When I tell people I live in Alabama, they usually think I’m close to Birmingham. I actually live 3-4 hours south of Birmingham and have never been here; Alabama is bigger than you think! Chances are, if you are not an Alabama native, you’re not exactly up to speed on your Alabama geography, and I’m sure if my fiance and I had not moved here with the Army, we would never have heard of the area known as the “Wiregrass.” This area includes southeast Alabama, very northern Florida, and southwest Georgia. You might be wondering what on earth there is to do in this area of the country—I know I was! Well, you just have to know where to look.
If you’re feeling ambitious, Atlanta is only 3 and half hours away, and there are so many thing to do there I couldn’t even begin to count (the aquarium is fun; the Coca Cola factory lets active duty military in free!) Montgomery, the capitol of Alabama, is not quite two hours away, and that’s where you’ll find the closest reasonably priced airfare. Panama City and Destin, Florida, are only a two and a half hour drive—here you can find the Gulf of Mexico, many beaches, and all accompanying activities (crab restaurants!)
But no one wants to go that far every weekend, and certainly not with the high gas prices we have had lately as a result of hurricane season. So what is there to do in your own backyard down here? The first thing you have to see in Enterprise is the statue in the middle of town. Long ago, the Boll Weevil, an insect, destroyed all of the area’s cotton crops. Farmers were forced to switch to another crop, peanuts, which turned out to be a fantastic economic change for the region. The statue was erected in 1919 to honor the Boll Weevil for bringing, in a roundabout way, prosperity to the area. Originally the statue was just a woman; the Boll Weevil at the top was added in 1949. The statue in the center of town now is just a replica—the original was moved to the Enterprise Depot Museum in 1998 due to vandalism (the Boll Weevil was stolen right off the top). It is the only statue in the country and most likely in the world to honor an agricultural pest.
Peanuts are also honored in the Wiregrass area. The city of Dothan, 30 miles from Enterprise, is known as the Peanut Capital of the Nation, and rightly so. Sixty-five percent of all the peanuts grown in the United States are grown within a 100 mile radius of Dothan! To celebrate this title, Dothan holds the National Peanut Festival every fall. The festival was first held in 1938 and lasted 3 days; it is now a 10 day event that draws over 163,000 visitors. Be prepared to wait in line to park! At the festival, you can find more than your average share of carnival rides, carnival games, displays (this year they had sea lions!), arts and crafts, a parade, fireworks, and a Miss National Peanut Festival Pageant. In addition, Dothan is a good place for many army wives to find jobs. There also an airport here, although it is horribly overpriced and only flies to and from Atlanta.
Speaking of army wives: last but never least, the Wiregrass area is the home of Ft. Rucker, the primary home of Army Aviation and flight training. It is also the home of Warrant Officer Candidate (WOC) School. Ft. Rucker opened on May 1, 1942 as Camp Rucker (the name was changed in 1955). The population on post in the 2000 census was 6,000, but many army folks live off post. The important thing to remember is that because of this, Enterprise and neighboring Daleville are much more transient areas than other towns. Flight training generally takes about one and a half to two years, so the real estate trends don’t necessarily follow the economic trends since people are always buying, selling, and renting. I have never seen so many townhouses in my life as in Enterprise, Alabama!
So, bottom line: there is more happening here than you think. A good place to get more information about local events and activities in the Wiregrass is on the website of the local radio station, WKMX in their “What’s Up Wiregrass” section. There are things going on at Ft. Rucker several times a month, so there are no excuses for not getting out and getting to know the area! (end)
Katrina Rodgers is a Gettysburg College graduate with a degree in Women’s Studies. She is currently living in Enterprise, Alabama with her fiance and looking forward to finally marrying him in December!