Local Business Turns Atlanta Travel Nightmare into Photo Shoot


By Stephanie Tyrpak
By Randy Livingston

WAYNE CO. -- A group of Fairfield photographers is back at home with quite a story to tell. During the recent snowstorm, traffic in Atlanta came to a standstill. The group was traveling through the city and ended up taking shelter in a Kroger.

The photography team had dealt with snow here in Illinois. They didn't expect the storm in Atlanta to be too hard to handle. 
After reaching the city Tuesday morning, they spent the next 15 hours trying to get free. The group decided to make the best of the stranded situation.
"We had never seen anything like it before," said Wes Hutchcraft. "It was like an apocaplyse or something."
They had been in Florida for a photography conference. On Tuesday, they started their trek back to Illinois. The men hit downtown Atlanta just as the weather took a turn for the worse.
"It took us probably eight hours to get 15 miles," said Jeremy Witter. 
At first, Witter and the others thought it was a simple traffic jam. However, as the day dragged on into night, cars littered the highway.
"I mean people were leaving it right in the center of the interstate," said Hutchcraft. "They were getting out, and they would just leave."
When they decided to try an exit, the side road was impassable. A grocery store was one of the few places to pull off and stop.
"It was a downslope," said Witter. "So we just kind of slid into Kroger's."
The manager and employees there were handling the stranded drivers by providing shelter and food for free.
"It was southern hospitality at its finest truthfully," said Hutchcraft. 
The work of the store staff turned a bad situation into what Hutchcraft believes is now a neat experience.
"They had that breakroom packed with people," said Hutchcraft. "There were people that I assume spent the whole night there."
The men wanted someway to pay back the store's kindness. They decided to do a professional photo shoot. 
"We just brought all of our stuff in from the van and set up right there in the produce," said Witter. 
Each employee was shot separately to later be combined into one image. It also gave the guys a chance to learn about the staff.
"We met this guy, he had never had his picture taken professionally," said Witter. 
By the time they wrapped up the shoot, conditions were slightly better. The group left Atlanta around 2 a.m. and found a hotel near the Tennessee border. It's a trip they won't soon forget.
"We met tons of nice people that were stuck there," said Witter. "You know heard lots of great stories."
Marion Regional
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