Yesterday, we headed to the historic Carnegie Library in Downtown Newnan to attend their Armchair Travelers event, Return From Ayr. The speakers at the event traveled to Newnan's sister city in Scotland last month with a group of Coweta County students.
Ayr is a picturesque seaside town off the southwest coast of Scotland with mild weather and long, sandy beaches. The town is known for its first rate golf courses and for being home to poet Robert Burns.
The early history of Coweta County is very much linked to the country of Scotland, so it seemed a natural choice for Newnan to partner with Ayr to share cultures and ideas. The partnership was officially formed in 1998 with signed documents that cemented Ayr and Newnan as sister cities. Since then, banners celebrating the partnership are hung in the downtown square every July.
As a part of the sister city program, residents of Ayr and Newnan welcome students from across the pond into their homes so they can get a first hand experience of the culture. Bette Hickman, a chair of the Newnan Cultural Arts Commission, spoke passionately of what a formative experience it was to Coweta students to be fully steeped in Scottish culture. The students tried new foods at their host family’s home and collaborated with Scottish students in musical performances.
John Thrasher, another member of the Newnan Cultural Arts Commision, detailed the evolution of Newnan's relationship with Ayr and how important the exchange of cultures is to the education of both Georgian and Scottish students.
Local business owner and member of the Newnan Cultural Arts Commission, Phyllis Graham, pointed out the interesting parallels she observed between Ayr and Newnan. The Glasgow airport is relatively the same distance and location from Ayr as Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is from Newnan. Ayr also has a Carnegie Library.
Mayor Keith Brady opened the event by presenting Amy Mapel, the director of the Carnegie Library, with a gorgeous Georgia Tartan worn by the students and representatives of Coweta County on their trip to Ayr. The Georgia Tartan was developed in the early 1980s by famed tartan weaver Peter MacDonald. He designed the red, green and blue pattern to reflect the Georgia clay, forests and sky. The Georgia Tartans worn on this trip were painstakingly hand woven on a loom by Coweta artist Ann Lynn Whiteside. It took her 400 hours to make one tartan for every member of the party.
We loved looking at the photos taken on the trip. They depicted unbelievably green landscapes, impossibly old buildings, lush gardens and amazing Scottish cuisine. By the end of the lecture, we had added Ayr to our mental list of future travel destinations.