The Other Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, GA – Luke Boone can't remember the name of the only Florida fan who lives in town.

Or maybe he's just trying to forget the lone, perhaps brave, soul who supports the Gators in this sleepy South Georgia town.

For years, the Dawgs and their hated rivals, Florida, have been meeting in Jacksonville, Fla., to play football. But the namesake town in Georgia couldn't be more different than its southern neighbors.

The old joke is that Jacksonville, Fla., is the biggest city in South Georgia, and that joke may still hold true. Still, tiny Jacksonville, Ga., is legitimately in South Georgia – but it isn't making the case for being big any time soon.

The two towns with the same name have almost nothing in common.

"We are a small town with a big heart," Boone said. "Everyone knows everyone."

"Jacksonville, Georgia?" asked Jacksonville, Fla. native and Bulldog cornerback Derek Owens when questioned if he'd ever heard of it. "For real? Small town with a 100 people? Just a 100 people? What is there to do? I know everyone knows everyone."

The same cannot be said for Jacksonville, Fla.

Jacksonville, Fla., is the largest city in the Sunshine State. It has a population of over 735,000, four local television stations, three U.S. Interstates running through it, an NFL football team… and even an annual Cocktail Party that is said to be the largest one in the world held outdoors.

Jacksonville, Ga., is the 14th-smallest town in Georgia. One hundred eighteen people live within the one-mile town limits, which are on the southern edge of Telfair County. It has no television stations and no NFL football team. It has a bar called Boone's Saloon (more on that soon), no police chief and its mayor may or may not live in town.

It does have U.S. 441, a major U.S. Highway, running through the middle of town. It is the road that goes from Athens to Gainesville, and connects both the Gators and the Bulldogs the same way Jacksonville, Fla., does.

But unlike its southern neighbor, you will be hard pressed to find Gator fans in Jacksonville, Ga. The Bulldogs are still in favor down here – and in a big way.

"Georgia was all we've been raised on around here," said Boone. "You ride around here – the majority of the people around here; they all have a Georgia tag on their car. You won't hardly find a Florida fan around here."

"We have a lot of Florida people that come up here and hunt, but they don't live here," he added.

Located just off Highway 441, Boone and his family run Boone's Grocery and used to run the infamous Boone's Saloon. When asked what Jacksonville is known for, Boone gave a definitive answer.

"Raising hell and having a good time… there is no other recreation around here," he said.

In fact, Boone's family has helped Jacksonville, Ga. create a World's Smallest Cocktail Party-like feel to it over the years.

"Boone's Saloon is the only place in town that serves alcohol," he said of the place his family owned until recently. The establishment is under new management now, but in previous years, Boone said, Boone's Saloon wasn't too far off from what you might see on game day in Jacksonville, Fla.

"I think most people remember when Alabama (the country band; not Nick Saban and Mark Ingram) came to Boone's Salon. In its heyday, there would be 200-300 people in the parking lot," he said.

Boone's Saloon currently advertises: "Beer, liquor and all other booze – it all ends up in the same place."

Tailgating anyone?

"Back in the day, Jacksonville was the place you had to go through," Boone said. "There are still a lot of trucks that come through here. We still have a lot of Florida people that stop through here."

A lot of Georgia fans stop, too. Some were talking about traveling to the upcoming big game this weekend, Boone said.

"I heard people today talking about getting ready to go to the game. One guy had rented out a parking lot," he said.

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