Population 2,965.


By Jason D. Johnson

I was back in my hometown of Leesburg, Georgia this weekend.  There are 2,965 people in Leesburg and since its incorporated date over one hundred years ago, it had produced no celebrities.


Approximately three years ago, that changed.  Now we have celebrity running out of our ears.  Starting with my classmate, Luke Bryan’s fast rising star in country music, we now also have Buster Posey (Major League Baseball Rookie of the Year and World Series star), Ray Stephenson (successful songwriter) and the latest, Phillip Phillips of American Idol fame.

Two weeks ago, American Idol came down to Leesburg to capture footage of the town to use during Phillip’s finalist run.  I’ve never watched American Idol, but as I understand it, they used the footage captured over the course of those 24 hours to showcase Phillip’s life in some fashion during the finals (last night).  Leesburg is larger than it was when I was growing up, but it still isn’t large by any stretch.  You can drive straight through it in one minute if you don’t get caught by the couple of stoplights.  There is nothing about my hometown that speaks to celebrity.  It’s a farming town.  And truly, nothing outweighs the draw of baseball in the afternoons.

That was until American Idol came to town.

In this past Sunday’s Albany Herald (the largest local newspaper), an article was written focused more on that aspect of celebrity than Phillips himself.  It pointed out the fact that a small town the size of Leesburg isn’t really prepared for the hysteria that comes when 15,000 to 20,000 people bombard your streets for a concert or to catch a glimpse of a celebrity.  Leesburg survived its dusting of Hollywood.  No one was hurt.  American Idol got just what they came to get and Phillips left to compete for another week.

I think the article was right in its proposal that a moneymaking machine such as American Idol could cause incredible grief if it isn’t careful in a town the size of ours.  Point taken, shaken and stirred.

However, after my sip of that article I realized something else that has little to do with the moneymaking machines of our times.  Everyday, because of what I do for a living, I am faced with the divisions that come with generations.  These divisions raise themselves daily in ageism, reverse ageism, communication, intolerance, etc.  So pardon me if I find it somewhat refreshing that a show that I don’t even watch has reminded me that “back where I come from” one simple guy from a pawnshop can unite generations with the greatest of ease.  My 75-year old mother is cheering him on this week.  My 44-year old former boss has voted for Phillip 50 times.  And one glance at the Internet and you know that 12-year old girls are begging their moms and dads to cast votes left and right.

Funny how the pure joy of living or the sheer thrill of watching good unfold in life knows no age.  We should practice that every single day.

Even in places where the population is greater than 2,965.


Image courtesy of Comcast.


2 Responses to “Population 2,965.”

  1. Well said. Well said. As a son of Leesburg as well, it seemed like our sleepy little town had one eye open for a day. And the day after…it seems that all went back the same. That is the nice thing about a small town like that. People still have work to do, family to take care of, and church to attend.

    Now, I have spent the last 15 years of my life in the “big cities.” And I wonder to myself….how much of my life has been lost sitting in the car, or standing in line….how much?

    • Jason D. Johnson says:

      Mr. Weasel…

      Thanks for the commentary. While larger cities contain more resources and remain more productive than small towns (see Lehrer’s latest work), the basic foundations of our culture and plenty of instruction still drifts through the sleepy streets of places like our hometown. More time is spent living IN the details than looking AT the details.

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