Zombie television show turns Georgia town into tourism hub

Fri Mar 29, 2013 12:35pm EDT
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By Colleen Jenkins

SENOIA, Georgia (Reuters) - Frank Hollberg III, whose family has sold furniture in Senoia, Georgia since 1894, laughed as he recalled the odd sight of watching a man walk through the idyllic downtown holding a head in his hand.

The head was a prop and the man an actor filming "The Walking Dead," the hit zombie-themed television series that has drawn millions of fans worldwide and helped turn the small town 25 miles south of Atlanta into a thriving tourist attraction.

Senoia, pronounced "Seh-noy" by its 3,300 residents, had seen its fortunes fade after the local cotton and agricultural industries died off. But the town now boasts a retail district that grew from six to 49 businesses in half a dozen years.

Country music singer Zac Brown has opened a restaurant and live music venue on Main Street, and two home showcases by Southern Living magazine's popular "Idea House" program brought about 30,000 visitors to Senoia in 2010 and again in 2012, local officials said.

"It's been a hell of a lot of changes in this town," said Hollberg, 77. "It's a different world."

Hollberg and other locals credit most of the newfound popularity to the success of the weekly AMC cable network series. "The Walking Dead" averages 7 million U.S. viewers ages 18 to 49, making it the top-rated drama for that demographic in cable history, according to AMC.

Fans proved eager to get a behind-the-scenes look at filming in and around Senoia, which for the show's third season was transformed into the fictional town of Woodbury. The season finale airs on Sunday.

They found a town that had stopped cutting the grass and weeding the flower beds to foster an authentic post-apocalyptic setting, said Mayor Robert Belisle. Stores displayed zombie-themed T-shirts next to baby clothes and home decor items.   Continued...

The Senoia Coffee and Cafe Shop displays the Woodbury Coffee House sign that was hung outside during the filming of the TV show The Walking Dead, in Senoia, Georgia, March 18, 2013. REUTERS/Colleen Jenkins