Having added an estimated 24,000 residents since the last census, Columbia County is well-acquainted with an influx of people to our community.
We're also accustomed to this week's temporary population increase resulting from the annual attraction of the Masters Tournament next door. And it's especially boosted this year with the compelling storyline of Tiger Woods, the world's best golfer, picking this tournament to re-emerge on the world stage.
However that story plays out, our community is ready to play its part in proving world-class hospitality to our visitors.
Columbia County's effervescent Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Beda Johnson says it best, in a message to Masters guests:
"I join with the Columbia County Board of Commissioners, the Chamber of Commerce, the Development Authority, as well as local business owners and residents to welcome you to Columbia County.
"We're thrilled the world's best golf brought you here and hope you'll find some time to explore all that our beautiful county has to offer. From unique eateries and shops to gorgeous natural resources, Columbia County has many things we hope you'll take the time to discover."
It's a given that, other than golf, those eateries are one of the area's top attractions during Masters week. All those people coming to town have to eat, after all.
But local restaurant owners know all too well that Masters week also can mean a drop in business.
Why? Basically, visitors to our community, like typical tourists, stick to places they recognize and businesses on the beaten path. For our area, that generally means restaurants on Washington Road, especially those closer to the Augusta National, are slammed all week.
But restaurants off the main drag, especially those that aren't part of a national chain, sometimes hit a Masters week paradox: Visitors don't look for them, and locals, worried about crowds, stay away.
For visitors and locals alike, then, take the opportunity to venture beyond the main highway to check out some of our small, independent and very good diners this week. There's a lot more to our community than big chain restaurants clustered around the I-20 interchange.
Check it out. Our restaurateurs will thank you, and so will your stomach.
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