Living Columns & Blogs

Spring Stroll gives glimpse inside historic homes in Macon

Villa Teresa has one of many gardens featured in the Stanislaus neighborhood during the 25th Anniversary Spring Stroll of Macon Houses and Gardens May 4-6.
Villa Teresa has one of many gardens featured in the Stanislaus neighborhood during the 25th Anniversary Spring Stroll of Macon Houses and Gardens May 4-6.

For the 25th year, Hay House sponsored its home and garden tour, Spring Stroll, May 4-6, with a preview party the previous Thursday that featured Piedmont Brewery’s barbecue, other signature dishes and handcrafted beer. On the lawn, under the majestic magnolia trees, the Garden Market was full of plants we love and some new varieties that were popular purchases throughout the weekend.

Victor Davidson’s Agape Nursery in Macon is always a go-to vendor for plants and accessories for the garden and had some luscious hanging baskets for the taking. A new participant in this year’s market was the Southern Mercantile Market from Ocilla, Ga., whose owners specialize in crafted accessories for the garden, sunroom and deck in addition to artificial plants that really are suitable for the interior. We’ve come a long way from plastic plants!

The primary focus of the tour is always one neighborhood — the logistics of a walking tour just make good sense. This year, the gardens of the Stanislaus neighborhood were in prime condition for a leisurely walk around the circle; the owners of Villa Teresa, Ginger Collins and Ken Gozur, hosted an additional event, High Tea, after the regularly scheduled tours closed on Sunday, to give guests a peek at the intricately designed cloistered gardens around the villa.

On Friday, the first day of the Spring Stroll, houses and churches in the adjoining Cherokee Heights and Vineville neighborhoods, and in the Intown neighborhood, were open for tours, with a final stop at the Harris-Hall-Bennett-McClure House, near Hay House, to see the lower level spring that, at one time, was the water source for the Johnston family, original owners of Hay House.

Dinner in the orchard on Derby Day

On May 5, the grounds of the Georgia Industrial Children’s Home looked more like Churchill Downs, thanks to the serendipitous coincidence of the running of the Kentucky Derby on the same day as the sixth annual Dinner in the Orchard, on the front lawn of the children’s home, a fundraiser that this year attracted 260 people.

Pam Groves, chairman of the decorating committee for the event, dubbed this year’s event “Big Hats & Bowties,” a theme that was reflected not only in the dress for the evening, but in the red roses, saddles and other racing memorabilia. The sea of hats was as colorful as the streamers fluttering in the breeze at the edge of the pecan orchard – and a thoroughbred stood sentinel at either side of the entrance to the gym. One of the men was bold enough to wear a baby blue suit emblazoned with red fruit, finished off with a red bow tie, of course!

During the reception, guests sipped on mint juleps, prepared by Chef Matthew Raifford, who has returned every year with Chef Adam Jones, of Halyard’s Catering in St. Simons, who prepared dinner. With tiny julep cups in hand, guests watched the two-plus minutes race, broadcast from Kentucky on two big-screen televisions, provided by Ken’s Stereo Junction, an in-kind sponsor for the evening. The reception was held on the grounds in front of the gymnasium, with catered hors d’oeuvres, prepared by Goodwill’s Edgar’s Bistro, served inside, against an exact replica of the race provided by Backdrops Fantastic.

Mollie the trolley was on hand to take the revelers back up the hill for dinner after Justify deftly ran the muddy track to handily win the Kentucky Derby. Groves’ decorating committee transformed the tent to a subtly lighted fantasy, with red roses on every table, before Chef Jones wowed the crowd with herbed corn salad, delicate crab cakes, one of this coastal chef’s specialties, and short ribs that melted in the mouth.

Jennifer Shawa, director of development for Twin Cedars, based in Columbus, under whose aegis GICH operates, was in Macon all week overseeing the numerous details involved in staging the ambitious event. Linda Finley, program director for the local facility, was head cheerleader, perking up her staff of volunteers and keeping them nourished as the week unfolded — and grew warmer. The funds raised by Dinner in the Orchard make projects like the new gymnasium a reality, for the boys and young men who live at GICH.