Thursday’s dedication of Renaissance Park on Statesboro’s west side took on the feel of a gospel revival as residents celebrated the Bulloch County Historical Society’s commitment to making the park a vibrant part of the community once again.
Located at the intersection of West Jones Ave. and Parker St., people in attendance kept cool with hand-held fans as they stood in the shade of the park’s hardwoods.
“This is a wonderful occasion for me because this is a real ‘Renaissance’ for this park,” said Virginia Anne Waters, executive director of the Historical Society. “Seeing the beauty of this park today is one of the reasons being part of the Historical Society is so much fun and so fulfilling.”
The center of the dedication was a refurbished metal structure of the Bulloch County Courthouse clock tower. The sculpture was used in the halftime show for the NCAA Division 1-AA National Championship game played at Paulson Stadium in 1990.
“Georgia Southern had lost three of their first four games that season to go on to win their fourth National Championship,” said Joe McGlamery, president of the Bulloch County Historical Society, in his welcoming statement. “And this part of Statesboro has come back in an amazing way. We’re here to dedicate this park to the citizens of Statesboro and Bulloch County, especially to the west side of Statesboro.”
McGlamery said there were many ways to preserve history, and one such way was the use of this sculpture.
“We can take structures like this — a beautiful piece of art that was laying on its side, rusting, in someone’s back yard — and bring it back to life and add it to this park.”
The newly formed choir from the Boys and Girls Club started the dedication with “God Bless America” and a rendition of the African song “Kusimama.”
Then the choir of the 2nd St. John Missionary Baptist Church took over with two gospel songs that had the crowd answering with “Amens” and clapping along. Statesboro City Council Member Gary Lewis offered his own full gospel vocals to close the musical part of the dedication.
Interim City Manager Robert Cheshire shared a history of Renaissance Park.
“This is a good example of how you take a little bit of negative and make some positive out of it,” he said. “This property used to flood just about every time it rained because of the ditch near here. The city council purchased it; we raised it up so the water would go around it. With a little bit of work and nourishing and a council that supports it and with help from the Historical Society, 23 years later, we have a beautiful site we can use for programs and gatherings like this.”
Georgia Southern professor emeritus Mical Whitaker concluded the dedication with his emotional reading of the poem, “Be the Best of Whatever You Are.”