown, American Owned” difference is what Morgan Concrete Company was founded on? Since 1975 as a family owned and operated ready-mix company.  They have grown from two employees, including founder Ferrell Morgan, running one batch plant and one mixer truck to now over one hundred fifty employees, nine batch plants, over one hundred mixer trucks, and a fleet of cement tankers and dump trucks, to insure the quality and service levels we have built our reputation around.

We also had the privilege to have lunch at North Georgia Technical College and see the new expansion in the Industrial Systems Technology Department and tour the Culinary Arts Kitchen, not to mention enjoying their awesome lunch! What a terrific resource and asset North Georgia Tech is to our community and to this region!

It was a fun-filled and extremely interesting day to see behind-the-scenes of local industry. We also managed to squeeze in a visit to the NIFCO-KTW plant. Such an impressive facility and HUGE! One hundred fifty-five thousand square feet with room to grow!

As we know, new business brings new business. Toccoa-Stephens County…Here we GROW!

Leaving a Legacy

As we wrap up our 2015-2016 Chamber sponsored Leadership Toccoa and Youth Leadership Program in a couple of weeks, it raises some questions:

  • What legacy are we leaving and what future are we establishing for the generations to come?
  • What we do today will lay the ground work for all who come behind us? 
  • How can we each have a positive impact for the generations to come?

The future leaders of this community need valid reason to come back to Stephens County after they complete their college education. For those who chose to further their education locally or to move directly into the workforce after high school, what will keep them here? How can we encourage them to invest their talents back into the community that poured into them?

As our community leaders work hard every day to increase job opportunities in Toccoa-Stephens County, the work doesn’t stop there. We must all help to establish relationships and a sense of ownership and pride in our community to encourage the next generation to commit to give back to the community that raised them. How do we do that? We can start with the opportunity we have to connect and build relationships with our youth through Mentoring, Internships, and Scholarships. 

Becoming a Mentor in the Middle School may make a difference in one child's life. We, as Mentors, expose these children to a caring, dependable adult who will be there for them each week. A Mentor is a role model, a coach and a listener. Mentors also are a link to other cultures and attitudes, we can show these students an alternate lifestyle that may help them break this destructive cycle. Mentoring is a commitment of ONE. One student, one hour each week and for one school year.  

This school year we have a shortage of Mentors for our Middle School students. As of today we are lacking 18 Mentors for 16 male students and 2 female students. You CAN make a difference! Contact the Chamber for more details on how you can become a mentor for one of our Middle School students in Stephens County. 

Help a student get experience in the workplace by offering them an internship. Internships can provide a great transition between the education process and a career. By bridging the gap between learning and finding a career, internships can speed up the process of moving students toward their career goals. Interning will help teach responsibility, develop skills, create relationships that may lead to a business mentor, sources of job opportunities and references. 

We must raise the next generation of leaders to be catalysts of change and prosperity in Toccoa. We must invest in their cultural preferences and not limit them to ours. Our students today are the business leaders of tomorrow…let’s look for ways to keep them! They are our greatest resource!

Looking Back & Looking Ahead...

There's a good chance that over the past few weeks you have spent time reflecting over the events of 2015 and possibly looking ahead to the opportunities that 2016 will bring. 

Have you written out a list of New Year's Resolutions? There is much to be learned from our previous experiences. One benefit of writing out our goals and dreams is that we then have a measure to look back on, to see when we have actually reached those goals. We can learn from our achievements as well as from our shortcomings. We should always ask ourselves what went well? What could we have done differently? Did we accomplish what we set out to achieve? 

This holds true in our personal life, our professional life, and as a community as a whole. One thing that I have found since I have had the privilege to serve as president of the Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce is that our community has strong leadership. Across the board, there is a combined effort to come together and get the job done. There is a joint mindset that we can accomplish much more as a team than we can trying to go it alone. Recognizing the strength that exists in a community with joined forces is key to growth. This concept is our motto at The Chamber...One Band, One Sound. 

I have been in many a regional meeting and heard the challenges that other communities face with leadership that cannot get on the same page. It can be detrimental to the growth and strength in a community. We must be careful not to take for granted the blessing we have in Stephens County with leadership that works together. There is compromise and a win-win mindset and most importantly a mutual respect among the community leadership that keeps us on the same side, working hard for Team Toccoa!

We have so much to be excited about in Toccoa-Stephens County. We hear all the time as people visit our Welcome Center..."there is so much history here," "Such a quaint Main Street and historic downtown," "There is so much to do outdoors, hiking trails, beautiful waterfalls, lakes and mountains."

Our natural resources here are abundant! Our visitors see it! We have such a solid balance between our agriculture, industry, service and retail business, strong healthcare, and school system. The opportunities here are endless! We often hear from those visiting our community, "You have everything here!" 

The year 2015 was a big step in the right direction for Stephens County. We have seen growth and expansion in our existing industry, as ASI is expanding their operations. There is also much excitement with new industry, choosing to make Toccoa their home; as SARK Wire and NIFCO-KTW open their US facilities here. Stephens County IS on the map! Every new year brings new opportunities. Let's keep the momentum going! 

Come together, get on the team for 2016 and help make a difference. Toccoa-Stephens County is a great place to do business and an even great place to do life!

A Time to Give…

After spending another Thanksgiving in Nicaragua, working with locals in outlying villages (which I have had the privilege to do for the past 7 years), I am once again so clearly reminded of the great need that exists not only in our community but around the world.

As we are in the midst of the holiday season a spirit of generosity surrounds us. There are many ministries that provide food for our hungry, clothes, shelter, and counseling for those in need. Please take a look at our website's Business Directory and click on the Family, Community & Civic Organizations to see how you might volunteer your time and donate funds to help support these organizations. This is such a busy time of year and the need is so great, please don’t miss the blessing of giving generously.

December 25th is rapidly approaching, and you need to check everyone off your Christmas List with a gift that is personal and just right for each of your loved ones. Before you shop out of town, make the intentional choice to visit our local shops here in Toccoa to help you accomplish your mission. You will find that just-right, unique gift for that special someone. On Main Street and beyond, we have so many lovely shops for specialty gifts, monogrammed accessories, art galleries, locally made items, beautiful dress shops and clothing stores. So fill the space underneath your tree with presents perfect for the ones you love most. You can find a list of many options to choose from at the Chamber website under the Business Directory and Shopping and Retail. Wrap up a bit of Toccoa for Christmas!

When your house fills up with friends from out of town and you don’t have enough beds to accommodate, how nice that we have options here in our community to help you with your accommodation needs. Whether it’s a bed and breakfast, hotel, motel, conference center or camp and cabin setting that you’re looking for, Toccoa-Stephens County has it all. Take a look at the Chamber website under the Business Directory and Lodging to find comfortable accommodations for those friends and family visiting over the holidays.

And if cooking is not your favorite pastime, we have wonderful restaurants to choose from too. Don’t spend all your time in the kitchen. Take the family to enjoy the many restaurants we have in our town. From our Historic Downtown Toccoa on Doyle Street, to Big A Road and beyond. Spend less time driving and more time visiting over a delicious meal served up fresh and hot right here in Toccoa. 

There’s just something special about a small town Christmas! The street s of Toccoa are beautifully decorated and there’s a feeling of Christmas in the air! The holiday festivities kick off Thursday night Dec. 3rd at the Paul Anderson Park Tree Lighting and Silent Auction.

ChristmasFest begins Friday, Dec.4th, and Downtown Toccoa will be all the rage with the addition this year of a Holiday Ice Skating Rink to add to the Festival of Trees, Live Nativity, Carriage Rides, Santa Claus visits and Santa’s Express Train, Christmas Sage Market, lighting of the City of Toccoa Christmas Tree and so much more! Most of the local shops will be open for business and there will be handmade arts and crafts available for purchase as well. This weekend is the perfect time to get your Christmas shopping done right here in Toccoa while you enjoy the benefits of the holidays in a small town. Re-invest in our community and wrap up a bit of Toccoa for Christmas!

In all the hustle and bustle and excitement of the season, let us be sure to remember the most generous gift ever given. The Gift, the Lord Jesus Christ; given to us by the Father, to redeem us back to Him. May you and yours have a very Merry Christmas!


As the season of Thanksgiving is upon us, we naturally reflect on the things for which we are grateful. We live in a community full of reasons to be thankful. This has been a year full of progress for Toccoa-Stephens County. Good things are happening…and I am thankful. 

With a continued effort working together with the Stephens County Development Authority, leadership from the City of Toccoa, Stephens County and the Chamber of Commerce were thrilled to see new opportunities for our community begin to come together. An increase in commerce goes hand in hand when new jobs are added. Even when some of those jobs are filled with individuals from outside our county lines, we cannot overlook the money that is spent during the workday by those who work here. It sure has a positive impact on our local economy.

With SARK Wire and Nifco-KTW both choosing to locate in Stephens County, ramping up construction and build-out, planning to be up and running full steam in 2016. Our local employment agencies and the Georgia Department of Labor are working hard to fill the many jobs that have already been created from these companies. New industry breeds more new industry. Who knows what other companies will be drawn to Toccoa-Stephens County because they work closely with a business that is already in our community. Good things are happening…and I am thankful.

We all recently celebrated as the sign went up for the coming Holiday Inn Express at the corner of Big A Road and Rose Lane. With that will also come a new restaurant to serve the guests and community. That news comes right on the heels of the totally renovated Country Hearth Inn downtown. As we continue to add to and improve our local accommodations, how nice it will be to have the ability to meet the needs of those visiting Toccoa, instead of having to send them elsewhere to stay the night. Good things are happening…and I am thankful.

Existing industry growth also plays a huge part in the growth and stability of a community. Quite a few of our local companies are continuing to invest in Toccoa-Stephens County and they choose to expand their operations here. ASI Corporation is one clear example. They are adding thousands of additional square feet to their Clary Connector location and will soon be adding more jobs to help meet the needs of their existing demand. Carter’s Recycling has also expanded operations with Southeast Metals & Recycling out Highway 123. Also, Cotton Conversions, Inc. has added additional shifts in an effort to meet the increased demand for their products. Just to name a few. Good things are happening…and I am thankful.

To date, we have added fifty three new members to The Chamber since December of last year. I am grateful to work with an amazing staff, it’s a joy to come to work each day. Our staff, along with our outstanding Chamber Board of Directors, Ambassador Team, countless volunteers and Chamber members is what makes the Toccoa-Stephens County Chamber of Commerce a success. We are One Band…One Sound all working together for the same goal. Join the Chamber and help make a difference in our town. Good things are happening…and I am thankful.