- The Washington Times - Friday, May 12, 2006

UNADILLA, Ga. — People who are born to be wild — or at least those who enjoy raucous parties, cheap beer and rock bands, should feel right at home in a new southern Georgia town that has arisen in a cow pasture.

Known as Angel City, the $2 million, Western-style town will cater to bikers, a group that values freedom and tends to have more tattoos than taboos.

Though no one is expected to live there permanently, the 400-acre site on the outskirts of Unadilla — a town of about 2,800 people about 120 miles south of Atlanta along Interstate 75 — will host several events each year.

Angel City’s builder, Unadilla contractor and longtime motorcyclist John Wayne Smith, says he wanted to create a biker haven — where everyone appreciates a custom ride and a good time and beers sell as cheaply as $2 a bottle. He built it after one of his buddies, Marvin Jones, also of Unadilla, donated the land.

“I want people to have a good time,” says Mr. Smith, 55, “and of course, I wanted something in Georgia.”

The inaugural event, the Iron Angels Rally & Music Festival, took place last month and drew about 17,000 people, according to Mr. Smith, whose friends call him Wayne. Eight rock bands performed, and actors portraying gunslingers held mock Western-style shootouts on the street.

Also in attendance were the biker world’s pinup models, the Iron Angels, a group of young women who pose with custom motorcycles for an annual calendar and make appearances at biker rallies. Only those 18 or older were allowed to attend the rally.

Angel City’s main intersection is lined with four L-shaped, unpainted wooden buildings containing booths for more than 50 vendors. Larger rooms are available to accommodate restaurants and saloons, with swinging doors and chandeliers made from rusty horseshoes and wagon wheels.

Tin roofs shade the wooden sidewalks. A bandstand is nearby, on the edge of a depression that forms a natural amphitheater.

Another biker rally is scheduled for Oct. 12 through 15. Mr. Smith also is considering organizing a July Fourth event but hasn’t decided whether it will be a traditional family-oriented celebration with fireworks or a biker event. He hopes to attract other events as well, everything from music festivals to antique car or tractor shows.

With nearly 10 million motorcyclists in the United States, bikers pump lots of cash into Sturgis, S.D., Daytona Beach, Fla., and other towns that host some of the nation’s leading motorcycle rallies, attracting upward of 500,000 enthusiasts each.

Mr. Smith says Angel City also could be used as a staging area for bikers heading to the major rallies in Daytona each year. They could haul their motorcycles to Angel City and then ride them the final 300 miles to Daytona.

“Unadilla will be the Sturgis of the South. That’s our goal,” says Lucas Foxx of Cody, Wyo., who is a partner with Mr. Smith in Foxx Publications, which produces the Iron Angels’ calendar.

Mr. Foxx says he came up with the idea for Angel City, and Mr. Smith volunteered to build the first one.

Based on the success of the Unadilla rally, Foxx Publications is moving ahead with plans to build four more Western-style biker towns in other parts of the country, Mr. Foxx says.

Mr. Smith says he canvassed businesses in Unadilla and talked with neighboring property owners and found strong support for the Angel City project.

Unadilla Mayor Sidney Hughes says some residents expressed concern initially about heavier traffic, but generally everyone supports it. The town annexed the land so it could provide sewer services.

Motorcyclists, once thought of as outlaws and renegades, have moved into the American mainstream, Mr. Smith says.

“The old stigma of the biker is gone,” he says. “It’s corporate America. It’s lawyers, bankers, all kinds of people. They put their leathers on, and when they’re here drinking a beer together, they’re all brothers.”

Bob Jeter, Dooly County’s economic development director, says Angel City could benefit surrounding towns, such as Perry and Cordele, more than Unadilla because they have more motels and restaurants.

“It has the potential for being great for the county and surrounding areas,” Mr. Jeter says. “The location is perfect, with fields and woods and easy access to I-75. It’s got that old Western look, and it’s mighty attractive.”

• • •

Angel City, a site for motorcycle gatherings and other events in Unadilla, Ga., is off Exit 122 of Interstate 75, about 120 miles from Atlanta. Next biker rally, Oct. 12 through 15.


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