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Celebrating rejuvenation at GSU-Newtons daffodil festival

The name of the college may have changed, but the annual festival celebrating the flowering of daffodils continues.

In its eighth year, the Daffodil Festival at Georgia Perimeter College, now Georgia State University’s Perimeter College-Newton Campus, will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday, March 1 and 2. Not just a fundraiser, the festival pays homage to the heritage of the land the college sits upon while celebrating the spring flower’s symbolism.”

“Daffodil symbolized that rebirth,” said Julie Langley, an assistant professor of communications and chair of this year’s Daffodil Festival committee. “They always grow and they’re beautiful.

“That’s what we want our students to do: to grow, to change and rejuvenate while they’re here,” she said. “The [daffodil] bulb is always there [underground], but it takes the right circumstances for the daffodil to grow. We want our students to have those right circumstances.”

The daffodils have been growing on the land since before the Civil War, Langley said. The bulbs had originally been planted by slaves outside their cabins, which had stood on the property until a few years ago, when they were moved to Stone Mountain Park. The bulbs remained and multiplied over the years, spreading over a huge field adjacent to the college buildings.

The Daffodil Festival commemorates Newton County’s past. Over the years, the festival has celebrated themes such as sustainability, Native American and African American culture and community. This year, Langley said, the theme is “Reflection.”

In addition to music and food, events during the two-day event include a talk by retired diplomat and his wife, a theater of reflection, an interactive art project, trail walks and a discussion with a former GPU student and entrepreneur.

On Tuesday, at 1:15 p.m., Isiah Parnell and his wife, Tarnice Gordon Parnell, will talk about their experiences with the diplomatic corps serving eight posts, including posts in Paraguay, Ghana, Jamaica and Mexico. 

“Our theme is reflection,” Langley said. “To hear this couple talk about their travels will be a wonderful experience.”

A Theater of Reflection follows, co-written by Langley, and looks at the history of the area and the community. “Part of it is [from] writings from people living in the community in the 1960s; part is excerpts from Dolly Burge’s [of Burge Plantation] journal.”

Dr. Peter Lyon, Dean of the college, will dedicate a plaque to the late Pierce Cline. Cline, who owned the 100 acres that glowed yellow in the spring with daffodils, helped bring Georgia Perimeter to Newton County, though the property was purchased from the Clines by the Arnold Fund in 2006.

Wednesday’s moment of reflection will be in memory of the late Konita Key, administrative assistant to the dean and a former student, who passed away last year after a long battle with cancer. Key, Langley said, was an integral member of the college’s family. “We wanted to honor her, and this year, it’s the Konita Key Memorial Day [Wednesday].”

The second Daffodil scholarship will be awarded that morning. Student Rufus Johnson will be presented with a $500 scholarship.

The trail walks between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. offer students, faculty and visitors a chance to wander through the daffodils flanked by pines.

“Reflections with a Local Entrepreneur,” with former GPU student Bradley Ross, owner of the Covington franchise of Your Pie, begins at 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday, and will be followed by the interactive art project led by Polish artist Jolanca Paterek, professor of Fine Arts at the college.

“Our art instructor will coordinate this art of reflection,” Langley said. “We’ll have 100 blank canvases available and people will be asked to draw their impression of a daffodil to commemorate of a person they have lost to cancer. We’ll keep the canvases and put them in a shape of a daffodil [as a three-dimensional sculpture].”

The sculpture will be mobile and will be on display at the Relay for Life on April 29. Participants will receive a T-shirt that displays a photo of the art they created for the sculpture.

Daffodil bulbs will be for sale both days, and will be planted on campus. People are also invited to donate to the Daffodil Scholarship Fund.

“We are really fortunate and grateful to the community who have welcomed us and embraced us,” Langley said. “I have really learned a lot about being part of a small community. Coming from the city, it’s been a blessing to see how much this community cares about higher education and that bodes well for the future.”

All events are open to the public and all GSU-Newton students. Students can also purchase daffodil bulbs in honor of or in memory of someone for $1 apiece. The bulbs will be planted on the campus for everyone to enjoy.