Gay, Georgia, was a quiet farm community with an active business district located on the main highway connecting Atlanta and Columbus as it faced an uncertain future in 1971. Businesses operated Monday – Saturday, but closed every Wednesday at noon and on Sunday and travelers between Atlanta and Columbus provided ample business for merchants, but I-185 was ready to divert the steady flow of shoppers away Gay in favor of a quick trip on the new interstate connection between Atlanta and Columbus. Cotton, cattle and most other farm commodities were declining and served to reinforce the idea of fast economic changes Agritourism, increasingly important in rural Georgia and America, had yet to be coined as a word in 1972 but it has played a significant role in economic change in Gay. The Cotton Pickin’ Fair (cpfair.org) is Georgia’s premier Agritourism event.
On the First Weekend of May and October, over 30,000 visitors to Gay,Georgia, enjoy a 21st Century celebration at the site that has been home to seven generations of a family that settled the West Georgia frontier when wolves were common. A family business in every sense of the word, The Cotton Pickin’ Fair is produced by Ellen Gay McEwen on farm land first settled by her ancestors 180 years ago and offers ever expanding opportunities for MeriwetherCounty. It is the principal fundraising event for civic clubs, churches, schools and other nonprofit organizations and also supports Farm Preservation, Sustainable Rural Development and Agritourism, important, vital elements for the economic future of Meriwether County and West Georgia.
Gay, GA has long been a center for innovation and history shows that its citizens have contributed much to Meriwether County, Georgia and the United States of America. Today, Gay is an Agritourism Center. In addition to The Cotton Pickin’ Fair, Gay is home to Big Red Oak Plantation (bigredoakplantation.com). The farm where cotton, peaches, corn and soybeans were grown is now planted in switch grass, love grass, small grains, clover, partridge pea, and bi-color lespedeza strictly for wildlife management. Quail, deer, turkey, dove and pheasant hunting combine with fishing and state of the art Sporting Clay Ranges with 5-Stand and on-site lodging to make Big Red Oak a sportsman’s paradise and corporate event destination. Arthur Estes, another sixth generation family member living and working the same farm first settled180 years ago, organized Big Red Oak Plantation in 1974. The preserve operates year round.
In 2008, Quercus Farm, another Gay, GA, award winning farm, added QC Arena (qcarena.com) to a grand mix of prize cattle and King Ranch Heritage Quarter horses in order to provide West Georgia the equestrian venue of choice. Rodeo, Barrel Racing, Roping, Cutter, and Hunter Jumper events take place under the 1.2 acre covered riding arena throughout the year. Over an acre under roof, QC Arena features twenty horse stalls, Priefert Rough Stock Panels and a complete automatic Priefert roping system. Ranch Manager Eddie Paul and staff member Susan Pritchett are responsible for bringing this great new facility to Gay.
Thanks to Willis Everett’s interest in farming, forestry and conservation, Vintage Lumber Sales and Vintage Interiors (vintagelumbersales.com) anchor the Gay, GA, economy. An early entrepreneur, Willis operated a peach stand at his grandparent’s farm during annual summer visits and was an original Cotton Pickin’ Fair participant offering antique barn treasures for sale during the very first Cotton Pickin’ Fair. Today he is responsible for high-skill manufacturing employment opportunities to Gay. His exceptional reclaimed wood flooring and architectural products are coveted across the United States.