Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FANS BEGIN YEARLY PILGRIMAGE; Financial Impact Lasts Far beyond Game Day Avid Georgia-Florida Fans Flock to Area Hotels, Restuarants before and after the Game

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

FANS BEGIN YEARLY PILGRIMAGE; Financial Impact Lasts Far beyond Game Day Avid Georgia-Florida Fans Flock to Area Hotels, Restuarants before and after the Game

Article excerpt

Byline: GORDON JACKSON and TERRY DICKSON, The Times-Union

ST. MARYS -- The Georgia-Florida football game may last only a few hours, but the impact to many Southeast Georgia businesses lingers for days.

Janet Brinko, the city's tourism director, said St. Marys and Kingsland have a growing reputation as a great place to stay for Saturday's game -- especially for Georgia fans.

"It's no secret this is Georgia territory," she said. "The game has a great impact on businesses in the county."

Brinko said there were still a few motel rooms available, but predicted they'd be booked by the weekend.

Barbara Ryan, co-owner of the Goodbread House, a bed-and-breakfast inn in St. Marys, said she's already seen how the game has affected her business and the city.

"We have been booked solid for the past week by people in town for the game," Ryan said.

Ryan said her guests have taken day trips to the St. Marys Submarine Museum, Orange Hall, the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge and have made nightly stops at different restaurants in downtown St. Marys.

Dave Phillips, general manager of Cumberland Island Inn & Suites in St. Marys, said the game consistently brings in more guests than any other one-day event.

"This brings in people from all over Georgia," he said. "It's one of the better weekends for business."

Phillips said the few remaining rooms available will be occupied by football fans by the weekend.

And it's not just Georgia fans who come to Southeast Georgia for activities.

Jerry Brandon, owner of Riverside Hotel in St. Marys, said he's totally booked with football fans from today through Sunday.

Gator and Bulldog fans will celebrate together at an oyster roast Friday night and ride together on two chartered buses that will leave for the game Saturday morning, Brandon said.

"It fills up the hotel," Brandon said.

In Glynn County, the G-8 Summit in June brought many out-of-town people to St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island. UGa will do the same this week.

Island sidewalks, shops and restaurants are already colored in red-and-black.

Frank and Noel Orris of Cumming climbed out of a red van that belongs to their friends, Mike and Betty Kidd from Smyrna.

The two couples said they come down to St. Simons for a week every year, staying in a friend's condo, eating out all but one or two meals and browsing the shops. All four are usually decked out in full Georgia gear and traveling in a matching van.

"I searched on the Internet until I found a red Town and Country,'' Mike Kidd said of his van.

"We visit all the shops, restaurants, the whole bit,'' Noel Orris said.

But they no longer go to the games. They stay on St. Simons, baby-sit the Orris grandchildren, cook up some shrimp and watch on TV. The rest of the time they just enjoy milling around the St. …

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