What do you do when a railroad is built four miles east of your county seat? Well, if you’re anything like the people of Georgia, you move closer to railroad, start a new town and make it your new county seat. Valdosta circa 1900. Image by Unknown Author – Lowndes County Historical Museum, Public Domain, via Wikipedia That’s how Valdosta, Georgia, got its start when, on July 4, 1860, the Satilla #3 engine pulled the first train into the station four miles east of Troupville. Soon after, Troupvillians picked up and moved and started a new town next to the railroad they called Valdosta in honor of “Val d’Aosta,” the plantation home of former Governor George Troup (after whom the town of Troupville was named). Local legend has it that the name means “Vale of Beauty”. Linguistic scholars and historians, on the other hand, debate this idea. They claim that the name came from an Italianized version of a town that Roman emperor Augustus Caesar built for his palace guard. Nevertheless, there is no debating the fact that the town of Valdosta prospered through the rest of century. This was mostly due to its rich and fertile soil which helped Valdosta become the inland capital for Sea Island cotton. And even when those cotton crops were destroyed by the boll weevil in the early 1900s, they succeeded at growing other crops such as pecans, peanuts and tobacco. Nowadays, this tenacious little town continues moving forward into the future as a still flourishing city. Farming is still the city’s main reason for Valdosta’s success, and these days you can add pine to the long list of agricultural products that Lowndes County farmers grow and harvest. This continued prosperity along with Valdosta’s location continues to attract nationally known brands to the city. Make a Stuckey’s Stop We’re proud to say that one of those nationally known brands is the Stuckey’s located just off of I-75 at 1833 W. Hill Avenue in Valdosta. So, the next time you’re traveling up or down I-75 for business or pleasure, be sure to make a Stuckey’s stop part of your road trip itinerary. Image courtesy of visitvaldosta.org Once you’ve stocked up on your share of our iconic pecan log rolls and other tasty road trip snacks, why not check out some of these things to see and do near the Stuckey’s of Valdosta, Georgia? Things That Go Boom Remember those road trips where mom and dad would stop at a Stuckey’s that sold fireworks and you’d walk out of the store with a few boxes of sparklers, snakes and bottle rockets? You couldn’t wait to get home (or wherever it was you were going) and light those babies up. Well, if that was you, then walking into Red Apple® Fireworks in Valdosta, Georgia, will make you feel like a kid in a candy store – a 30,000 square-foot eye-candy store, that is. Seriously, whether you’re looking for sparklers, aerials, or roman candles, Red Apple® Fireworks has every brand name thing that goes boom by the pallets-full. (Still, even if you’re a professional pyrotechnician, remember to be safe and responsible and play by the rules of your state.) Image courtesy Idawriter, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons A Little Religion Just off of I-75’s Exit 11 is a tiny 10 x 16 ft. storage shed that’s been transformed into roadside church. Inside are handmade pews, an altar, and a podium. Nestled under beautiful South Georgian mossy oaks, it’s a nice respite from the noise of the interstate and great for thanking St. Joseph for bringing you this far. Hours are 9 a.m. to dusk Monday through Friday and 2.pm. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Ribbon Image courtesy of the Office of Downtown and Tourism Development One of the biggest oak trees east of the Mississippi, and one of the oldest in America, Thomasville, Georgia’s The Big Oak is a must-see for every traveler to South Georgia. Thought to have sprouted from a tiny acorn in 1685, the tree is figured to be around 337 years old and has a limb span of 165 feet and you’ll need over 26 feet of yellow ribbon to tie around its trunk. Oh, and those ferns growing on its branches that look a little dead? Well, they’re called “resurrection” ferns. A little rain and they’ll be full of lush green life. Take your picture with Big Oak Cam for lasting memories that you can download and share on your social media. You can activate the Big Oak Cam by calling (229) 236-0053 from your smartphone. Your pictures will be downloaded at the webpage here. Holy Big Bat House! Image courtesy of The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park and the Florida Bat Conservancy Located on the grounds The Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park and Campground, hundreds of thousands of bats call the Giant Bat House home and every night at dusk they take off to go find food, returning again at dawn. Arrive about a half hour before sunset if you want to see this extraordinary and fascinating phenomenon for yourself. The event only lasts about 10 to 15 minutes. (This is weather permitting, of course. Seems bats don’t like to venture out if it’s too cold or too hot.) And you thought bats only lived in caves. Hit the Road Jack Image by Michael Rivera – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons That’s right, hit the road and head about 40 miles southwest of Valdosta to Greenville, Florida, where you’ll find the childhood home of Ray Charles. Born in Albany, Georgia, on September 23, 1930, Ray actually grew up here in Greeneville, Florida where he learned to play music in the town’s Jellyroll neighborhood. His childhood home was renovated and dedicated on September 23, 2009, along with the nearby historical marker. Additionally, there’s a statue of “R.C.” (as he was known to childhood friends) located on Broad Street in the center of downtown Greenville. Dedicated in 2006, the statue features Ray mid-song at the keyboard with his typical warm smile. It was carved absolutely free by local artists Bradley Cooley and Brad Cooley Jr. So there’s your list of things to see and do around Stuckey’s in Valdosta, Georgia. Of course, there’s so much more to do around these parts that we can’t fit them all in one blog post. Let us know if we forgot anything and what you like to see and do when you’re in the Valdosta area. — No matter where you’re headed this long Labor Day weekend, be sure to take some Stuckey’s along with you on your journey. Whether it’s our world-famous Stuckey’s Pecan Log Roll and Pecan Pralines or Hunkey Dorey and salt water taffy, Stuckey’s has all the road trip snacks for your next adventure. And with the kids going back to school next week, why not send them off with a sweet Stuckey’s treat for snack time, lunch time or anytime? Visit our website at stuckeys.com for all of your favorite Stuckey’s snacks and branded apparel. Stuckey’s – We’re Making Road Trips Fun Again!