Published Saturday, February 02, 2013
By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
Senoia has already become a tourist destination, with visitors flocking to see its shops and dine in its restaurants — and see where scenes from “The Walking Dead” have been filmed, or to visit the Southern Living Idea House, which was open last year from early summer through December.
But tourism might be ready to explode in the eastern Coweta town now that it is on the cover — make that two versions of the cover — of the 2013 Georgia Travel Guide.
For the first time ever, the state has produced two separate covers for the guide, which includes information about a range of Georgia tourist attractions and is in the state’s 11 visitor information centers, and featured in local visitor centers including Coweta’s in the historic Coweta County Courthouse on Newnan’s Court Square.
The state is printing 750,000 copies of the guide. The Coweta Visitor’s Center will be sharing plenty with the Senoia Welcome Center on Main Street.
One cover pictures “Walking Dead” star Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes) and three zombies standing on Senoia’s Main Street, which stands in for the walled city of Woodbury in the popular AMC television network series. The other cover features country music star Zac Brown sitting down to a burger at his downtown Senoia restaurant, store and performance venue — the Southern Ground Social Club.
The guide also includes a short story about Senoia and a short interview with Brown, as well as advertisements placed by the Senoia Downtown Development Authority and the Coweta Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The new guide was unveiled by Gov. Nathan Deal on Tuesday during a celebration of Georgia Tourism Day.
Suzanne Helfman, chairman of the Senoia Downtown Development Authority, said she learned about a month ago that Senoia would be featured on the guide’s cover.
It’s definitely a big deal for Senoia.
“The exposure that we will get from people who have never heard of this town or have never been here will just be tremendous,” said Helfman. “We’re kind of on the radar of the state. That is why this all happened,” she said.
The state decided to go with the dual covers because there are two major things going on in Senoia — the “Walking Dead” filming, and Brown’s recent involvement.
“There were these two big stories about this one town, which is pretty amazing,” Helfman said. “So they wanted to cover them both.”
In addition to “The Walking Dead,” Senoia has been the setting for Lifetime television network show “Drop Dead Diva,” as well as several movies over the years. The owners of the local movie studio, now known as Raleigh Studios Atlanta, also got into the real estate business and purchased several vacant lots downtown, adding historically-inspired buildings and remodeling several existing buildings.
Tourism in Senoia got a jump-start in 2010 with the Southern Living Idea House. But 2012 was the banner year, with “The Walking Dead,” Zac Brown and another Southern Living Idea House all coming to town.
With the new tourism guides, Helfman expects even more visitors.
And that’s exactly what they had been hoping for.
When Helfman first joined the DDA, the organization’s focus was “that tourism is economic development for the merchants of the town,” Helfman said, which was long before many tourists came to sleepy little Senoia.
“But we were planning and did a Welcome Center and had it up and operational even before we had become a destination for tourism.”
In addition to those coming because they are fans of Brown, “The Walking Dead” or Southern Living magazine, “we’ve become a dining and shopping destination,” Helfman said. “It’s a perfect day trip for areas north of Atlanta. We get a lot of visitors who say ‘well, I heard about this town and we just wanted to come down and see it,’” Helfman said.
Five years ago, “people didn’t know,” Helfman said. “They’d never heard of [Senoia].”
“We couldn’t be more thrilled” about the new statewide exposure, she said.