Celebrate a groovy Fourth of July in Hiawassee


HIAWASSEE, Ga – Fireworks and live entertainment are in store for anyone attending Fourth of July celebrations at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds.

The Vintage Vixens will be playing a live, outdoor show in front of the fairgrounds’ office. Admission is free and fireworks start at 9:45 p.m. Admission for both events is free with the opportunity to purchase food and drinks.

The all-female group covers some of the biggest hits from the 60s and 70s.

Those attending can bring their own chairs and Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds will have some available.

Vintage Vixens promise a groovy, funky, and hippie Fourth of July.

Cherokee County N.C. Chamber of Commerce, Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, and Explore Northeast Georgia Mountains – Mother Nature’s Playground, are helping to host the event.

The music starts at 6 p.m., so be sure to get there in plenty of time to enjoy the band and get a good spot for the fireworks.

Fireworks will be shot from the ballfield.

Sponsors for the Fourth of the July fireworks include Towns County Tourism, United Community Bank, Lake Chatuge Lodge, David Barrett, Towns County Herald, Dr. Lanier and Freddie Nicholson, City of Hiawassee, and Towns County Lions Club.

Also, Lake Chatuge’s boat parade starts at 10:30 a.m. on July 4. Boats will parade past the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, under the Anderson Bridge, and past the Hiawassee Beach before disbanding. The most creative boat will win a $50 prize.

Images are courtesy of Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds.

Artist captures the heartbreaking history of Lake Chatuge

Featured, News
History - Lake Chatuge

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Marty Hayden relocated to Towns County from Pennsylvania a decade ago, and the gifted artist discovered a way to honor the history of a community that he has grown to love. Hiawassee is coined a “lake and mountain paradise” but the construction of Lake Chatuge – a manmade reservoir commissioned by the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1941 – left heartache and hardship in its wake. Approximately 3,500 acres of rich farmland and generational homesteads were eradicated by the lake’s arrival. Schools, churches, and businesses stood in the way of the project, and 532 gravesites were transferred to area cemeteries.

Marty Hayden

Marty Hayden

“The more that I dug into the history, I locked into this thing about Lake Chatuge,” Hayden said, explaining how conversations with the local community inspired the emotive, in-the-works art piece. “Working at the college, there was a lot of people that started coming up and telling me about their family history, and how they were just uprooted, and they had to move, and they only had so many months to get out…,” Hayden said. “So that really touched me. I said that must have been something.”

Hayden was employed as a night supervisor at Chic-fil-A on the Young Harris College campus for five years, prior to retiring last week. The artist explained that he conducted ample research for the sketch and that retirement will afford him the time to complete the re-creation.

“Luckily, online, I stumbled across several photographs. Some of them had to do with the Chatuge water tower, the intake tower. I got pictures of that. I got some of the pictures of the equipment, and then I started getting this vision that the best person to translate this to me was somebody’s mamaw,” Hayden said. “So if you can just imagine back in 1941, you’ve got about a 90-sum-year lady and she’s sitting in her cabin that she grew up with generations, and she’s staring out her window, and she’s watching everything disappear. Sitting in her lap she has the exact paper.”

While the nation was immersed in the news of World War II, the local population focused on the inevitable change that Lake Chatuge would surely bring.

Towns County Historical Society

The painting’s sketch.

“This is just a sketch, and I did this over the weekend because I knew the (Towns County Historical Society) meeting was coming up,” Hayden explained. “But that’s going to be the size of the painting. The painting is going to be all the way in color, it’s going to be framed, and I’m going to donate it to the historical society.”

Hayden estimated the completion of the painting in late March. The gracious artist said that he plans to frame the original sketch and auction the artwork to benefit the Towns County Historical Society.


Hiawassee disconnects multiple businesses from sewer system

Hiawassee sewer disconnected from businesses

HIAWASSEE, GA. – Numerous businesses and residences in Towns County are left without a previous means of wastewater disposal following an alleged “unilateral decision” by Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales to discontinue the use of a city sewer lift station known as “Roadrunner” on State  Highway 76. Wastewater lift stations are used for pumping wastewater or sewage from a lower to higher elevation, particularly where the elevation of the source is not sufficient for gravity flow.

Ken and Dana Merritt – stakeholders concerned with the affected businesses and residences – contacted FetchYourNews (FYN) following reported attempts to remedy the foreboding situation through Mayor Ordiales, and subsequently, members of Hiawassee City Council whom purportedly suggested a lawsuit against the municipality.

“We have multiple business interests in the Ridges area of Towns County….” Ken Merritt began. “The mayor of Hiawassee has disconnected all of these entities from the sewer system and sewage has been seen overflowing from the lift station which has been in operation since early 2000. The sewer system was designed by the city’s engineer, approved by the city council, and has worked well since it was completed. The mayor decided arbitrarily without engineering council that she would shut down an adjacent lift station because of the electrical cost. Consequently, the lift station in front of Sand Bar was left to move the flow of sewage three-and-one-half miles to the sewer plant. It was never designed for that purpose and the sewage has backed up into the vault and overflowed onto the grounds. It makes no difference to the mayor that countless people and businesses that pay a monthly sewer bill are just a day or two away from having their toilets overflow.”

Merritt stated that he has hired a septic service to remove and dispose of the waste from the sewage vault at a rate of 3-to-4 times per day, following the City of Hiawassee’s cessation of the Roadrunner lift station. Merritt explained that failure to remove the waste would result in above ground seepage, forcing connected businesses to close their doors. Furthermore, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Environmental Protection Division (EPD), issued a warning that a civil penalty of up to $50,000 per day could be imposed due to the proximity of the Merritt’s waste system to Lake Chatuge.

“The City is constantly striving to run a more efficient and effective operation,” Mayor Ordiales responded. “In review of the current sewer system and with the impending expansion, the decision to by-pass the road runner lift station was made in December of 2018. This by-pass addresses several issues that have been long-standing; the odor from that area has been an issue for over 13 years, the need for weekly maintenance to that lift station, the need to have utilities present, both water and electricity, the maintenance and repairs of two large pumps valued at over $15,000 each, and the maintenance of a large electric panel to operate that lift station. The City consulted with City engineers and electricians prior to making the final decision to decommission the Roadrunner lift station.

“The lift station that is failing is not a City-owned and operated lift station,” Hiawassee’s mayor continued. “It is privately owned by Dana and Ken Merritt.  That lift station was installed over 17 years ago and it was accepted by (the) City for use by the businesses that were operable at that time.  Since then, there have been many new businesses added to that area that utilize that lift station.  The area has simply outgrown that lift station.  The City has been working with the Merritts since March of 2019 to correct the issues on that privately-owned lift station.  The city will not spend taxpayer money on privately-owned property.  The Merritts have been notified many months ago as to the replacement pumps needed to properly operate that lift station but have not been responsible in taking care of their property.  There have been several letters, meetings at City Hall, telephone communications to no avail.  It is very disappointing that they have put the businesses that are served by that lift station in peril of closing and more importantly putting our most valuable resource, Lake Chatuge, in danger.  The failing lift station serves only the area of the Sand Bar, Moondance complex, El Cancun, and Dogwood St area. The City has contacted EPD and they, in turn, have written a letter to the Merritts earlier this year informing them of the consequences of their irresponsibility.”

Mayor Ordiales stated that the solution to the problem includes the installation of proper pumps that would handle the volume of sewage flowing through it.

The Merritts expressed that they believe that a portion of a 2018 grant accepted by the City of Hiawassee should be used to remedy the situation.

Click to read City of Hiawassee receives $600,000 grant for wastewater improvement

Additionally, the Merritts stated that reverse pressure from the inoperative Roadrunner lift station has caused damage to the private sewer system, forcing repairs. In an Aug. 26 letter addressed to the EPD by the Merritt’s attorney, the couple’s legal counsel responded that the “unilateral decision of the City of Hiawassee to discontinue the use of and the bypass of the Roadrunner lift station” has harmed the Merritt’s system due to excessive reverse pressure on the system. “The City of Hiawassee has continuously charged a monthly sewer service bill to each property owner connected to and using the sanitary sewer extension,” the attorney added.

“If the system ceases to function properly there will be irreparable damage to the environment and businesses,” Dana Merritt said. “It will not only (destroy) several lift station pumps but also close businesses not limited to but including the jail, recreation center, Ridges Resort, Watercrest Condos, several restaurants, Cinema 6, and other private businesses.”

FYN intends to follow developments as they occur.

Feature Image: Sewer station in question, located near Sand Bar and Grille on State Highway 76, west of Hiawassee.

Towns County Chamber rebrands as Lake Chatuge Chamber of Commerce

Lake Chatuge Chamber of Commerce

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – The Towns County & Lake Chatuge Chamber of Commerce has officially rebranded as the Lake Chatuge Chamber of Commerce. The news broke during a surprise celebration held at the chamber’s office on Jack Dayton Circle in Young Harris, Oct. 24.

Lake Chatuge Chamber

Crystal Wagner (left) and Candace Lee of the Lake Chatuge Chamber of Commerce.

“About five years ago we did some rebranding,” Lee said of the Lake Chatuge logo which was designed by community members who sought to understand what drew visitors to the area. “Top answer was the lake, second type answer was the mountains. So our board got together, the committee on the board got together, and said, ‘we’re going to go with the lake.’ The lake is what brings the people here, brings the groups here, it’s what attracts more of the visitors here to the county. Since we’ve done the rebranding, you have seen the results. We’ve had Bassmasters here. We’ve had people calling for tournaments. We’ve had five tournaments this year. I’ve got one already scheduled for next year. It has exploded just because we use the words Lake Chatuge.”

A ribbon-cutting took place at the event, cake and champagne were served to celebrate the occasion, and door prizes were raffled to announcement attendees.

“You are getting a trickle-down effect in all your businesses,” Lee told the guests, many of whom were chamber members. “No matter what you do, you are getting a trickle-down somehow in your business from tourism. Towns County, last year, got a report for 2017 tourism that saif we are 8th in the region as far as the dollars we bring in tourism. That’s huge for a 16 county region, we are 8th in our region. We are #1 in the dollars saved per person in taxes per year because of tourism.”

Lee said that the tax savings annually amount to roughly $800 per resident.

Click here to visit the Lake Chatuge Chamber of Commerce website

Hiawassee City Council passes Lake Chatuge erosion ordinance

Lake Chatuge erosion

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council unanimously voted in favor of enacting an EPD anti-erosion and sediment ordinance Nov. 5 in an effort to protect Lake Chatuge. Western Regional Director Callie Moore of Mountain True – an environmental organization that merged with the Hiwassee River Watershed Coalition earlier this year – attended the city hall meeting in vocal support of the measure.

Having local authority means that the city of Hiawassee can issue local permits for erosion and sediment control, Moore explained. “But beyond that, you have a person who’s actually here to help people with erosion and sediment control. And because Towns County is not an issuing authority either, anyone around here who’s doing any kind of construction, if there was any problem with it, or they had any questions, or just to get the permit, they would have to apply to the state and the person who comes out here would have to come from Cartersville which is two hours, two and a half hours…

“The 2007 Lake Chatuge Watershed action plan – I can’t believe how long ago that was – had a list of recommendations for all kinds of stakeholders in the watershed, and local governments was one of them, and there was a whole list of local government action items – and then there were some specific ones for different cities, counties, entities, whatever in the watershed – and the last one that the city of Hiawassee has not done is the local sediment erosion control plan so this completes the checklist for protection of Lake Chatuge and it’s very exciting for me that this is happening.”

Patsy Owens

Hiawassee Councilwoman Patsy Owens at the Nov. 5 session.

Portions of the extensive ordinance reads as follows:

“No person shall conduct any land-disturbing activity within the jurisdictional boundaries of the City of Hiawassee
without first obtaining a permit from the City of Hiawassee Issuing Authority to perform such activity and providing a copy of Notice of Intent submitted to EPD, if applicable. The application for a permit shall be submitted to the City of Hiawassee and must include the applicant’s erosion, sedimentation and pollution control plan with supporting data, as necessary.”

“If any person commences any land-disturbing activity requiring a land-disturbing permit as prescribed in this ordinance without first obtaining said permit, the person shall be subject to revocation of his business license, work permit or other authorization for the conduct of a business and associated work.”

“When a violation in the form of taking action without a permit, failure to maintain a stream buffer, or significant
amounts of sediment, as determined by the Local Issuing Authority or by the Director or his or her Designee, have been or are being discharged into state waters and where best management practices have not been properly designed, installed, and maintained, a stop-work order shall be issued by the Local Issuing Authority or by the Director or his or her Designee. All such stop-work orders shall be effective immediately upon issuance and shall be in effect until the necessary corrective action or mitigation has occurred.”

“Any person who violates any provisions of this ordinance, or any permit condition or limitation established pursuant to this ordinance, or who negligently or intentionally fails or refuses to comply with any final or emergency order of the Director issued as provided in this ordinance shall be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $2,500.00 per day.”

The newly-enacted ordinance was initially brought before Hiawassee City Council as “new business” on Sept. 23, 2019.

Feature Image:  Mountain True Western Regional Director Callie Moore

Hiawassee Council tables $25K ice machine purchase for Mayors’ Park

News, Politics
Hiawassee Mayor

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee City Council tabled an agenda item Aug. 6, proposed by Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, to purchase a used ice vending machine, not to exceed $25,000, for Mayors’ Park, located east of the city limits on State Route 76. The popular city park offers boating access to Lake Chatuge. Council members opposed taking action on the purchase at this time, citing concerns such as the high-dollar cost, maintenance upkeep, fear of vandalism, and the fishing season coming to a close as reasons to delay a decision until spring of next year.

“It was just brought to me as a good idea and a potential to get that ice machine,” Mayor Ordiales replied, adding that the cost of a new machine was estimated at $60,000. “We don’t have to get it now, but you know, it seems there might be an nice machine available for that amount of money. If we don’t want to do it, I’m okay with that. I don’t think the city is going to make any money off of it. It would just be a good service for the people who launch their boats there to get their ice there.” Ordiales included that although the potential purchase was not intended to be a money maker, the mayor believes the city would recuperate the cost of the vending machine within a year or two.

Hiawassee City Council approved a grease trap training and inspection contract for $5,500, updated utility billing and accounting software with Black Mountain Software which is not to exceed $25,000, Intercity Fund Debt Forgiveness for water treatment in the amount of $583,861, an extension of the Towns County Water Authority Service Agreement to begin billing additional water consumers for sewer usage, and Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Activation.

FetchYourNews is awaiting a returned records request from city hall containing the names of the members selected to serve on the DDA board.

Feature Photo: Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales

“Reelin’ it in for Vets” fishing tournament to launch on Lake Chatuge

Lake Chatuge

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County’s Lake Chatuge Chamber of Commerce is gearing up for”Reelin’ it in for Vets,” Saturday, Nov. 2. Anglers, who are encouraged to team with a veteran, will compete for a portion of $7,500 in prize money for the top-5 heftiest catches of the day.

“The Towns County Chamber of Commerce is encouraging anglers to take a veteran fishing to thank them for their years of service protecting our country and allowing us all the freedoms we have,” Lake Chatuge Chamber President Candace Lee explained. “The event will kick-off on Friday evening, Nov. 1, with a pre-fish feast sponsored by local VFW Post 7807. On Saturday, the tournament blast-off will take place from Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds boat ramp at ‘safe light’ and weigh-in will be conducted at 2 pm from this same boat ramp.”Lake Chatuge - fishing tournament

The entry fee is $150 for a two-man team if a veteran is onboard. A fee of $200 is required to participate if the team does not include a veteran. Veterans without a boat or teammate who wish to participate will be matched with an angler. “Do not let this stop you from fishing in this tournament,” Lee urged. “All veterans participating will be honored at the weigh-in and receive a special gift from the Towns County Chamber of Commerce.”

Pre-registration is available with on-site registration accepted on Nov. 2 until 6:30 a.m.

“When we started our Fishing Tournaments Committee about 18 months ago, we were just getting ready for the big Bassmasters Tournament,” Lee told FYN. “After that big tournament, a lot of smaller tournaments followed.  Groups started contacting us for help – both money and manual labor – to bring in large groups of anglers.  As we continued to discuss helping these other groups, a couple of the committee members suggested that we start hosting our own tournaments – not only to bring attention to Towns County and Lake Chatuge but to raise money for the Chamber and for a local charity.”

Lee explained that the chamber learned of different tournaments that honored veterans, adding that there were several non-profits whose goals were to work solely with veterans in the outdoors. “Modeling our tournament after some of the others was easy – just on a much smaller scale,” Lee said. “We knew that our local VFW was busy raising money for a new building and that this tournament could possibly help.

“Many area businesses are sponsors of this event including the main sponsor, Nelson Tractor Company, Inc. from Blairsville, GA. Other sponsors are Lake Chatuge Lodge, Northeast Georgia Board of Realtors, Mountain Realty, Towns County CVB, Hiawassee Hardware, Blue Ridge Moutain EMC, and VFW-American Legion of Towns County.”

A portion of the proceeds will be returned to VFW Post 7807.

For additional information, contact Towns County’s Lake Chatuge Chamber of Commerce at 706-896-4966.


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Great Georgia Pollinator Census


Great Georgia Pollinator Census

The Great Georgia Pollinator Census (GGPC) is coming up soon. GGPC is a new event aimed at bringing awareness to pollinators and collecting real world data on the impact that they have. This a brand new event that has never been done before. Let’s talk about the pollinators, and talk about GGPC and how you can participate.

Pollinators have come into the public’s awareness a lot more in recent years. Often times when people think of pollinators honeybees come mind. Honeybees are certainly very important pollinators, but there are also other pollinators that are needed as well. A lot of our native bees are better pollinators than honeybees are, but honeybees get the edge because of their quantity. Honeybees are important pollinators, but I’d like to talk a little about some native pollinators because they are often under appreciated. 

Native bees are usually solitary insects, meaning they don’t operate in a colony with other bees. These native bees range from tiny bees in the Perdita genus to large carpenter bees. These native pollinators are very important for the pollination of many native plants. Native bees most efficiently pollinate crops like pumpkin, squash, blueberry, eggplant, and tomato. Building a nest for native bees is pretty simple and you can find the instructions at extension.uga.edu and searching for ‘publication 1125’. Generally, bees will have furry bodies that can be used for trapping pollen. You may observe a bumblebee traveling from flower to flower completely covered in pollen. Native bees are generally very docile and are unlikely to attack people. Native bees will often make homes in the ground and holes in trees left by other insects.

The Great Georgia Pollinator Census will be taking place on August 23-24. The idea is to have people all over Georgia out counting the number of pollinators that they see over a 15-minute period on a single plant. We’ll also be taking note of the different types of pollinators that you see. We’ll be on the lookout for carpenter bees, bumblebees, honeybees, small bees, wasps, flies, butterflies/moths, and other insects. You don’t need to be a master beekeeper or entomologist to participate in the count. On the 23rd at 10:30, I’ll be at Hamilton Gardens at Lake Chatuge to talk some about the importance of pollinators and how to identify the different types of insects that we’ll be looking for. After talking, we’ll go out into the pollinator gardens there and start counting. If you can’t make it to Hamilton Gardens on the 23rd don’t despair! You can still participate in the census on your own at any time on the 23rd and 24th of August. After completing your count, you can go online and upload your data. The website https://ggapc.org/ has more information about the pollinator census. I am looking forward to this event and hope that you decide to come and join us. 

If you’d like to know more about the pollinator census contact you county Extension Office or send me an email at [email protected]

Jerry Taylor leads Movers and Shakers on a historical Towns County journey

Community, News
Jerry Taylor
Towns County quilt

A replica of Towns County’s sesquicentennial quilt

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – On Friday, June 21, Historian Jerry Taylor led the Mountain Movers and Shakers on a journey through Towns County’s heritage, as depicted on an artistic quilt designed to wind its path from past to present.
The 2006 quilt was woven in honor of Towns County’s 150 anniversary by Misty Mountain Quilters Guild, and it is currently displayed as a teaching tool for educators at Towns County Elementary School. Taylor began the presentation by explaining that the golden thread that weaves its way around the quilt represents the Unicoi Turnpike which once served as a trade route through Cherokee territory.

The historian directed the group’s attention to the patches within the quilt, beginning with the arrival of newcomers who sought fabled wealth through gold mining, the forced removal of the Cherokee tribe on the infamous Trail of Tears, the formation of Towns as a county entity, the turmoil of the “un-Civil” War, the establishment of the area’s oldest chapel – Macedonia Baptist Church -and the origins of education. The voyage continued with the history of the logging industry which stripped virgin forests near Tate City bare, the introduction of information through a local printing press, the trade of illicit moonshine, the arrival of the Appalachian Trail, and the creation of Lake Chatuge through the Tennessee Valley Authority. The tale continued with the construction of the county’s premiere hospital, the foundation of Brasstown Bald as a state park, and lastly, the influx of settlers during the modern age of communication. The blazing, seven-pointed star represents the Cherokee clans, Taylor said, and the four corners of the quilt honor the Appalachian tradition of quilting itself.

Taylor shared colorful stories of families of old along the way, entertaining listeners with his range of knowledge. Mountain Movers and Shakers gather each Friday at 8 a.m. at Sundance Grill. Community speakers inform the open public on a variety of topics of interest.

Seaplane debate continues in Towns County


HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Wing-N-It Seaplane Adventures continues to be a hot topic of discussion in Towns County with citizens both in favor and opposed to the aerial tour company. Letters to the editor of the county’s legal organ have appeared on a weekly basis since FetchYourNews (FYN) broke the story of the heated debate in July. Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw informed FYN last week that his office has been inundated with calls in the past month, mainly in support of the area seaplane. Opponents of the Lake Chatuge flight tours, however, claim that the generated noise is an unbearable nuisance. Others say that the plane’s manuevers pose a danger to boaters and bystanders on the ground.


Wing-N-It Seaplane Adventures

Wing-N-It Seaplane Adventures issued a statement through FYN last month regarding the multiple complaints voiced to Commissioner Bradshaw. “Wing-N-It Seaplane Adventures, in its third year of partnership with The Ridges Resort and Marina, is proud to play a small part in the growth and development of the tourism industry within Towns County.” the Gainesville-based company said. “We are contributing by providing a safe and family-interactive experience for both residents and visitors to the Lake Chatuge area. Our highly trained pilots have more than 40,000 hours of combined commercial flight time in addition to obtaining recertification and completing continuing education. We comply with all Department of Natural Resources, Tennessee Valley Authority, and Federal Aviation Administration rules/regulations. We frequently operate in the presence of the DNR while they are conducting their routine patrol on the lake.

“Our main interest is not in generating a large profit. We only desire to help facilitate the growth of tourism within the surrounding areas. As such, we do not operate during especially high-traffic times such as Memorial Day Weekend and Fourth of July Weekend. The purpose of our operation is to create memories and help show off the beauty of the area. As such, we have no intentions of increasing operations on a larger scale of that which we currently perform. Year-to-date in 2019, we have only operated on eight days for a total of 31 tours which all occur between the hours of 11:00 am and 5:00 pm.”

Doug Nelson, a homeowner on Lake Chatuge who voiced a group of residents’ complaints to Commissioner Bradshaw, responded to the seaplane company’s statement through FYN on July 21.

“They never address the fact that they have 15,000 acres of lakes in the area to use to give their passengers a seaplane experience. They still insist on concentrating on one single portion of one lake.,” Nelson said on July 21. “Also, I find 31 flights to be a lot, but the reason it’s only that high in my opinion is that it’s been a stormy summer.  You can see from their Facebook page in the posts section why they don’t fly. Like (July 20) there were low clouds in the a.m. and they were afraid of storms in the afternoon. They also may not fly if there is an airshow where they can offer rides. When the weather is good and there are lots of people out, I believe they fly as many flights as they can regardless of congestion on the lake.

“One day last summer, I was watching them weave between boats and stop and start on takeoff. I wrote to them by email several times and asked if there was ever a day when it was too busy to fly.  After a few more flights, they finally acknowledged it was too busy and left. That was the one time they did so that I know of, and I have found them to be slippery on the topic of holiday weekends.”

Nelson submitted a video filmed Aug. 17 of what he considers to be a safety hazard. “As you can see, the plane takes off and attempts to overcome a boat, then does not have sufficient lift, and has to come back down right in front of another boat,” Nelson said. “This is exactly why the situation on Chatuge with the seaplane is so dangerous.”

Supporters of Wing-N-It Seaplane Adventures have praised the unique tour experience that the company offers. Others appreciate the additional tourism that the seaplane draws to the Towns County area.

Related Archive:  


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Missing 22-Year-Old Found in Lake Chatuge

John Brandon Eller

Towns County, GA – John Brandon Eller, 22, of Hayesville, North Carolina, was reported last seen in the parking lot of Hawg Wild BBQ, Eller’s place of employment, at 5:50 p.m. on Monday, August 14.


*Towns County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the 22-year-old was discovered a short distance offshore in Lake Chatuge at approximately 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon.

John Eller’s cause of death is undetermined, although foul play is not suspected at this time.*

Kimberly Judkins, an employee of Citgo, located on the corner of Highway 76 and 515, tells Fetch Your News she remembers seeing Eller at the gas station where she works on the day he disappeared. Judkins claims Eller shopped at the store frequently and recalled his demeanor seemed different the last time she saw him.

“He kept looking down, like he was sad,” Kimberly Judkins says. “I asked him what was wrong and he said he was tired.”

Judkins recalls Eller buying a Monster energy drink, his usual purchase. She is uncertain of the exact hour, but says her shift ran from 2 p.m. until midnight on the day in question.

Kimberly Judkins described John Eller as a polite customer who often laughed along as friends joked at the convenience store where she works.

Follow Fetch Your News for further developments on this tragic case.

Burglary Suspect Apprehended After Lake Pursuit

Press Release
Nathan Brice Garrett

Hiawassee Police Department

Bassmaster AOY putting Hiawassee on the map


HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Bassmaster Elite Series Angler of the Year (AOY) competition is luring fishing enthusiasts from miles around, shining a spotlight on Hiawassee and Lake Chatuge. The tournament began on Thursday morning, with boats launching onto the water shortly after 7 a.m. and continued at dawn on Friday until the mid-afternoon official weigh-ins. ESPN is broadcasting the competition, and in an unrelated event, online commercials are scheduled to be recorded on Lake Chatuge after the tournament concludes.

Jim and Carol Falkson, from Oxford, Mississippi, traveled to Hiawassee as avid spectators of the AOY series. “Lake Chatuge is breathtaking,” Carol Falkson gushed, “The surrounding mountains, the small-town vibe of Hiawassee. It’s somewhere we’d certainly love to return in the future. The people have been gracious and hospitable. It’s a gem of a town.”

James Elam Bassmaster

James Elam, AOY leader after Friday’s weigh-in

Saturday, Sept. 22, is an “off” day for the competitors, as the Bassmaster Elite Series Outdoors Expo, comprised of national and local vendors, will take place at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds. Bassmaster University, featuring seminars taught by Bassmaster Elite Series professional staff is scheduled from noon until 4 pm, concluding with a Champion Chat hosted by Dave Mercer with the Top Five in AOY points, and the Rookie of the Year leader. The public will have an opportunity to meet the contenders for the coveted title of Angler of the Year.
Pony rides are available for children, and Georgia Mountain Falconry is on hand with their birds of prey.
The expo continues into Sunday, from 11 am to 4 pm, with a chance to purchase the latest line of fishing wear from Huk Performance Fishing at their merchandise trailer. Free boat and motor demo rides are offered by Skeeter, Yamaha, Nitro, Triton, and Mercury. Official gear is available from the B.A.S.S. merchandise booth. The Berkley experience trailer is on display, featuring a live aquarium, and Toyota, the sponsor of the tournament, is at the event with interactive displays and activities, such as designing custom lures. Final weigh-in, which will determine the Bassmaster Angler of the Year, is scheduled for 3:30 pm at the fairgrounds.
Local emergency responders ask residents and guests to use extra precaution while traveling, as local traffic is heavier than usual.
Feature Photo: James Elam
Photo Credit: James Overstreet/Bassmaster.com


Sand Bar Opens to Celebrate Eclipse

Business, News

Hiawassee, GA – Sand Bar, an open air, beach themed watering hole just west of Hiawassee on Highway 76, is open to celebrate the Great American Eclipse.

Bartenders Allison, Subrina, and Halle

Offering a stunning view of Lake Chatuge, a full bar, and bar menu, Sand Bar is a popular gathering spot in Towns County on weekends.
Lake Chatuge
Sand Bar

DJ Lory, playing a mix of feel good tunes for the lively crowd

Anita and Jack Frost, Detroit residents, enjoying Jack’s birthday while awaiting the eclipse

“We thought about going to Nashville, but the eclipse only lasts two seconds longer in Tennessee. We’re glad we came here,” Jack Frost confessed.

“Tank”, a regular at Sand Bar

*UPDATED* Eclipse Enthusiasts Arrive Early for Coveted View


Hiawassee, GA – Vehicles began lining up at the base of Bell Mountain on Shake Rag Road before 6 a.m. this morning, hoping to secure a parking spot on the summit to view the once in a lifetime event.

*UPDATED AT 8:25 a.m.*

Spaces are limited and access will not be granted once the park is full.

The gate opens at 8:00 a.m. and will be monitored by authorities throughout the day.

Traffic in Towns County is light as of 7:40 a.m.

Follow Fetch Your News for real time updates.

Lake Chatuge Eclipse

Sunrise over Lake Chatuge on August 21, 2017

Ongoing Investigation: Truck crashes into Lake Chatuge


HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County emergency responders rushed to the scene of a reported overturned truck spotted in Lake Chatuge near the Macedonia bridge as dawn broke the morning of Sunday, Feb. 18, 2018. Emergency crews spotted the vehicle at the water’s edge beside the “Park and Ride” pull-off. It appears the truck was traveling west on Highway 76, toward Hiawassee, when it exited the roadway, plummeting down the embankment into the lake below. There were no occupants in the vehicle when emergency personnel arrived on scene.

Towns County Fire and Rescue Chief Harold Copeland tells FetchYourNews that the dive team responded in the event rescue efforts were needed.

“The dive team swept the lake in a grid fashion, using sonar,” Chief Copeland said. “The rear window of the truck was broken, so there were concerns someone may be in the water, but no one was located.”

There are unconfirmed reports from outside sources who claim the vehicle was stopped by law enforcement in Rabun County shortly after 1 a.m. on the same morning the truck was discovered in Lake Chatuge. Towns County Sheriff’s Office is unable to confirm the report due to the fact the incident is currently under investigation. Several sources tell FetchYourNews that the driver of the vehicle has not been located at the time of publication.

Follow FetchYourNews for updated information as it becomes available.


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