Spring Place Ruritan celebrates 70 years of service at festival

The 23rd annual Spring Place Community Festival will be Saturday at the Old Spring Place Methodist Church just off Ga. Highway 225 South.

Sponsored by the Spring Place Ruritan Club and the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society, the festival commemorates Spring Place’s past and raises funds for the continued preservation of the Old Church which is Murray County’s oldest building built for public use. This year it also celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Ruritan Club, and a special display of pictures, scrapbooks, clippings and Ruritan memorabilia will be a highlight of the festival.

Spring Place Ruritan was officially chartered Dec. 20, 1950, with Odell Ingle, a well-known building contractor, as president. The other 20-plus charter members included farmers, teachers, welders, a service station operator, a public utility employee, a freezer locker employee, one merchant and a dye technician — all males — including Loren Ross, Ernest Pritchett, Paul Smith, Edwin Hilley, Aaron Leonard, Ben Jones, W.C. Petty, Troy Richards, G.I. Maddox, J.B. Vaughn, H.J. Robinson, Bobby Pierce, Luke Ballew, Floyd Cook, N.A. Ballew, Jim Mashburn, Luther Jones, Chester Hannah, Edwin Wilbanks, Tucker Brown, Hill Hannah and Frank Freeman. Affiliated with Ruritan National headquartered in Dublin, Virginia, the organization focuses on service and good will in small towns and communities across America.

In its early years the club focused on community improvement, and by the 1960s was closely affiliated with the Spring Place Elementary School where the club assisted needy students and even bought the first televisions for classroom use.

In the 1970s and '80s the group expanded its service to other needs and causes throughout the county, such as the rescue squad and EMTs.

In the 1990s women were welcomed as members, and Martha Sue Ridley, still an active Ruritan, became the first female president of the club.

For decades the club’s only fundraiser was a fall carnival at the school, an event which involved the entire south end of the county!

In this century, the club continues its work in Spring Place and Murray County by supporting around 20 causes, organizations and special events each year. Among them is a scholarship program for area high school seniors which honors the memory of educators G.I. Maddox and Carl L. Davis, a long-time Ruritan leader. Funds are generated from an annual golf tournament.

The Spring Place Ruritan Club is now the oldest and largest club in Georgia with 41 members, most of whom will be on hand at the festival.

The festival will open at 8 a.m. and will have something for everyone. Members of the Ruritan Club will have their usual bake sale with homemade cakes of all kinds. Breakfast biscuits will be available for purchase. A variety of used books, collectibles and flea market items such as vintage glass and cookware, Christmas decorations, pictures and frames, tapes and CDs, linens and clothes, tools, sports-related objects and other household items attract buyers as well.

The popular auction begins at 10 a.m. This year the auction will include an antique curio cabinet, an outdoor grill, rugs, local artist prints and even a series of original paintings by local artists like Betty Bartley and Frances Cook, gift cards from area restaurants and businesses, and a 2001 Subaru Outback. Auction items can be previewed on the Old Spring Place Methodist Church Facebook page.

DVDs, books, maps, postcards, note cards, Christmas ornaments and posters will be available for purchase at the historical society booth. Prints, newspapers, quarterlies and even a cookbook are among other items that will be for sale. The Old Church Museum room will be open throughout the day, too.

The Murray County High School Alumni Association will have Rock Building postcards, note cards and prints for sale. Special vendors include Gwen Gray Frederick with “Thirty-One” gift totes and organizers as well as local author Jodi Lowery.

Parking will be available on Elm Street with shuttles to the church and auction site provided.

To find out more about the festival, call Elizabeth Robinson at (706) 695-6021, Jyana and Chuck Smith at (706) 695-8297 or Tim Howard at (706) 695-2740. Health and safety precautions will be followed.

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