Summer is notoriously slow in Athens, as the university empties out and local folks hunker down in their climate-controlled caves to insert-streaming-service and chill. But all is not quiet at Flagpole during the summer months, as our elves get busy prepping yet another edition of the annual Flagpole Guide to Athens, a glossy publication designed to give visitors the lay of the land, as well as to remind residents—and ourselves—what makes this town, with all its challenges, such a special place to call home.
Constructing the Guide is a labor of love for all involved, from Flagpole’s writers and editors to our designers, ad reps, photographers and distribution wizards. It takes a whole bunch of time and energy, and yes, it eats up a chunk of our summer. (No backyard pool parties at 220 Prince until the Guide is wrapped up.) We put a lot into it with the hope that readers will get a lot out of it, whether they’re trying to figure out where to eat or drink, where to stay or play, how to find kid-friendly entertainment, how to catch a concert or local theater production—the list goes on.
The 2019–2020 Guide will start popping up this week on racks, at hotels, in restaurants and shops and just about all over town. (It’s also available at guide.flagpole.com.) It’s free, so grab your copy, and keep it on hand. And please, take a minute to admire this year’s cover photograph, shot by proud Athenian Jason Thrasher and featuring just a few of the people who make the Classic City the unique, creative and kind place we all know it to be.
Who are those people, you ask? Allow us to introduce this year’s Flagpole Guide to Athens cover models:
1. Naoko Uno
A musician and doctoral student at UGA’s Center for Vaccines and Immunology, the Japanese-born Uno says Athens has come to feel like home. “Not to sound like an Olive Garden commercial, but Athens is like a part of my family,” she says. “I especially love the relaxed yet inspiring vibe of the city. Athens has so many talented and intelligent people who also don't take themselves too seriously.”
2. Vernon Thornsberry
A tireless creative mind and constant local presence, New Orleans native Thornsberry arrived during Athens’ mid-’80s renaissance and has remained a fixture since. Like his adoptive home, Thornsberry is multifaceted. “People know me different ways,” he told Flagpole in 2016. “Sometimes, people know that I am a musician. Sometimes, people know me as an artist. Sometimes, people know me as a musician and an artist, and sometimes, people know me as a writer [and] a poet.”
3. Trevor “Miss He” Blake
A popular local drag queen and member of DIY troupe The Kourtesans, Blake says Athens has been personally and professionally fundamental. “Athens is a unique little town that has some of the most incredible talent just oozing out of it,” Blake says. “As I grow as a performer, I will forever credit the five years I have lived here as one of my biggest influences.”
4. Elizabeth Impaler, BadAsh Booher, Louis Strongarm, Delia Derbyfire
These four members of local roller derby squad Classic City Rollergirls represent the Classic City’s toughness, inclusiveness and heart. “I love that Athens, like roller derby, embraces all cultures and lifestyles, fostering a sense of family within our community,” says Impaler, aka Vanessa Zerpa.
5. Jennifer Mendel
An instructor at Fuel Hot Yoga, Mendel moved to Athens from Austin, TX and has finished as a top-10 finalist in a national yoga competition. Her dedication to wellness and movement reflects Athens’ reputation as a place where folks stay active, informed and engaged.
6. Elinor Saragoussi
A visual artist and musician, Saragoussi came to Athens from Denver last year and has quickly made her mark on the local creative community. “Albeit small, Athens is full of so many hidden nooks and crannies, which keep this town continually intriguing,” she says. “Also: lots of cute pups.”
7. Nicholas Gould
A member of the vocal group Athens Cowboy Choir, Gould is a testament to the adage that—here, especially—one should always expect the unexpected. “Athens always makes me think of Pirate Town from the movie Hook,” he says. “It’s the only place I’ve ever lived that feels like home. You can be a freak of nature here and fit in. Plus, there’s always good rock and roll to go listen to.”
8. Charles Greenleaf
A longtime local musician and Flagpole’s circulation chief, Greenleaf is largely responsible for making sure the Guide—not to mention the weekly Flagpole—reaches readers on time and intact. “In my opinion, Athens is so great because of the people who make up our city,” says Greenleaf, before listing no fewer than 20 folks who inspire him, including Uno, Thornsberry, music engineer Jim Hawkins, the late Vic Chesnutt and Jeremy Ayers, hip-hop artist and ACC Commissioner Mariah Parker and Flagpole Arts Editor Jessica Smith.
9. Lemuel “Life" LaRoche
As executive director of Chess and Community, LaRoche teaches the game to local youth in order to empower an underserved segment of the Athens community and instill life skills. “I want to help the kids as much as I can, but I also realize that poverty is real, and that they have a lot of obstacles in front of them,” LaRoche told Flagpole earlier this year. “I want them to recognize who they are, and that they control their own narratives.”