I See Georgia: Covington
As a teen, I used to watch “In the Heat of the Night” during the summer. The television series, based on the 1960s novel and film of the same name, focuses on the police force in a small Southern town. I’d watch as murderers, thieves and criminals of all kinds met justice. While the show was set in Sparta, Mississippi, it was filmed in Covington, Georgia.
I’d never been to Covington, but had heard good things about the town of 13,000 in Newton County, about 35 miles East of Atlanta. On a sunny Saturday in early August, we set out to see just what it is about the place that continues to draw film and television crews back time and again.
We left Athens and headed Southeast, passing through Bostwick, home of the Annual Cotton Gin festival (more on this event in later posts!), and entering Hard Labor Creek State Park. We passed through the park, filming location for Friday the 13th Part VI, Jason Lives, and reputedly haunted (again, more on this to come in the future!), before merging onto I-20. A few minutes later, we were pulling into a parking space in downtown Covington.
Immediately, I could see why the place is a favorite filming location. Covington is small town America; the epitome of the idyllic Southern town, with a grassy, open square surrounded by historic buildings. We wandered around, eventually stepping into a memorabilia shop if for no other reason than to cool off.
The shop features merchandise from Covington’s movie and television history. The town’s screen credits include shows like The Vampire Diaries and The Dukes of Hazzard, as well as films such as Selma, Remember the Titans, and Rob Zombie’s reboot of Halloween 2.
While we were in the store, we noticed activity in the square, where a group of people were unrolling what looked like a giant canvas or tarp. Someone asked the clerk what was going on, and her answer sent us immediately scrambling across the street to get a good look.
In an effort to break a Guinness Record, a local church group was attempting to inflate, and then set off, the world’s largest whoopee cushion! Seriously. I couldn’t make something like this up if I tried. Why would someone do this? For the same reason humanity has climbed Mount Everest, walked on the Moon, and invented selfie sticks: because it can!
We stood in the shade of a huge tree and watched as several adults spread the giant novelty item on the grass, then connected a large air pump. As final preparations were made, the party was joined by the entire youth group of the First Baptist Church. The church’s pastor, Matt Funk, then took to a microphone to explain that the current whoopee record, held by a New Zealand television show, was 19.8 feet in diameter. The one laid out before us, he said, measured 25 feet.
With that, the pump whirred to life and the cushion began to inflate. As the massive contraption grew, pastor Matt laid out the plan: Members of the church’s youth group would stand in a circle, hold their arms up over their heads, then push down in unison. Soon, the cushion reached its maximum size, and we were ready to go.
A hush fell over the crowd as the kids took their places. It was one of those moments, frozen in time and full of anticipation. I expect that people all over the world felt this same excitement as Neil Armstrong descended the final few steps to immortality. Well, maybe not. But still, we were about to witness history! At last, the time came. At Pastor Matt’s cue, the kids linked hands, raised their arms, pushed down with all their might…
It worked! The cushion let out a sound that I can only describe as a cross between a Harley Davidson at full throttle and a hot air balloon that had been struck by lightning. The kids pushed and pushed, putting all their collective weight into it, until the cushion was fully deflated! They’d done it, and Adventures of the Bear Team had been there to witness it!
When you see something so great, so unusual, so small town incredible, words often fail to capture the feeling of actually being there. Fortunately, you don’t have to take my word for it. Check it out for yourself!
After the festivities, we walked around downtown Covington, venturing into a few shops before passing through Southview Cemetery. Eventually we found ourselves standing before the majestic Newton County Courthouse. Built in 1884 in the second empire architectural style, it was added to the national register of historic places in 1980.
As we stood looking up at the picturesque structure, I flashed back to the afternoons I spent watching In the Heat of the Night. Gazing at the courthouse, I could almost see the ghosts of Chief Gillespie, Virgil Tibbs and Bubba Skinner going about the business of solving the murders, robberies and disappearances that continually haunted their small town.
Tired and hot after walking around town, we were in need of somewhere cool to rest for a bit. We found the perfect place at Bread and Butter Bakery. We ordered coffee and sipped it while lounging on a couch and taking in the interior, which was decorated with local art. When we left the coffee shop, it was too early for dinner, but there was one restaurant in Covington we didn’t want to miss: The Mystic Grill.
We’d come across it online during a search for restaurants in the area, and every site claimed it was the best. We entered the mostly empty place and were seated in the dining room. Housed in a historic building on the square, the interior was warm and inviting, walled with brick and wood. Since it was still early, we elected to go with an appetizer and ordered the fried pickles.
When the food arrived, it was delicious. The pickles were hot and juicy, and the breading was crispy. They came with a spicy remoulade which only added to the taste, and we quickly polished them off. Though we didn’t eat a meal there, I enjoyed our visit and look forward to trying an entrée next time.
By the time we left The Mystic Grill, it was after 5:00pm. Since we were due at a friend’s house at 7:00, we decided to head home. As we drove East toward Athens, I reflected on our trip to the “Hollywood of the South.” We didn’t spend an entire day in Covington, but had seen enough to lead me to want to return.
That does it for now. As always, thanks for reading. We certainly appreciate it. For more information on Covington, visit the official website at .
Next time: We’ll head to Gwinnett County to check out a small town with one HUGE feature: It’s the home of the Mall of Georgia: Buford!