What's New

Two hours to safer driving

The Suwanee Police Department is offering a free two-hour program designed to assist parents and their new teen drivers. Georgia Teens Ride with PRIDE (Parents Reducing Injuries and Driver Error) will be offered at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, November 12, at the Suwanee Police Training Center at 2966 Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road.

The course focuses on driver attitude, knowledge, and behavior. Rather than a technical, hands-on driver training program, PRIDE addresses seat belts, crash dynamics, Georgia's teen driving laws, parental influence, and peer pressure.

The course is free and open to the public, but space is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration is required by November 5. A parent or guardian is required to attend with their teen.

The City of Suwanee Police Department offers PRIDE in cooperation with the Georgia Traffic Injury Prevention Institute.

We've got questions; you've got answers

Over the first couple of weeks of November, a random selection of City of Suwanee residents will receive an invitation to participate in the 2014 National Citizen Survey. This marks the fourth time that the City of Suwanee will participate in the survey, which is administered by the National Research Center and International City/County Management Association on behalf of local jurisdictions. The City typically conducts the survey every two years.

Residents' responses, which are anonymous, are tabulated and benchmarked by the National Research Center with more than 500 other local jurisdictions around the country.

Results from the 2012 survey indicated that 99 percent of residents found Suwanee an excellent or good place to live and would recommend living in Suwanee. The City was also ranked #1 by its residents, compared to other participating jurisdictions, in four categories: land use, planning, and zoning; preservation of natural areas; city parks; and availability of affordable quality child care.

The randomly selected 1,200 Suwanee households that will be invited to participate in the 2014 survey may complete and return a hard copy, which they will receive via the postal service, or complete the survey online. Only those households who were randomly selected may participate in the survey. The deadline for completed surveys will be around the middle of December.

Survey results assist the City with community planning, resource allocation, program improvement, goal-setting, and policy-making. Results from the 2014 National Citizen Survey are expected to be available in the early spring.

Google: Suwanee is 2014 eCity

Google has announced that the City of Suwanee is Georgia's 2014 eCity and one of the country's digital capitals. This designation from the global technology company recognizes Suwanee as having the strongest online business community in the state.

"We're thrilled," says Suwanee Mayor Jimmy Burnette, "and if I could speak in emoticons, I'd add several of those to this statement. More seriously, I'm very proud of our connected, forward-thinking, and engaged community. Like many of our businesses, the City of Suwanee has worked hard to keep pace with electronic technology and the opportunities it presents, maintaining a dynamic website, having a strong social media presence, and, most recently, making our website mobile-friendly.

"We know that e-commerce is a big part of Suwanee's thriving economy and we welcome that, and we'll continue to embrace electronic and other technologies to further strengthen our economy and overall community."

To determine America's digital capitals, Google and IPSOS, an independent research firm, analyzed the online strength of local small businesses in cities across the country. Factors considered included whether small businesses had a website, used a blog, promoted themselves via social networks, sold goods directly  from their website, and had a mobile-friendly website.

"Clearly there is a growing entrepreneurial spirit in Suwanee, which should be embraced," says Brett Williams, Google's director of SMB marketing, Americas. "Businesses in Suwanee are turning to the internet to start and develop their own businesses and we hope Suwanee becomes an inspiration to other areas in the country."

Be part of Suwanee's 'event-ful' scene

Races, festivals, concerts, movies, food trucks, and more – oh my! If your organization would like to be part of the City of Suwanee's eclectic event calendar in 2015, now is the time to submit an application. The City will accept applications for privately sponsored 2015 community events through December 10. Applications should be submitted with the $25 application fee; additional fees will be assessed for approved events.

Once the City's 2015 event calendar is approved in January or February, no additional events will be added. Please note that submission of an application does not guarantee approval. Events will be evaluated based on dates requested, event type, and overall variety.  All events should be free and open to the public.

Each year, Suwanee Town Center hosts more than 40 community events – nearly half of which are planned by private groups and community organizations.

"We're excited to see what kinds of creative event ideas people bring us for next year," says Events Manager Amy Doherty. "We're really looking for something new, different, and fun that not only will bring visitors to our community, but also will be really enjoyable for Suwanee residents."

Suwanee attains 'PlanFirst' designation

The Suwanee Town Center Master Plan is one example of community plans effectively implemented by the City of Suwanee.

The City of Suwanee is in the inaugural class of 10 Georgia communities being recognized for excellence in community planning. The Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) awarded the PlanFirst designation in recognition that Suwanee not only creates good community plans, it also implements them well.

"Good planning by local communities is the hallmark of economic growth," says DCA Commissioner Gretchen Corbin. "These are communities that can serve as statewide models for others in how to actively and strategically implement a vision for the future."

Thirty communities applied to the PlanFirst program in its inaugural year. Designated communities had to demonstrate a proven record of plan implementation success in areas that included goals, leadership, and community participation.

In addition to Suwanee, these communities are part of the PlanFirst inaugural class: Athens-Clarke County, Braselton, Coweta County, Gainesville, Johnson County, Jones County, Madison, Vienna, and Woodstock.

These 10 communities will receive their award at the Capitol on January 28, and the designation will last for three years beginning January 1. The designation means that these communities can take advantage of various incentives, including public visibility, eligibility for funding, and certain reduced interest loans.

Trek or Treat

Youngsters, get your mummies (and daddies) to bring you to Suwanee's Trek or Treat event October 25 where you can use your witches' brooms to sweep up prizes and your dancing shoes to do the monster mash with Parker, Suwanee's oversized canine mascot. Suwanee's spook-tacular Trek or Treat event will be from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, October 25, at Suwanee Creek Park, 1170 Buford Highway.

Activities include festival games, crafts, inflatables, dance competitions, and pictures with Parker. A free hot dog lunch will be available while supplies last.

Trek or Treat is designed especially for children and 10 and younger. Attendees are encouraged to wear Halloween costumes.

Knock knock: 'Doors' exhibit returns

Approximately 30 artist-painted doors are on exhibit at Suwanee's Sims Lake Park throughout October as part of the 2014 Doors to Homes & Hope exhibit. Presented by Gwinnett Habitat for Humanity and ArtWorks! Gwinnett, more than 140 doors will be exhibited through November 1 in locations throughout Gwinnett County, including in Suwanee, Norcross, Duluth, Sugar Hill, and Lawrenceville.

This exhibit, like the inaugural 2013 display, is designed to bring awareness to the issue of homelessness and the universal need for affordable housing.

A number of Suwanee-area artists participated in this year's "painting for a purpose" program, including several with the North Gwinnett Arts Association and students in the North Gwinnett High School National Art Honor Society.

All of the doors may be viewed and purchased at gwinnetthabitat.org beginning October 4. Each door is $100 and may be picked up at the end of the month-long exhibit. Proceeds will be shared by Gwinnett Habitat for Humanity and Artworks! Gwinnett.

Winning streak

The City of Suwanee has recently received awards or recognition from a variety of state, national, and international organizations.

The City's Connects community newsletter and 2013 annual report have been recognized. The newsletter won two Awards of Excellence in September, in the printed publications-external publications and graphic design-publications categories, from the City-County Communications and Marketing Association (3CMA). Connects is written by City of Suwanee staff and designed by the Veugeler Design Group in Buford.

Earlier this summer, the City's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report received Excellence in Financial Reporting recognition and its annual report earned a Popular Annual Financial Reporting award from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA). The publications are compiled and designed by City of Suwanee staff.

One of the City's annual events, Woofstock, co-sponsored with Star 94 radio, received a Georgia Downtown Conference Award of Excellence in August. The City was recognized in the promotions category with a silver award.

Finally, the City of Suwanee has been recognized for its performance management efforts with a Certificate of Distinction from the International City/County Management Association's (ICMA) Center for Performance Analytics. Suwanee is among 11 jurisdictions nationwide to receive the Certificate of Distinction and one of 49 (and one of two in Georgia; Decatur being the other) recognized overall. More information.

Student leadership – beyond the classroom

After meeting with a variety of community leaders, developing their individual leadership philosophies and skills, and logging more than 700 community volunteer hours, more than 50 local high school students have completed the City of Suwanee's inaugural Suwanee Youth Leaders (SYL) program. SYL is designed to build youth leaders in the community and outside the classroom.

"SYL has given me a chance to work deeper within my community on a level I had never experienced before," says Mimi Zhang, a senior at North Gwinnett High School. "I have a better understanding of how complicated and structured our City really is."

Suwanee's SYL program started in January with students meeting on a monthly basis to participate in activities designed to enhance their team-building, communication, and leadership skills. In addition, students attended Leadercast in the spring, helped plan Suwanee's August Food Truck Friday event, and volunteered at Suwanee's August concert and Suwanee Fest.

"We now have a group of young people who have more knowledge of their community and how local government works, and the work that goes into building community," says Economic and Community Development Director Denise Brinson. "The City wanted to develop a real connection with our schools and find a way to meaningfully encourage youth involvement as prescribed in our 20/20 strategic plan."

The Suwanee Youth Leaders program will be offered again next year and will run March-September. The program is open to current sophomores and juniors who attend public, private, and home-based schools in the North Gwinnett and Peachtree Ridge clusters. Applications will be available on this website beginning in November.

Food Truck Friday

Suwanee's next Food Truck Friday is scheduled for September 5 at Town Center Park. Come enjoy the rhythmic music of Classic City Steel, a steel drum performance group, and grab dinner from one of your favorite food trucks.

Food truck vendors expected include Atlanta Burger Truck, Buen Provecho, Chay J's, Happy Belly, Ibiza, King of Pop, Philly Connection, Rey's Cuban, Wow! and Yumbii. Dinner will be served up from 5:30-9:30 p.m. with music starting around 7.

No alcohol may be brought to Town Center Park, but beer and wine may be purchased from licensed Town Center merchants.

One great community festival x 2 days!

Come to Suwanee Fest Saturday, September 20, to shop, eat, bounce, smile, groove, and make memories. Then come back Sunday, September 21, and do it all again! For the very first time, Suwanee's annual community festival is going to be celebrated over two days. Check out the Suwanee Fest schedule.

The "Red, White & You"-themed parade will kick off the festival at 10 a.m. Former U.S. Army Capt. And New York Times best-selling author Luis Carlos Montalván and his beloved service dog, Tuesday, will be the parade grand marshals.

More than a dozen performance groups will take the Town Center stage over the course of the two-day festival. Some Suwanee Fest performers have four legs while others will slither and some will "fight" like tigers. They'll sing to you, blow bubbles for you, rock you, and read to you. See the full entertainment schedule.

The headline performer is A1A, the official and original Jimmy Buffet tribute show. Come catch their Parrot Head Extravaganza at 6 p.m. Saturday.

Nearly 200 arts & craft exhibitors, food vendors, community organizations, and sponsors will have booths at the festival. We dare you not to find something extraordinary to buy! Find more information about Suwanee Fest, including off-site parking and shuttle information, at suwaneefest.com.

A glimpse behind the badge

Get a glimpse behind the badge and gain a better understanding of some of the complex situations that Suwanee police officers experience through this fall's Citizens Police Academy. Classes will be held from 6:30-9 p.m. weekly beginning October 7, usually on Tuesdays but sometimes on Mondays depending on the week, at the Suwanee Police Training Center, 2966 Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road. Classes will end December 9; check the online application for specific dates.

Registration is free, but notarized applications must be received by September 26.  Priority is given to City of Suwanee residents or to those who work within the City.

Topics covered include crime scene processing, traffic stops, building searches, crime prevention, and narcotics identification.

The City of Suwanee Police Department offers this nine-week program to help strengthen the bond of friendship and cooperation among citizens and police officers. Through classes, citizens gain a better understanding of the risks and responsibilities of Suwanee police officers.

Celebrating 10 years of music & more at Town Center


Ever since Sean Mullins was the first performer to headline a concert at Town Center Park in August 2004, Suwanee-area residents and others throughout the region have gathered regularly in Suwanee's "front yard" for music, movies, festivals, and more. This year's 10th anniversary concert  features not only alternative rock tunes but also flavorful wings. Everclear, Billboard's 1998 Modern Rock Band of the Year, will headline Suwanee's August Concert & Wing Fest. Festivities, food, and music will be served up starting at 5:30 p.m.

Other bands performing include Hunter Callahan, Nine Times Blue, and The Athens Band. Everclear is expected to take the Town Center stage about 8:30.

A celebrity wing-eating contest will be part of the evening's activities. Attendees also will be invited to vote for their favorite wings from among the vendors at the festival.

Bring blankets, chairs, picnics, but no alcohol may be brought into Town Center Park. Beer and wine will be available for purchase from concert vendors and licensed Town Center merchants.

Limited parking is available in the downtown area. A free shuttle bus will provide transportation between Town Center and the offsite parking location at the Shawnee North Business Center, 305 Shawnee North Drive at Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road. The shuttles will run from 5:30-10:30 p.m.

City proposes same millage rate as last year

The City of Suwanee has proposed a millage rate of 4.93 mills, the same rate used by the City over the past two years. That rate, however, is higher than the calculated rollback rate of 4.70 mills – this is the rate that would be expected to generate the same total revenue as the previous year.

City Council is expected to adopt a fiscal year 2015 millage rate at its August 26 meeting. Because the proposed rate is anticipated to generate a 4.89 percent increase in property tax revenues, due to rising property values, the City of Suwanee will hold three public hearings on this increase.

The millage rate public hearings will be in Council Chambers on the second floor of City Hall at:

  • 5:30 p.m. Thursday, August 14
  • noon Tuesday, August 26
  • 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, August 26

The proposed 4.93 millage rate will result in a tax increase of approximately $20.70 for a home with a fair market value of $225,000 and an increase of $50.60 for a nonresidential property with a fair market value of $550,000.

Double feature under the stars

Movies Under the Stars will present two movies at Town Center Park on Saturday, August 23. The Lego Movie will be shown on a digital board at the Town Center stage beginning at 7 p.m. Shortly after the end of that movie, around 8:45 p.m., Divergent will be shown on the inflatable big screen.

Rated PG, The Lego Movie is a 3D, computer-animated film that is "the story of a nobody who saves everybody." Released earlier this year, the film follows Emmet, a completely ordinary Lego mini-figure who is the key to saving the Lego universe from the evil tyrant Lord Business.

On the Rotten Tomatoes website, ReelViews critic James Berardinelli says: "This is truly a movie that children and their parents can both enjoy for different reasons."

Divergent, one of the year's most action-packed releases, is the story of a teenager who doesn't fit into one of her futuristic society's neatly packaged factions based on virtues. The film stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, and Kate Winslet. It is rated PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements, and some sensuality.

Ryan Gilbey with New Statesmen says in a Rotten Tomatoes review: "Science fiction it may be, but the essence of the film is that timeless adolescent conundrum: Who am I?"

Bring chairs, blankets, and snacks to Town Center Park, but no alcohol.

Be a hero: Run in Suwanee Fest race

Runners in this year's Suwanee Fest Classic are being encouraged to dress a little, well, differently. Because a portion of all race entry fees will go to Cure Childhood Cancer of Atlanta, runners are being asked to dress in superhero attire to honor those touched by childhood cancer.

This "racy" prelude to Suwanee Fest is hosted by Georgia Fitness and takes place Saturday, September 13, at Town Center Park. The event includes a 1K fun run, 5K race, and 10K course. The 5K will begin at 7:30 a.m. with the 10K start slated for 8:30 a.m. The 1K fun run takes off at 8:35 a.m.

Online registration for the Suwanee Fest race is available at active.com; an application may be downloaded at suwaneefest.com; in-person registration is available at the Suwanee and Sugar Hill Georgia Fitness locations. Those who register by September 1 are guaranteed an official race t-shirt in the size requested.

The fee for each race, by September 1, is:

  • 1K - $20
  • 5K - $28
  • 10K - $33
  • 5K & 10K combo - $38

The registration fee increases by $5 in each category after September 1.

Food trucks roll back in

After a break in July, food trucks will roll back into Town Center Park the first Friday of each month through October. The trucks will serve up dinner from 5:30-9:30 p.m.

The tentative food truck line-up for August 1 is Freckled and Blue, King of Pops, Mac the Cheese, MG's Burger Que, Nana G's Chicken and Waffles, On Tapa the World, Pressed for Time, Smiley's Street Eats, Tex's Tacos, and Tracey's Tasties.

Students in the Suwanee Youth Leaders program are responsible for planning activities and entertainment at the August Food Truck Friday event. They've booked Rupert's Orchestra, a popular and upbeat local party band, to perform beginning at 6:30 p.m. With an eclectic repertoire of more than 1,500 songs, Rupert's performs everything from current top 40 hits to Motown to classic rock to swing.

As part of their agreement with the band, the students are planning fundraising activities for that evening – such as carnival games, a 50/50 raffle, and collecting donations – for a charity with which Rupert's Orchestra works closely, Better Health for Haiti. This organization uses songs and videos to help provide health education to Haitian people.

Getting down to business

As a small business owner, would you appreciate a personal introduction to the myriad of no- or low-cost resources that are available to help you succeed? Of course you would! Come meet experts from the University of Georgia's Small Business Development Center, SCORE Association, Gwinnett Chamber, City of Suwanee, and Gwinnett County on Monday, August 18, for a Small Business Essentials seminar.

This portable panel of experts is presented by the Gwinnett Chamber's Small Business Resources Coalition. The seminar will begin at 2:30 p.m. in Council Chambers on the second floor of Suwanee City Hall and includes a networking opportunity that will begin at 4:30. The seminar is free, but advanced registration is required by August 17.

"We want to make sure that entrepreneurs know that they are welcome in the City of Suwanee," says Adam Edge, downtown and business development manager. "We also want to make sure that they know about the partnerships and resources that they can leverage to not only build a business but sustain it."

While the seminar is open to all business owners inside or outside the City of Suwanee, says Edge, it's designed especially for small business owners who have opened within the past 18 months or entrepreneurs who are thinking about opening a new business.

Topics to be covered include business and marketing plans, financial and lending assistance, licensing and taxes, minority assistance, networking and growth, training and mentorship programs, and doing business with the City of Suwanee.

Happy birthday, PlayTown!

Click on the image to enlarge a photo.

Over the course of five days in June 2004, the City of Suwanee community did something amazing: Mommies, daddies, grandparents, business owners, football players, community organization members, and youth came together to build a place that continues to have an enchanting impact on Suwanee's youngest residents today. A decade ago, hundreds of volunteers transformed a site pitted with post holes on a Wednesday morning into PlayTown Suwanee, our community's super playground, by Sunday afternoon of the same week.

Now, 10 years later, on Saturday, July 19, the community will celebrate PlayTown Suwanee's 10th birthday in a fashion befitting any 10-year-old – with balloons, a DJ, clown, face painting, and, of course, birthday cake. Young residents also will be invited to create a hand-painted tile – very similar to those created 10 years ago for the playground. These new tiles will fill in available spaces among the tiles that still exist from 10 years ago. The party will take place from 10 a.m.-noon at the playground.

Click here to see a "by the numbers" look at the 2004 community-build project that created PlayTown Suwanee.

Angie O'Farrell, who served as the playground's volunteer committee chair a decade ago, says:  "PlayTown Suwanee has been such a treasured place for my family and me over the years. We still take out-of-town guests there and talk about the incredible experience of building a park in five days. During that week I met some of my dearest friends in Suwanee and developed a sense of pride for our community that has carried over into so many other local volunteer activities."

City starts new fiscal year

Click on the image to enlarge a photo.

At its June 24 meeting, City Council approved a $13.6 million fiscal year 2015 Citywide operating budget. The FY15 balanced budget anticipates that revenues will be down slightly by almost 2 percent, Suwanee's millage rate will remain 4.93 mills, and no resources from the City's fund balance will be required. Suwanee's fiscal year runs July 1 through June 30.

The general fund is the City's main operating fund and is proposed to total $11.2 million, with Suwanee's debt payment accounting for another $1.6 million in expenses. Operating expenditures for the general fund are anticipated to increase by about 5 percent.

Suwanee's FY15 budget funds downtown and public art master plans, a new public works equipment operator position, 10.5 percent increase in health insurance expenses, and a merit salary increase for employees, up to 4 percent depending upon performance.

"Overall," says City Manager Marty Allen, "our 2015 budget conveys our community's financial stability. Revenues are anticipated to be similar to 2014's with a small increase in expenses. When Standard & Poor's upgraded our bond rating to AAA earlier this year, they told us that some of what they liked about Suwanee was our financial stability, conservative fiscal policies, and healthy fund balance."

If the glass slipper fits…

Shake the cobwebs off those magic wands and dust off your glass slippers for Suwanee Performing Arts' 2014 Broadway in the Park production. A cast of 70 young local performers and 30 backstage volunteers will bring Rogers & Hammerstein's Cinderella as well as an original one-act play, Spellbound – the Musical, to the Town Center stage July 25 and 26.

A classic fairy tale set to music, Cinderella is the story of a young woman forced into a life of servitude by her cruel stepmother and self-centered stepsisters; she dreams of a better life and a chance to attend the prince's ball. With the assistance of her fairy godmother, Cinderella's dreams come true.

Spellbound – the Musical, an original play created by Suwanee Performing Arts founders Patty Etherton and Bernetta Bock Davis, provides the back story for Cinderella's magical godmother. The one-act play takes place at The Academy of Magical Arts, where a young Annabel is convinced that she is a failure because all of her spells turn to glass and don't last through the night.

Broadway in the Park performances will begin at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, July 25 and 26. Admission is free, but reserved premium seating is available for corporate and patron sponsors. Contact Suwanee Performing Arts at 678-482-6333 for more information about reserved seating. In addition, lawn seating in front of the stage is available on a first-come basis for $10 and is designed especially for young children. These tickets will be available at Town Center Park beginning at 4 p.m. on performance days. Magic wands and tiaras also will be available for purchase.

2014 SPLOST will reduce
transportation travails

Together Gwinnett County and the City of Suwanee have allocated approximately $20 million in 2014 SPLOST funding toward various transportation and sidewalk improvement projects throughout the Suwanee area. Voters approved the three-year countywide one-penny sales tax program in November, and collections began in April.

Gwinnett County has allocated approximately $12.6 million to four Suwanee-area projects that it will undertake through its Department of Transportation:

  • construct an interchange at I-85 and McGinnis Ferry Road
  • widen Peachtree Industrial Boulevard to six lanes between McGinnis Ferry and Moore roads
  • implement intersection improvements, including adding a turn lane and improving pedestrian safety, at Peachtree Industrial and Suwanee Dam (this project is a secondary priority)
  • implement intersection improvements at Suwanee Dam and West Price roads

"These projects will improve traffic and travel in the area and serve well all residents who live in the area," says Gwinnett County Commissioner Jace Brooks, who represents District 1, which includes the City of Suwanee. "I'm pleased that we are able to use SPLOST funds to effectively serve so many."

The City of Suwanee will work jointly with Gwinnett County to fund four additional projects, with the county contributing $1.86 million. These projects include installing sidewalks where there are gaps on Peachtree Industrial Boulevard near McGinnis Ferry Road, Smithtown Road, and Suwanee Dam Road near North Gwinnett High School.

'Teddy bear cop' to retire

For nearly all of his more than two decades with the City of Suwanee, Ofc. Elias Casanas has served as a community ambassador, the face of the Suwanee Police Department. Many families who were moving into the community in the 1990s probably remember him as "the teddy bear cop," while others adore him as their personable and personal connection to the police department.

On July 31, after 24 years of service, Officer Casanas is retiring.

Always much more a people person than a "book 'em" kind of police officer, Casanas spent much of his early days as a patrol officer driving along the roads of new subdivisions that seemed to be popping up everywhere in the 1990s.

"People would be surprised to see me," he says. "'Is everything OK?' they'd ask. And I'd say: 'I just stopped by to say hello. Congratulations on your new house. We're really glad you came, and your house is beautiful.'"

On a whim one day, Casanas bought a teddy bear dressed in a police uniform. He stuck the bear to the passenger window of his patrol car and pretty soon, children and adults alike took to waving and smiling as Casanas and Blu drove through neighborhoods. "He was mainly for children not to be afraid of us," says Casanas of the now-retired police bear.

"Eli is so good with people," says Suwanee Police Chief Mike Jones. "He's so caring that sometimes you wonder if he's serious, and he is. He's got a passion for people and a servant's heart. Elias has been the face of the police department to the community, and we and our residents are surely going to miss him."

Doubleheader weekend: Food trucks & movie

The first weekend in June will be an event doubleheader in Suwanee. On Friday, June 6, food trucks will roll into Town Center Park, and on Saturday, June 7, the second installment in the Hunger Games series will be screened.

The tentative June Food Truck Friday line-up includes: The Blaxican, Down the Bayou, Happy Belly, King of Pops, Mighty Meatballs, Moveable Feast, On Tapa the World, Pressed for Time, Wow!, and Yumbii. (Please note that the line-up is subject to change.) Dinner will be served from 5:30-9:30 p.m.; The Fly Betty Band will perform beginning at 7.

Movies Under the Stars comes to Town Center Park the following evening with a screening of Hunger Games: Catching Fire, in which victors Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are thrust back into the Hunger Games – and into the midst of the growing rebellion.

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catching Fire is rated PG-13, due to, according the IMDb website, "intense sequences of violence and action, some frightening images, thematic elements, a suggestive situation, and language."

Festivities for Catching Fire will start at 7 p.m. with the movie beginning around 8:30 p.m. or as soon as it is dark enough. Bring chairs, blankets, and snacks to Town Center Park, but no alcohol.

Concert salutes veterans

The City of Suwanee will host a Memorial Day weekend concert that will feature patriotic and big band sounds on Friday, May 23. The Continental Dance Orchestra, which includes some of the South's most accomplished musicians and bandleader/singer Gwen Hughes, will take the Town Center stage at 7:30 p.m.

Before the concert, weather permitting, members of the Silver Wings, the Command Exhibition Parachute Team of the U.S. Army Infantry based at Fort Benning, will "drop in" at Town Center. The parachute team is expected to land at the park shortly after 7 p.m.

"We're excited to have the Silver Wings team back in Suwanee," says Events Manager Amy Doherty. "Everyone, but especially the kids, get a real thrill seeing them soar and then land in the middle of the park with the American flag trailing behind one of them. It's a good reminder of the skills our soldiers must develop and the challenges our troops face every day."

Bring blankets, chairs, and picnics, but no alcohol may be brought into Town Center Park.  Parking is available at Town Center and along Main Street.

Major league fun
at Game on the Green

The Atlanta Braves may be playing in Miami on May 31, but there will be a home game atmosphere when the match-up with the Marlins is broadcast live on the really big screen at Suwanee's Town Center Park. First pitch for this Game on the Green is at 4:10 p.m., but festivities will begin at 3.

The Braves' Heavy Hitters drumline team and Tomahawk Team will be on hand as will the team mascot, Homer. Inflatables and other activities will be available.

Bring blankets, chairs, snacks, and your foam tomahawks, but no alcohol may be brought into the park. Food and beverages, including beer and wine, will be available for purchase from Game on the Green vendors and Town Center merchants.

Admission is free. Come root, root, root for the home team!

Photos by William Mahan

Peace, Love & Arts in the Park

This is one groovy arts festival, man! Arts in the Park returns to Town Center Park for the fourth year on Saturday, May 17, with a retro theme of Peace, Love & Arts in the Park. The park will be filled from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. with more than 75 exhibiting artists, tie-dyed t-shirts, look-alike performers from the 1970s, and a happy, energetic vibe.

Presented by the North Gwinnett Arts Association (NGAA) and sponsored by Nalley Automotive, Arts in the Park celebrates art in all its wonderful forms. Exhibiting artists' works, all of which have been juried, include jewelry, painting, pottery, woodworking, glass, photography, iron, multimedia, and more. Many artists will demonstrate their work onsite as well.

"I love all the creativity in the air," says NGAA President Vickie Johnson of the annual festival. "It's exciting for me to see how young people really get into this. There's just such an energy. It's really an extension of Suwanee's play, live, and smile. It's the creative side of Suwanee."

In addition to artists and their artwork, the festival will offer performance art. The Imperial OPA group, who offered such energetic performances at the festival two years ago, will return with colorful high-wire and human pyramid stunts. Others will perform music from the 1970s in a variety of genres, including country and bluegrass. See entertainment schedule.

Once again this year, the festival will host a chalk walk competition for children and adults. The $10/person registration is available at suwaneeartsinthepark.com or at the festival. Area businesses also may sponsor a chalk re-creation of their logo for $50. Florida street artist Michael V. LasCasas will be on hand to unveil a sidewalk painting commissioned by the Public Arts Commission.

Suwanee employs geese police

The Canada geese at Sims Lake Park must have heard about Suwanee being one of the country's best places to live. As it turns out, though, Canada geese aren't very good "tenants" at public parks. They're messy, rude, noisy, and, sometimes, aggressive.

So, the City of Suwanee is undertaking a humane strategy to "evict" the geese from Sims Lake Park, using trained border collies with Geese Police of North Georgia to convince the loud water fowl to move elsewhere. Ducks at the park will not be impacted by the program.

"Over time, the goose population at Sims Lake Park has grown, and they really create a mess," says Public Works Director James Miller. "The birds are prolific poopers, often leaving their waste on the paved trail and stone streamscape. Waste from the geese is raising aesthetic, safety, health, and lake water quality concerns."

Geese graze constantly, and each goose can generate 1.5 pounds of waste on a daily basis.

"Through Geese Police of North Georgia," says Miller, "trained border collies will convince the geese that it's no longer safe to make their home at Sims Lake Park. The dogs never actually touch the birds, and this process is approved by various wildlife agencies, the Humane Society, and PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals]."

Photos by Karl Lamb

Fore! Disc golf course is open

Suwanee's new disc golf course at Suwanee Creek Park is now open on a first-come basis to area residents. Hole one is located near the Buckeye Pavilion, but golfers may start play from any of the course's 18 holes.

"A disc golf course was one of the suggestions that citizens put forward through the park enhancements survey we did in 2010," says Assistant to the City Manager Jessica Roth. "It fits with the passive nature of Suwanee Creek Park yet offers another reason for folks to come use the park."

The course opened on May 3 with a tournament organized by the Gwinnett Disc Golf Organization. About 80 people played in the tournament. Designed by John David, a member of the Professional Disc Golf Association's Hall of Fame, Suwanee's moderate-level course begins and ends near the Buckeye Pavilion at the top of the Suwanee Creek Greenway trailhead and meanders largely along the soft surface trail. No fee or registration is required to use the course.

Early users of the course seem to be impressed. "Awesome course," said Jennifer Montgomery on the course's Facebook page. "Tight and technical, keeps you honest! And heads up y'all, 15, 16 and 17 are brutal!"

"Great addition to the Gwinnett Disc Golf scene," said Kason Moody. "Lenora is pretty much wide open, Alexander is the perfect mix of open and wooded, Suwanee Creek is a beautiful, wooded, and technical course…. A great course to get better at your accuracy."

Fore! Disc golf course opens

Suwanee's new 18-hole disc golf course at Suwanee Creek Park opens the weekend of May 3 with a grand opening tournament organized by the Gwinnett Disc Golf Organization, who will also host free how-to-play clinics.

The tournament is open to players of all levels and begins at 9 a.m. Saturday, May 3. Pre-registration is suggested at www.gwinnettcountyopen.com/cart. The registration fee varies depending upon division entered.  Spectators are welcome.

On Sunday, May 4, Gwinnett Disc Golf Organization members will hold free clinics for those who want to learn the basics about disc golf. The clinics will begin at 1:30 p.m. behind the Alder Pavilion at Suwanee Creek Park, 1170 Buford Highway.

Designed by John David, a member of the Professional Disc Golf Association's Hall of Fame, Suwanee's moderate-level course begins and ends near the Buckeye Pavilion at the top of the Suwanee Creek trailhead and meanders largely along the soft surface trail. After the grand opening tournament, the disc golf course is open to the public. No fee or registration is required.

B at the Movies for 'Saving Mr. Banks'

B at the Movies with B98.5 and the City of Suwanee when Emma Thompson as P.L. Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney star in Saving Mr. Banks, to be shown at Town Center Park on Saturday, May 10. This PG-13 film tells the story of Disney's 20-year quest to bring Mary Poppins, Travers' magical nanny, to the big screen.

"Forget super," says Us Weekly critic Mara Reinstein on the Rotten Tomatoes website. "This bighearted and intelligent drama is supercalifragili…you get the idea."

The movie will start at dusk, around 8:30 p.m. Activities begin at Town Center Park at 7 p.m. Bring blankets, chairs, and picnics, but no alcohol may be brought into the park.

Raise the woof!

Chicken-flavored chews, summer do's, dock diving techniques, and the latest in canine fashion are likely to be among the hot topics at Star 94's Woofstock event on Saturday, May 3. The tail-wagging fun gets started at noon at Town Center Park.

Star 94's annual Pet Party in the Park caters to furry, four-legged family members and their two-legged companions. This year's event will feature Frisbee and dock diving shows, pet vendors, rescue groups, pet adoptions, clinics and workshops, live music, food trucks, inflatables for children, contests, and fun for the whole family. See the full schedule.

The musical headliner is A Great Big World, whose set is sure to include its #1 smash "Say Something" (minus the accompaniment of Christina Aguilera).  A New York-based pop singer-and-songwriter duo, A Great Big World will take the Town Center stage at 4:15 p.m. Also performing are The Lance Price Band at 3 p.m. and The Dave Mathews Tribute Band at 6:15 p.m.

Four-legged party-goers must be on a leash. No alcohol may be brought into Town Center Park, but food and beverages, including beer and wine, may be purchased from event vendors and Town Center merchants.

Art on a Limb

The dogwoods have bloomed. The azaleas have peaked. Any day now, art pieces will be blooming along the Suwanee Creek Greenway and at community parks as the City of Suwanee celebrates its annual finders-keepers Art on a Limb program.

For this year's program, which begins May 1, potter and former music teacher Richard Shivers has created 8-inch, green, ceramic frog bowls. The bowls, decorated with leafy tree branches and one of the phrases from Suwanee's "Live Well. Play Hard. Smile More!" slogan, are meant to be placed in a garden or landscaped areas around the yard. On the backside of the bowls, Shivers has etched leaves or a wood grain pattern.

"I've set the bowls out in my yard in garden areas," says Shivers. "They gather a little bit of water and then I find frogs or butterflies in them."

Shivers decided to submit the bowls for consideration for this year's Art on a Limb program both for the challenge of doing something new and to support the community. "I appreciate so much the fact that the City of Suwanee is a promoter of the arts in the community," he says. "Art is part of so much of what Suwanee does. As an artist and musician, I appreciate that. To have art in front of people all the time – that's a wonderful thing."

Through Art on a Limb, the City of Suwanee hides two pieces of art along the Suwanee Creek Greenway or at Sims Lake and White Street parks each day throughout the month of May. Those who find the art pieces get to keep them!

Putting public art in its place

Photo by Bill Mahan

The City of Suwanee and ArtWorks! Gwinnett are hosting a public art forum, entitled "Development Drivers: Public Art & Placemaking," for government officials, business leaders, and developers on Thursday, May 1. The session begins in Council Chambers on the second floor of Suwanee City Hall with a continental breakfast and networking at 7:30 a.m. and the presentation starting at 8.

The seminar is free and open to the public, but registration is required by April 29. Those interested may register at artworksgwinnett.org/?p=4416.

Seminar speakers are Bruce Green, tourism product development manager with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, and Heather Alhadeff, president of Center Forward, an Atlanta-based land use and transportation consulting firm.

The City of Suwanee is committed to embracing public art as a means to enhance its citizens' quality of life and the community's sense of identity. Artworks! Gwinnett promotes arts throughout Gwinnett County.

Jazzed up for Food Truck Friday

Suwanee's next Food Truck Friday event will be on Friday, May 2. Food truck fare will be served up from 5:30-9:30 p.m. at Town Center Park.

Several area high school bands will perform on the Town Center stage as they present a Night of Jazz beginning at 6 p.m. The high schools performing include Collins Hill, Flowery Branch, North Gwinnett, and Peachtree Ridge.

The tentative food truck line-up: Atlanta Burger, Chay J's, Freckled & Blue, King of Pops, Nana G's Chicken and Waffles, Pressed for Time, Rey's Cuban Food, Sweet Auburn Barbecue, and Texas Tacos.  Please note that this line-up is subject to change.

No alcohol may be brought to Town Center Park, but beer and wine may be purchased from licensed Town Center restaurants and consumed on site.

'Take It to the Limit' at spring concert

The Ultimate Eagles Tribute Band On the Border will put the exclamation point on Suwanee's Super Incredible Day Saturday, April 19, when they take the Town Center stage as Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and other members of one of the 1970s' biggest rock bands. On the Border reproduces the Eagles' song catalog with stunning guitar work and spot-on vocals.

The free concert will begin at 7 p.m., shortly after the conclusion of Suwanee's Super Incredible Race, a team-based challenge that begins at Town Center Park at 3 p.m. (The deadline for required pre-registration for the race has passed.)

Come enjoy the best of the Eagles, including "Life in the Fast Lane," "Heartache Tonight," and "Take It Easy," to name just a few. Bring blankets, chairs, friends, and neighbors, but no alcohol may be brought into the park. Food and beverages, including beer and wine, will be available for purchase from concert vendors as well as Town Center merchants.

Fresh and local

Fresh produce, spicy salsas, sweet honey, and colorful flowers return to Town Center when the Suwanee Farmers Market opens for the 2014 season on Saturday, May 3. The farmers market will be open from 8 am-noon Saturdays through October 4 and 4-7 pm Tuesdays through August 5.

In addition to produce, herbs, and flowers, other items available at the market include jams, jellies, cakes, cookies, breads, pies, and honey as well as eggs, plants, and meat, dairy, and organic products.

"We're excited and amazed that the Suwanee Farmers Market is already in its 10th season," says Suwanee Events Manager Amy Doherty. "We've been fortunate to have a loyal group of farmers and other vendors as well as a lot of regular customers. The market has really become not only a great place to find fresh, delicious items, but also a place for old friends to gather."

Suwanee Day x 2 = Suwanee Fest!

After 30 years, Suwanee's annual celebration of community is becoming a two-day festival. Suwanee Day is being rebranded as Suwanee Fest and will be celebrated Saturday and Sunday, September 20 and 21, at Town Center Park.

"For many years, we prided ourselves on the fact that Suwanee Day was one of the best and most well-attended one-day festivals around," says Suwanee Events Manager Amy Doherty. "Our popularity has caught up with us, and now we look forward to making Suwanee Fest even bigger, and especially better."

Applications for Suwanee Fest are now being accepted from fine arts and arts and crafts exhibitors, who will be selected through a jury process, as well as food vendors and entertainment acts. The deadline is June 1.

S&P upgrades City to highest rating

Town Center Park, circa August 2003

Standard & Poor's (S&P), one of the big three among financial rating agencies, has upgraded the City of Suwanee's rating for its general obligation bond debt to AAA, the highest rating available.

After completing a review of the City's rating, which had been AA, S&P upgraded the City to AAA with a stable outlook based on the City's continued economic expansion. "We consider the City's economy to be very strong," S&P says in its report. "The stable outlook reflects our anticipation that the City will maintain its very strong liquidity and budgetary flexibility."

Suwanee is one of only four Georgia cities to have earned a AAA rating from S&P. The others are Roswell, Peachtree City, and Smyrna, which also was just upgraded. Alpharetta has a AAA rating from Moody's.

"This is like going to the doctor and getting a really clean bill of health," says Mayor Jimmy Burnette. "We are confident that Suwanee is fiscally strong with sound financial policies and practices, but sometimes people don't believe you unless someone else says it's so. We're extremely proud that S&P has independently found Suwanee to be extremely fiscally fit."

The City of Suwanee initially obtained a general obligation rating in 2002 when it issued bonds to fund its award-winning open space initiative, which resulted in the acquisition of more than 300 acres of greenspace and the creation of six parks. The City's initial rating was a AA- from both S&P and Fitch Ratings. Since then, the ratings from each agency have been periodically recalibrated and upgraded. The City currently has a AA+ rating from Fitch.

Be part of Peace, Love & Arts in the Park

Arts in the Park will return to Town Center Park for the fourth year on Saturday, May 17, with a retro theme of Peace, Love & Arts in the Park. Presented by the North Gwinnett Arts Association (NGAA) and sponsored by Nalley Automotive, Arts in the Park celebrates art in all its wonderful forms.

Artists who wish to exhibit – and perhaps demonstrate – their work at the juried May 17 festival are invited to apply for booth space at suwaneeartsinthepark.com.  Artwork to be exhibited will include jewelry, painting, pottery, woodworking, glass, photography, iron, multimedia, and more. Applications are due April 30; the application fee is $75. Cash prizes will be awarded to best of show exhibitors in a variety of categories.

"I love all the creativity in the air," says NGAA President Vickie Johnson of the annual festival. "It's exciting for me to see how young people really get into this. There's just such an energy. It's really an extension of Suwanee's play, live, and smile. It's the creative side of Suwanee."

'Retrieval' to close 2013-14 indie film series

The final film in Suwanee's 2013-14 Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers is enjoying some buzz regionally as it has been commercially released. The Retrieval, a Civil War-era coming-of-age story, will be shown in Suwanee Tuesday, April 8, at Movie Tavern.

The film follows a fatherless 13-year-old boy who is sent north by his bounty-hunter gang to trick a wanted freedman into coming back to the South. During their journey toward the unwitting man's reckoning, the initially distant pair develops unexpected bonds. The boy is consumed by conflicting emotions and a gut-wrenching decision: Betray the father-figure he's finally found or risk being killed by his gang for insubordination. 

In an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, the film is described by filmmaker Chris Eska as "part Western and part family drama."

Eska studied sociology and art at Rice University before earning his master of fine arts degree in film directing from UCLA. His first feature film, August Evening, won the $50,000 Target Filmmaker Award as well as the 2008 Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award.

Tickets are $6 and available at the theater or online at movietavern.com.  Attendees will have an opportunity to interact and ask questions of the filmmaker.

2014 Snap Suwanee winners

Cowboy Dancers by Alan Akins Around the Bend by Kyle Breen Pump Up Suwanee by Kyle Breen Sayonara Summer by Autumn Crowley Millenials are the Image Nation by Andrew Draper Recovery by Andrew Draper I've Got My Eyes on You by Carla Hoff Reflection by Boo Kirsch Hynes Colorful Cultural Sounds by Karl Lamb Quiet Time by Karl Lamb Iron Angel by Jammie Partee Monkey in the Middle by Laura Shinliver Remember by Terry Vegte
Click on the image to enlarge a photo.

Suwanee's new 9-11 memorial, other public art, parks, and events are featured in the 2014 Snap Suwanee photo exhibit, currently on display at Suwanee City Hall. Thirteen photographs by 10 different photographers were selected to be part of the 2014 exhibit, which will remain on display at least through the remainder of the year.

Each year the City of Suwanee hosts a community photo competition. This year, 76 Snap Suwanee entries were received from 23 photographers. The winning photos are displayed in the first floor foyer area at City Hall, 330 Town Center Avenue. The exhibit may be viewed 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday.

For the first time this year, some of the winning photographs were submitted via Instagram.

"They say that a picture's worth a thousand words," says Public Information Officer Lynne DeWilde. "Each of the Snap Suwanee winning photos tells a story about the Suwanee community. We're excited to share the colorful, contemplative vision portrayed in the 2014 exhibit."

'Perfect Strangers'

It's fitting that in March, which is National Kidney month, the next film in Suwanee's Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers features a kidney donor and recipient. Perfect Strangers, which explores what motivates donors to act with such compassion, will be screened at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 18, at the Suwanee Movie Tavern, 2855 Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road.

The $6 admission ticket also allows filmgoers to meet and interact with the filmmaker.

Perfect Strangers tells the story of two unique, engaging characters: Ellie is determined to give away one of her kidneys. Kathy, who lives 500 miles away, endures nightly dialysis and is losing hope of receiving a transplant. Both women face unexpected challenges as their parallel stories twist and turn over the course of four years.

Filmmaker Jan Krawitz has independently produced documentary films for 35 years, exhibiting at film festivals and museums throughout the United States and abroad. She is director of the graduate program in documentary film and video in the department of art and art history at Stanford University.

Tickets are available at the theater or movietavern.com.

Film tour returns with a look at civil disobedience

Suwanee's 2013-14 Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers returns over the next couple of months with three new screenings. Civil disobedience, the altruism behind voluntary organ donation, and a gut-wrenching decision are topics covered in the upcoming films, each of which will be screened at 7 p.m. on scheduled dates at Movie Tavern. The $6 ticket includes an opportunity to meet and interact with filmmakers.

Bidder 70, a film that looks at Tim DeChristopher's act of civil disobedience, will kick off the 2014 screenings on Monday, February 24. In 2008, DeChristopher, then a college student, bid $1.8 million for 22,000 acres surrounding Utah's national parks through a government oil and gas lease auction. In protest of plans to drill on the land, DeChristopher had no intention of covering his bid.

Bidder 70 filmmakers George and Beth Gage create compelling, personal films that empower viewers, initiate dialogue, and prompt action on provocative issues. Their films have won dozens of awards at national and international film festivals.

The two remaining films to be shown this spring are Perfect Strangers on March 18 and The Retrieval on April 8.

Races, concerts & festivals, oh my!

The City of Suwanee 2014 event calendar boasts more than 40 events and offers something for just about everyone.

  • Like to walk or run? Private organizations are offering more than a dozen walk/run events, including races as well as community walk/run evenings sponsored by Big Peach.

  • Like to gather with your friends? The 2014 calendar includes several popular festivals: Suwanee Beer Fest, the Braves Game on the Green, Star 94's Woofstock, and the North Gwinnett Arts Association's Arts in the Park, to name a few.

  • Like to eat? The very popular Food Truck Fridays have been extended. Come enjoy food truck fare the first Friday of the month from April through October (with the exception of July). A wing festival has been added as a component to the annual community concert in August.

Probably the most significant change to the event calendar is the expansion of Suwanee Day to a two-day festival. The fall community festival has been rebranded as Suwanee Fest and will be held Saturday and Sunday, September 20 and 21. Click here to see the full event listing.