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Hall County’s ‘Goat Rock’ to celebrate Election Day losers

The area of A Avenue and 1st Street in Gainesville where Hall County will install the "Goat Rock" for failed political candidates. (Photo from Google Earth.)

By John Ruch

In a political campaign era scarred by extremely sore losers, Hall County is offering an alternative — an Election Day unveiling of a “Goat Rock” where failed candidates can gather.

The stone-cold monument, to be erected at a Gainesville intersection, will embody a humorous local political legend about the place candidates go to lick their ego wounds after a ballot box defeat. It’s the brainchild of Gainesville Board of Education member Sammy Smith, whose background in public relations kicked in when he saw large rocks unearthed at the site of a new middle school.

“Goat Rock has been a long-standing legend of Hall County since the early 1960s, a place where the losers of elections would go to drown their sorrows,” said Smith in a County press release. “By securing a physical Goat Rock, Hall County residents and visitors alike can enjoy a piece of local lore.”

Smith told SaportaReport that “we’ll unveil on Election Day and invite all ‘losers henceforth’ to visit Goat Rock.”

According to Gainesville Times stories, Goat Rock was dreamed up by the late J.W. “Jake” Tolbert, a County justice of the peace who was a perennial candidate for other offices that he never won. He referred to Goat Rock as an actual building or town somewhere in the county where he would lay low after election losses, which were so plentiful he became known as its “mayor.”

Over time, other losing candidates who similarly laid low were said to have “gone to Goat Rock.” The name presumably referred to the sports term of being the “goat” – the player who caused a team’s loss.

The physical Goat Rock will be set up along the Highlands to Islands multiuse trail at A Avenue and 1st Street in Gainesville. As a stark reminder to this year’s candidates about the stakes, the County will unveil the rock in a public ceremony on Election Day, Nov. 8, at 1 p.m., just hours before the polls close.

“Although the actual location of Goat Rock in Hall County was never known, we feel its placement on the Highlands to Islands trail is appropriate and will provide ample opportunity for visitors (and losing electors) to enjoy its presence,” said District 4 County Commissioner Jeff Stowe in the press release.

Smith told SaportaReport that he has a list of about 30 people who have lost elections over the past dozen years and “will be specially invited to the event,” adding, “Some will decline, as expected.”

In post-Jan. 6 politics short on good sports like Jake Tolbert and when “goat” more often means “greatest of all time,” maybe Hall County’s rock can bring campaigns down to earth.


Update: This story has been updated with comment from Gainesville Board of Education member Sammy Smith.


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