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Johnny Sparks of Ringgold, Ga., looks at Civil War relics as he walks down rows of tables during the Chickamauga Civil War Show Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018 at the Dalton Convention Center in Dalton, Ga. Sparks, who is a member of the Sons of the American Veterans, said he has visited the event for about 18 years and is alway amazed at the vast array of items people have collected.

In 2001, Raye Brooks moved to Ringgold to get closer to her boyfriend. She came from the big city — Chattanooga, that is. And while some folks north of the state line roll their eyes when they talk about quaint places like Ringgold — What do you do there? How many stoplights are there, even? — Brooks loves the pulse of the town.

"I've always felt really safe here," she says. "It's a great community. It's a great group of people. We have a good sheriff's department. They stay on top of people around here."

The man she moved there for became her husband. They've been married for 13 years and live on a secluded 10 acres. She loves her garden and "fiddlin'" with the horses.

She also loves the commerce. Specifically, Ringgold Art and Frame Gallery, which she opened on Nashville Street. There, customers can see her handy work on frames along with other fine art, like pottery and handmade jewelry from local artisans.

Brooks is president of Ringgold Downtown Partners, an organization that meets monthly to promote local business. Among other efforts, the group organized the Ringgold Junk Market, held every April and September. Antique sellers set up downtown on a Friday and Saturday, drawing customers from all over the region.

"I can't believe how many people go junkin'," Brooks says. "It's gotten to be really big."

WHERE BROOKS LIKES TO EAT

Farm to Fork: A repeat "Best of the Best" contender as nominated and voted on by Chattanooga Times Free Press readers, this elevated Southern-style restaurant uses fresh ingredients to whip up everything from mahi mahi tacos to a slow-smoked coffee brisket sandwich to sides like loaded potato cakes and fried okra. 120 General Lee Drive. Call 706-937-3675.

Home Plate Grill: Offering downhome cuisine like hand-breaded catfish and country-fried steak, there are some "curve balls" — meatloaf on Tuesdays and and Saturdays and chicken Parmesan and spaghetti on Wednesdays, for example. The barbecue is also offered to-go, by the pound or the pint. 7807 Nashville St. Call 706-935-4663.

Pepper's Fresh Mexican Restaurant: A relatively new, unassuming Tex-Mex restaurant that boasts the addition of several unexpected pastas and the Monday night special of chipotle barbecue ribs. 7859 Nashville St. Call 706-937-9000.

Some of her favorite places to eat in town are Farm to Fork, Pepper's Fresh Mexican Restaurant and Home Plate Grill. For fun, she enjoys checking out the plays at Ringgold Playhouse.

She also enjoys taking strolls around Chickamauga Creek, soaking up a little time in the woods, near the water. This is the spirit of a small town, a chance to slow down and enjoy seemingly simple things.

Brooks likes the small-town feel, the idea of building close connections with neighbors. After the tornadoes hit in 2011, she was among a group of residents who banded together, planting 348 trees in town.

"When you live in a small town," Brooks says, "the community pulls together when there's a crisis. Everybody here knows everybody. It's just a great community. That's what I love about being down here. Big cities, you're lucky if you know your neighbor."

BY THE NUMBERS

WHO WE ARE

Median household income: $41,098

Population: 4,344 (2016 estimates)

Median age: 33.7

White: 80.8%

Black or African-American: 8.1%

American Indian or native Alaskan: 0.97%

Asian: 6.9%

Hispanic or Latino (of any race): 7.2%

Two or more races: 3.2%

*Does not total 100% due to overlap.

Source: American FactFinder

WHERE WE LIVE

Median home value: $182,715

Appreciation since 2000: 35.35%

Homeowners: 53.9%

Source: NeighborhoodScout

» The market inside the city limits of Ringgold is stronger than what's around it. According to the Chattanooga Realtors Association, there were 88 homes for sale in Ringgold in early April. There were also 54 homes for sale in Catoosa County outside city limits. The homes in Ringgold were on sale for about $104 per square foot. In the county but outside the city, the homes were listed at $92 per square foot.

In the previous 12 months, there had been 41 home builds in Catoosa County, outside Ringgold. Those homes went for $116 per square foot. During the same time frame, there were 45 home starts in Ringgold. Those sold for $119 per square foot.

OUR SCHOOLS

Ringgold Primary (K-2)

Population: 476

Report Card (limited data available; most recent year, 2014): Schoolwide grade A

Ringgold Elementary (3-5)

Population: 485

Report Card: Schoolwide grade C (72.1)

» Overall performance is higher than 43% of schools in the state but lower than the Catoosa County Schools district.

» Academic growth is higher than 34% of schools in the state and lower than the district.

» 47.4% of RES third-grade students are reading at or above the grade level target.

Tiger Creek Elementary (K-5)

Population: 451

Report Card: Schoolwide grade C (72.4)

» Overall performance is higher than 44% of schools in the state yet lower than the district.

» Academic growth is higher than 26% of schools in the state and lower than the district.

» 64.1% of TCE third-grade students are reading at or above the grade level target.

» In addition to a school nurse, Tiger Creek Elementary has an independent on-site medical clinic staffed by licensed professionals. Offering dental, medical, nutrition and behavioral health services, it not only serves students and teachers, but parents and the community.

Ringgold Middle

Population: 757

Report Card: Schoolwide grade B (88.8)

» Overall performance is higher than 87% of schools in the state and is higher than the district.

» Academic growth is higher than 99% of schools in the state and higher than the district.

» 80.6% of RMS eighth-grade students are reading at or above the grade level target.

» Ringgold Middle School is "Beating the Odds," meaning it has a CCRPI score that is higher than similar schools' and higher than what would be predicted based on its school characteristics, such as the makeup of the student body, grades served and enrollment. Ringgold Middle received a bronze award for greatest gains.

Ringgold High

Population: 1,055

Report Card: Schoolwide grade B (81.1)

» Overall performance is higher than 69% of schools in the state and is higher than the district.

» Academic growth is higher than 42% of schools in the state but lower than the district.

» Four-year graduation rate is 91.1%, which is higher than 74% of high schools in the state and higher than the district.

» 53.8% of RHS graduates are "college ready."

Source: 2016-17 Georgia School Grades Reports

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A performance at The Ringgold Playhouse

WHAT WE DO FOR FUN

Ringgold Playhouse

Home to some of the best community theater in North Georgia. Among upcoming events, the playhouse is advertising "Rumors" by Neil Simon. 155 Depot St. Call 706-935-3061 or visit facebook.com/TheRinggoldPlayhouse.

Houston Valley OHV Area

Over 25 miles of hiking trails in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. From Interstate 75, take Exit 348 and head south down Alabama Highway. After about 7 miles, you'll reach Woodstation United Methodist Church. Take a left onto East Nickajack Road. Take your first right, down Capehart Road. The trails will start at the end of the road.

Wedding Walk

Ringgold residents are proud of their wedding chapels. Or, at least, the history of folks getting married around here. The Ringgold Convention and Visitors Bureau has erected tablets around town with information about who got married where. For example, did you know that Country Music Hall of Famer Jimmie Davis married Gospel Hall of Famer Anna Carter Gordon at Ringgold Methodist Church? Or that Dolly Parton once got hitched at First Baptist Church of Ringgold?

Georgia Winery

Beginning in 1983, Dr. Maurice Rawlings grew the only crop suitable on his Chattanooga Valley property: grapes. Over the years, his daughter and grandchildren have joined the family tradition, making and selling wine in Ringgold. The winery is open for free tastings every day of the week, and you can tour the winery on Saturday afternoons for $15. 6469 Battlefield Pkwy. Call 706-937-9463.

Martha Denton Swimming Pool

Open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, the city's public pool offers both daily and season passes and can be rented for pool parties. 406 Cotter St. Call 706-935-7946.

DETAILS

CITY SERVICES
Ringgold City Council meets the second and fourth Monday of the month at 7 p.m., preceded by a work session at 6 p.m. The purpose of the work session is to discuss the items they will vote on during the council meeting. Both meetings are held on the second floor of city hall, 150 Tennessee St. Agendas are available via cityofringgoldga.gov, where you can also stream past council meetings.

Recycling: The city has a drop-off center at 10 Cleveland St. that accepts most household recyclables save for glass.

GET INVOLVED
The city's Downtown Development Authority meets the third Monday of the month at 5:30 p.m. on the second floor of city hall. The Convention and Visitors Bureau meets the first Tuesday of the month at 5:30 p.m. in the same location. You can reach city hall at 706-935-3061.

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