The History: Great Scot! Coweta Prepares to Welcome Students from Abroad
By JENNY ENDERLIN, Special to The Paper
This July, Scotland’s Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra (AFO) will return to the United States for the first time since the COVID pandemic. Their first tour stop is Newnan, and the five dozen young musicians will have the opportunity to stay in local homes, learn about American culture, and perform at the Wadsworth Auditorium. The trip is an extension of the international sister-city relationship between Newnan and the city of Ayr (and likewise, sister-county relationship between Coweta and South Ayrshire) forged in the 1990s.
Coweta’s heritage has long been linked to Scotland. Chief William McIntosh, Jr., an admittedly controversial figure in history whose father was Scottish and mother was Creek, played a huge role in the formation of Coweta. Scottish-American industrialist Andrew Carnegie built Carnegie libraries both in Newnan and Ayr, and throughout the 1700s and 1800s, a number of Scottish families settled in Georgia.
Today, Scottish heritage is celebrated throughout the county. Each year in January, Larisa Scott, Executive Director of the McRitchie-Hollis Museum, and her husband, Michael Scott, facilitate the Newnan Burns Weekend which celebrates famed poet Robert Burns who was born in Ayr. Periodically, representatives from Newnan, which in the past have included Bette Hickman, Phyllis Graham, Cynthia Bennett, and Mayor Keith Brady, have visited Ayr as an expression of the continued commitment to the sister-city, sister-county relationship.
At present, the AFO Steering Committee, which is made up of city and county employees, Explore Newnan-Coweta, members of the Newnan Cultural Arts Commission, and other local citizens is diligently planning the multi-day itinerary.
“I’m so glad to be back surrounded with so much energy to make this event first class in every way!” says Co-chair Bette Hickman who recently returned from an extended stay abroad. The activities planned include a hoedown barbeque, pool party, and a much-anticipated concert.
“I just think that the energy these young people have – because they’ve spent a lot of time on their craft – is reflected in the music. It makes you want to dance and move!” says Co-chair Phyllis Graham who also notes the importance of the arts when it comes to healing and connection. “It’s an opportunity for the community to come together for something that’s positive, for celebrating the gifts that we’re given!”
Families interested in hosting the foreign students can apply on the City of Newnan website. A formal background check is required. For more information, contact the City of Newnan at (770) 254-2358.
Jenny Enderlin is a local writer who received her degree in English from Florida State University. She is a Marine Corps spouse and a board member of the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society and the Newnan Cultural Arts Commission.