What connects Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low with Henry Ford and Elvis Presley?
Ivey Cananoglu, founder and lead tour guide of The Great Takeover, is using the six degrees of separation theory to tell some of Savannah’s most quirky historic stories — from Low’s rumored bad driving skills to Ford’s influence in the Lowcountry and Presley’s love of classic automobiles, she intertwines history and interactive games to give people a new way to learn about the Hostess City.
“A lot of people are familiar with the concept that everyone can be connected with six degrees and that extends to events, too, so I’m really taking advantage of that and seeing how we can link them,” Cananoglu said of her Six Degrees of Savannah Tour.
The two-hour walking tour takes guests through six squares starting at Reynolds Square and wrapping up at Telfair Square. The tour stops along the way for interactive games and allows teams to compete to see who has the best knowledge of the city and its many stories.
Cananoglu, who has a background in history and historic preservation and has worked as a docent for various Savannah historical sites and as an assistant museum curator in Macon, said the idea sprang from her interest in the six degrees of separation theory and the chance to bring something new to the city.
“I was fascinated with that idea, and I saw that there was room to develop an experience. There are a lot of tours that just touch on what’s in the squares and that’s kind of a limited story, you can only touch on so many things,” she said.
“I felt like there needed to be a broader story, a bigger picture. You can tell stories based on what’s in the squares, but if you’re not showing the broader picture, a lot of things get lost.”
During a stop in Madison Square, Cananoglu detailed the connection between Ford’s personal and professional life with Savannah’s ties to racing and the city’s role during prohibition while adding in the history of the old DeSoto hotel and other nearby buildings, including one that was once used as a Ford showroom for J.C. Lewis Ford.
“This was the spot to be, so it’s interesting to have the car dealership here and the headquarters for the races (at the DeSoto),” she said of the Bull Street corridor. “There’s a lot of history here involving cars and automobile racing.”
Cananoglu introduced the tour at the end of April and has been in a testing phase, offering free tours to get feedback. She hopes to wrap up the testing phase in the next couple of weeks and then roll out the final product.
“I’ve been trying to change things as I get the feedback… I really want people to enjoy themselves. It is a game but they’re also learning stuff…,” she said.
“I really want people to feel like they had an experience with us. It’s really important to understand that there are a lot of back stories that explain why Savannah is the way it is. I feel like sometimes you don’t communicate that enough… I think it will do Savannah good to embrace its quirkiness.”
ON THE WEB
If you’re interested in taking the Six Degrees of Savannah tour, go to www.takeoversav.com/. You must be 18 or older to participate.