Two days every year, Callaway Gardens opens its gates to visitors -- for free. And today is one.
The Gardens will open free of charge today for Founders' Day, which celebrates the birthdays of Cason J. Callaway and his wife, Virginia Hand Callaway. Cason's birthday is Nov. 6 and Virginia's birthday is Feb. 21.
The couple took thousands of acres in Pine Mountain, Ga., in 1952 and began developing it into the resort that it is today.
"Mr. Callaway died in 1961, and I think we've been doing it since 1962," said Patricia Collins, director of the Gardens. "I remember when I first came here, (Mrs. Callaway) would have a chapel service. Mildred Davis would play the organ."
Collins' husband, the Rev. Mabry Collins, was a minister and he would often conduct the service. He's now retired.
"We would do it sometimes on the Saturday closest to Nov. 6," Collins said. "I think that was in the early 1960s. I can't absolutely say so, but I think it was."
After a few years, no minister would speak, but there would be an organ concert. Now, the organ is played between noon and 4 p.m.
Attractions that are open include the butterfly conservatory and horticultural and discovery centers. Visitors can also walk along the inland beach and nature trails.
The Birds of Prey show can be seen at 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. in the Discovery Amphitheater and 12:30 p.m. in the Discovery Center Auditorium.
The TreeTop Adventure & Zip Lines course is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and costs an additional $35. The new lake course is $15.
Because Callaway Gardens has been conducting the free admission on Founders' Day for more than 50 years, Collins said "people know it's free so we usually have pretty good attendance."
The Gardens will open at 9 a.m. The attractions close at 5 p.m. and the Gardens will close at sundown.
IF YOU GO
What: Founders' Day at Callaway Gardens. It celebrates Cason J. Callaway (Nov. 6) and Virginia Hand Callaway's (Feb. 21) birthdays.
When: 9 a.m.-sundown today
Where: Callaway Gardens, about 35 miles north of Columbus on U.S. Highway 27