Actual Factual Georgia

Q: What’s there to do in the suburbs on New Year’s Eve?

A: You can ring in the new year – and still be home in time to catch the end of Dick Clark's broadcast by attending New Year's Eve events in your own community. The local celebrations have free admission, allowing you to start the new year by keeping your resolution to save money. The family friendly Lawrenceville Rings runs from 3 p.m.-midnight in downtown Lawrenceville. Last year, Duluth got funky with a 200-pound disco ball rising at midnight from a tower. Expect another one-of-a-kind design, plus fireworks and music, at the 2nd Annual New Year's Eve Extravaganza, from 7 p.m. to midnight at the Duluth Town Green. At Radio Disney Noon Year's Eve at the Smyrna Community Center, forget the ball drop – it has the big balloon drop at noon.

Q: Why do Southerners eat black-eyed peas and collard greens on New Year’s Day?

A: As The Black Eyed Peas sang, I gotta feeling that you'll want to begin this tradition at your house if you're dreading those holiday bills. Eating black-eyed peas and collard greens symbolize good luck and prosperity, and these days, we need all of that that we can get. Susan Puckett, the AJC's former food editor and a cookbook author, agreed with Jessica Harris' description of the tradition on Harris, an authority on African-American and Caribbean cuisine, writes that the peas are believed to represent coins. Greens are believed to symbolize folding money, or cash. Some reports date this tradition to a Jewish New Year's custom from more than 2,500 years ago. Others trace the origin to the Civil War, when Southerners ate black-eyed peas after Union troops destroyed other food. Other lore is tied to slaves celebrating their freedom with black-eyed peas and greens. One problem: Cook those greens with ham hocks and your resolution to lose weight will have to wait a day.

Q: Who created the Cyclorama and why?

A: Forget about theatre in the round. Atlanta has war in the round. This frequent field trip stop in Grant Park has captured Atlantans' attention for years because of its size, as the largest oil painting in the world, and portrayal of the Battle of Atlanta. The painting was believed to be commissioned to assist Gen. John A. Logan, commander of the Union Army of the Tennessee in the battle, in his 1884 vice presidential bid. American Panorama Co., based in Milwaukee, was commissioned and hired German artists to paint the Battle of Atlanta. In 1887, painting owner William Wehner put it on exhibition in Detroit, and it went from city to city, publicized as Logan's Great Battle. Logan died in 1886, however, and is believed to have not seen the finished mural. The painting switched owners when Wehner met legal difficulties, and eventually, Madison's Paul Atkinson purchased it in 1890. He brought it to a drum-shaped building on Edgewood Avenue in 1892. The painting ended up in 1893 with owners George Valentine Gress (Grant Park Zoo founder) and Charles Northen, who asked the city to put it in a park. Gress gave the painting, which currently measures 42 feet high and 358 feet in circumference, to the city in 1898.

What do you want to know?

If you’re new in town or just have questions about this special place we call home, ask us! E-mail Lori Johnston at q&