It was 40 years ago this Thursday that Columbia County's Winfield community was named a finalist in the Stay and See Georgia tourism contest of 1965.
Today, it's a designation that few remember, one that continues to fade as another Columbia County community - Evans - has taken more of the spotlight with a recent 32nd Best Places to Live national ranking by Money magazine.
"I know we went through the homes, but there has been a lot of water over the dam since then," said Peggy Thomas, 68, a member of the Winfield Stay and See Georgia organizing committee in 1965.
She said she could not recall many specifics from the program.
The Georgia Chamber of Commerce created Stay and See Georgia in 1962 as a friendly competition among Georgia cities to promote tourism.
Cities were judged in five categories: cleanup and beautification, courtesy and hospitality, accommodations and facilities, new attractions, and points of interest.
On Oct. 27, 1965, Winfield beat out Crawfordville as the winner of the 1965 Georgia Stay and See competition for communities with fewer than 2,500 people, according to published accounts in The Columbia News.
The next week, on Nov. 4, a delegation from Winfield, including Mildred Bullard, 72, went to Atlanta to compete against delegations from Macon, Athens, Fitzgerald, Washington and Madison.
"A group of us went to Atlanta for Stay and See and we represented different things," Bullard said. "I had to wear a swimsuit to represent swimming at Clarks Hill" and another woman wore a pioneer costume to represent Revolutionary War history, she said.
Bullard did not remember where Winfield placed in the state.
According to an article in The Columbia News, the Winfield Stay and See Committee, headed by Josie Dozier, raised $14,800 for community beautification from 337 community residents.
"Monday (Oct. 18, 1965) two ladies were found riding from mail box to mail box with paint brush and bucket in an effort to spruce up the sites along the roadside," the Oct. 21, 1965 article stated.
Churches in the community were repainted, and the history of points of interest was researched, the article stated.
According to the Oct. 21 article, three judges were shown the construction of Mistletoe State Park, which was completed the following year; Rousseau Springs, "famous for its mineral water"; Happy Valley, the home site of and burial place of Basil Neal, a Revolutionary War soldier, and his son Besil Llewellyn Neal, a Confederate solider; Rose Hill, home of Ignatius Few, founder of Emory University; and Pecan Grove Farm, home of William Few, signer of the U.S. Constitution.
"We have far more development than we did (in 1965)." Thomas said, referring to new houses and lake facilities.
"(Back then) you couldn't talk about somebody because they'd be kin to you and you'd find out you'd be kin to everybody," Thomas said. "Everybody was somebody's cousin."
Thomas and Bullard said that in the 40 years since the community's honor, Mistletoe State Park was completed, Winfield received a community center, a fire station has been built, county water lines were extended to just east of Dozier Road, a fourth church -The Shepherd's Church - grew out of the congregation of Sharon Baptist Church and Winfield Hills was developed.
To more urban areas, it might not sound like much. But to those in Winfield, it has been a lot of change in an area that residents say they still love to call their home.
"This is a real nice area to live," Thomas said.
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