CORDELE, GA (WALB) - Cordele, a city that sits along interstate 75, is proudly known as the Watermelon Capital of the World. And nearby is a large lake that draws boaters and anglers from the surrounding area.
"We've always been an agricultural community. And of course with the Watermelon Festival coming up, it's a big draw for people," said City Manager Edward Beach.
Watermelon Days kicks off June 1st and is a month long celebration, attracting visitors from all over.
"People are staying overnight, eating in our restaurants. And most importantly it just unifies our community, being involved and helping support the growth of Cordele," said Bridget Milani of the Crisp Cordele Chamber of Commerce.
But Cordele is more than just the number one watermelon growing county in Georgia. In the late 1800's the town flourished from the junction of two railroads and now that same railroad infrastructure is proving again to be beneficial.
Cordele Intermodal Services operates the city's inland port and has become an asset to the city. "We know that our future is very bright. A big part of that is the involvement that we have from the community and the local support has been really good," said Jonathan Lafevers, President of Cordele Intermodal Services.
Governor Nathan Deal signed an agreement in 2013 between the Georgia Ports Authority and Cordele Intermodal Services, opening a direct 200-mile train route to ship goods directly from the Port of Savannah to Cordele.
"We actually get an opportunity to have a lot of industries look at Cordele, because they're shipping or importing from the port of Savannah," said Trina Barber of the Cordele-Crisp Industrial Development Council.
And the city's position on I-75, between Florida and Atlanta is another plus, bringing in tourism money and also helping current industries expand.
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Lake Blackshear also makes Cordele unique from other South Georgia cities. The lake not only attracts visitors, but serves as a big market for real estate. Brokers say it makes the surrounding area unique, attracting retirees and workers who live in boarding counties.
"The market is very broad. Probably the entry point on the water would be somewhere around $200,000 for a smaller cabin and it just goes up from there," said realtor Jack Hamilton.
Georgia Veteran's Memorial State Park on Lake Blackshear is also a big attracting, bringing in folks from all over looking for beautiful scenery and an area rich in history.