Proms and puppets in Georgia

Friday 12 to Monday 15 April

We arrived in Savannah in time to have a quick look around the city.

First established in 1733, it was a strategic port city in the American Revolutions and the Civil War.

The downtown area was designed by James Oglethorpe, with repeated squares of residential blocks, commercial blocks and small green parks to create integrated, walkable neighbourhoods.

We wandered down to the famous waterfront where numerous bars and eateries are located. Friday night and it was busy – families, groups of young girls, tourists.

The city hosted the sailing competitions during the 1996 Olympics and a monument was on the waterfront in Morrell Park.

There is also a lovely sculpture to Savannah’s Waving Girl. Legend has it that not a ship sailed past between 1887 and 1931 that Florence Martus (1868–1943), did not greet. She would wave a handkerchief by day and a lantern by night.

Finding somewhere to eat proved challenging, but we settled on Moon River where service was slow but our ‘server’ was friendly. And much to her delight, we enjoyed the real Fried Green Tomatoes.

We meandered back to hotel to prepare for a long drive to Atlanta tomorrow.

Our hosts at our hotel in Atlanta suggested Fred’s Country Kitchen just down the road for a genuine meal. Our ‘server’ realised we were foreigners, so set us up with a window seat and a view across the road to a hall where there was an event – we assumed a High School Prom event. We watched the young people dressed up and waiting to enter, and leave. However, there was one young man who spent the entire time on the phone or waiting by the car park – it appeared he had been dumped. Our hearts went out to him.

It was wet the next morning. Our plan was to explore Atlanta but also visit the Centre for Puppetry Arts Museum. We put the museum first. It was amazing. It was Jim Henson’s story.

Henson was still at school when he auditioned for a puppet segment on TV. And he got it.

He started creating puppet shows for adults with a huge amount of advertising, some of it was blatantly offensive.

In the late 1950s he was asked by the new ‘Children’s Workshop’ to create characters that would help pre-schoolers with their learning. Henson had already liked the idea of opposing characters such as Bert and Ernie. So he started Sesame Street.

But he needed to go beyond the children’s workshop model and wanted to create something more fanciful. So Muppet movies and other characters came out of that. The needs of these longer more complex stories pushed the boundaries into remote controlled puppetry using small motors to control some movements and then electronically remote control. Finally, for the Dark Crystal he entered the world of CGI.

About the same time Henson formed a relationship with George Lucas for Star Wars and assisted with development of puppetry for Obi One Kanobe and Yoda.

No doubt a creative and inventive mind, always pushing the boundaries.

In another exhibition Puppets of the World looked at other puppetry, mostly in the USA but it did pay homage to European, Central and South American and Asian styles of puppetry, which we had certainly come across in other travels.

The special exhibition was on the development of The Dark Crystal movie.

The rain had stopped by the time we finished at the museum. It was Sunday so we opted for a walk to Piedmont Park where we found the annual Atlanta Dogwood Festival in full swing. It is Atlanta’s annual celebration of the blooming of its native dogwood trees

There was lots of arts and crafts for sale and a band playing.

There was an unexpected rainfall in the evening, so we opted for a meal in our hotel – unusual for us.

On the way out next morning I had tracked down a beautiful wool shop called Yarning for Ewe, where I bought wool and needles to knit a jacket for baby Stainsby Martinez. Something to entertain me on the long drives ahead.