Toombs County was created in 1905,
carved out of parts of Emanuel, Montgomery and Tattnall counties.
It was named in honor of Robert Toombs, who served Georgia in the
U.S. Senate and served briefly as Confederate secretary of state. The
county seat is the City of Lyons, and Vidalia is the largest City
in Toombs County. Vidalia was named
by the daughter of the man who built the Savannah, Americus and
Montgomery Railroad, and is a contraction of ``via dalia,'' for
``by way of the dahlias.'' Toombs County is also home to Santa Claus,
a community of about 154 people. People visit the City of Santa
Claus each December to have their Christmas cards postmarked.
The City of Vidalia
is governed by a mayor, Ronnie A. Dixon, and five city councilmen.
Toombs County has five county commissioners, with Charles Rustin
serving as the chairman. The City of Lyons governing body
consists of Mayor John Moore and five city councilmen.
According to the 2000 census, there were over 26,000 citizens in the county,
with over 10,000 living in Vidalia and approximately 4,000 living
Toombs County has two public school
systems, a county system and Vidalia city schools. Four campuses
constitute the Vidalia city schools: a primary, an elementary, a
middle school and high school. The Toombs County school system also
has four schools. There are also two private schools, Robert Toombs
Christian Academy offering K-12 and Heritage Academy which offers grades K-8.
Vidalia has excellent medical services provided by a variety of
health care professionals and anchored by a state of the art medical
facility, "Meadows Regional Medical Center." The Tombs County Health Department
also offers a variety of services and is headquartered in Lyons.
Toombs County has two recreation departments, one in Vidalia and
one in Lyons, which provide a number of activities including sports
and swimming. Vidalia also offers two 18 hole golf courses,
Vidalia Country Club and Rocky Creek Golf Club.
The City of Vidalia is known world wide as the home of the Sweet
Vidalia Onion. The City hosts the Vidalia Onion
Festival each year in late spring, celebrating the onion so sweet
it can be eaten like an apple. The festival features an onion
cook-off, an onion-eating contest, an onion run, a beauty pageant,
sports tournaments, an air show, a street dance, and arts
and crafts displays. Thousands of people attend the annual celebration.
The City of Lyons hosts the Southeast Georgia
Regional Soap Box Derby each June. The winner travels to Akron, Ohio
to compete in the national finals.
VIDALIA ONION STORY"
Vidalia Onion Story takes root in Toombs County, Georgia over
60 years ago when a farmer by the name of Mose Coleman discovered,
in the late spring of 1931, the onions he had planted were not
hot, as he expected. They were sweet! It was a struggle to sell
the onions at first, but Mose persevered and managed to sell
them for $3.50 per 50-pound bag, which in those days was a big
price. Other farmers, who through the Depression years had not
been able to get a fair price for their produce, thought Coleman
had found a gold mine. They began to follow suit, and soon after,
their farms were also producing the sweet, mild onion.
1940's, the State of Georgia built a Farmer's Market in Vidalia,
and because the small town was at the juncture of some of South
Georgia's most widely traveled highways, the market had a thriving
tourist business. Word began to spread about "those Vidalia
onions". Consumers then gave the onions their famous name.
Reorders were made, and "Vidalia Onions" began appearing
on the shelves of Piggly Wiggly and A & P grocery stores.
Through the 1950s and 60s, production grew at a slow but steady
pace, reaching some 600 total acres by the mid 1970s. At that
point, a push was made for Vidalia Onions to be distributed throughout
the nation, and several promotional efforts were begun. Onion
festivals became an annual event in both Vidalia and nearby Glennville,
Georgia, and production grew tenfold over the next decade. In
1986, Georgia's State Legislature passed legislation giving the
Vidalia Onion legal status and defining the 20-county production
area. The Vidalia Onion was named Georgia's Official State Vegetable
by the State Legislature in 1990. In 1989, Vidalia Onion producers
united to establish Federal Marketing Order No. 955 for the crop.
This USDA program established the Vidalia Onion Committee and
extended the definition of a Vidalia Onion to the Federal level.
The Marketing Order provided a vehicle for producers to jointly
fund research and promotional programs.
Beginning in 1990, technology
borrowed from the apple industry was adapted to begin the controlled
atmosphere (CA) storage of Vidalia Onions. Now some 20,000,000
pounds of Vidalia Onions can be put into CA storage for up to
six months, thus extending the marketing of the Vidalias through
the fall and into the holiday season.
In 1991, the Vidalia Onion Committee began to annually honor one
individual with introduction into the Vidalia Onion Hall of Fame.
The committee considers the recipient's character, reputation and
overall contribution to the growth and success of the Vidalia
Onion. Inductees must be a leader in one or more of the following
areas: protecting and promoting the name of the Vidalia Onion;
protecting and promoting the quality of the Vidalia Onion;
advertising and promoting the Vidalia Onion; sales of Vidalia
Onions and creative selling methods; or research and growth
development of the Vidalia Onion.