The small-town atmosphere is one of the key reasons people are drawn to Galt, a community in the southernmost part of Sacramento County.Galt is a friendly place, where people say they like going to the grocery store and seeing their friends.

It’s the reason Mayor Barbara Payne moved to Galt more than 17 years ago.“I like the small-town feel here,” she said. “I didn’t want to get lost in a big city where I didn’t know people.”

The sense of community and easy commute are what brought Denise and Tony Lucero to Galt.“You get to know most of the families around town,” said Denise Lucero, a Realtor with Real Estate Masters in Elk Grove. “We joke that if you want to see anyone, just head to the grocery store. There is never a time that you go and don’t run into someone you know. I tell my two daughters they can’t get away with anything because someone will see them.”Lucero likes Galt’s country setting.

“We moved here so our kids would grow up in a community with a slower pace,” she said. “Our girls have a different perspective, with a little more sense of community.”The Luceros originally lived in Southern California, where their daughters now attend college.“My girls are amazed how little college students know about farming and animals that are part of our daily lives,” Lucero said.

In Galt, it isn’t unusual to see kids on horses. When the Lucero daughter who attends the University of California at Los Angeles told her college friends about the animals, they asked if she had electricity in Galt.

“She realized that not everyone has the same exposure to things we take for granted,” Lucero said. The Luceros also chose to live in Galt because the commute was manageable. Denise worked in downtown Sacramento, and Tony worked in Stockton. Their jobs were 25-28 miles from Galt.The family lived in the city of Galt about four years before moving to Herald — just outside of the city — so they could live on a small ranchette and have horses.“Galt is the closest place for services, and we are part of the Galt Joint Union High School District, as are several rural communities surrounding Galt, including Herald, Acampo, parts of Wilton and Thornton,” Lucero said.

Mayor Payne appreciates the openness and pastoral feel of Galt’s surrounding areas.“You have the opportunity to see the agriculture around here — something besides asphalt and houses,” she said. “Driving down Highway 99, you see natural landscaping.”Upper-level students attend Galt or Liberty Ranch high schools or McCaffery Middle School. Younger students are served by the Galt Joint Union Elementary, New Hope and Aroche school districts.

Galt and nearby small communities offer buyers and renters a range of home styles and lot sizes.Emerald Park Co., builders for 4G’s — the Guttridge family — is offering semicustom new homes at Creekside in Galt. Prospective buyers can go online for a virtual tour of the model homes, Mike Guttridge said.

Homes range from 2,129 square feet to 3,000 square feet, with some lots as large as 1/2 acre. Prices start at $339,999.Galt offers a few condominium units and apartments and a couple of newer complexes on the east side that include senior and affordable-housing units.Options range from entry-level, 1,000-square-foot homes to developments with 3,500-square-foot homes. Smaller ranchettes can be found on 2 acres to 5 acres.As the circle widens from downtown Galt to surrounding communities, properties are bigger, ranging from 10 acres to 20 acres.Home prices start at $67,000 and go up to $400,000, for homes with acreage. Many entry-level homes are priced from $100,000.

People who live in Galt are primarily commuters, although employers within the city include Spaans Cookie Co., Building Material Distributors, Consolidated Fabricators Corp. and several small businesses and retailers.The State Correctional Training Facility in Galt trains correctional officers, many of whom live in the community and commute to work at prisons in Folsom, Ione and Stockton.Many state workers also live in Galt, making the 30- to 45-minute commute to downtown Sacramento. Lodi is 15 minutes away.Galt offers basic services, retail shops, Save Mart, Raley’s and drugstores. A Wal-Mart store opening is planned for next year.

Residents have many recreational options, including youth softball, baseball, soccer and volleyball, as well as sports for adults. Many youngsters are involved in 4-H and Future Farmers of America at Galt High School. The Gora Aquatic Center offers swimming programs, a swim team and other water activities.Proximity to water is a key attraction, Lucero said. The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region is close by, and several lakes — Camanche, Amador, Folsom and others — are within a 30-minute drive. Galt is in the middle of the Cosumnes River Preserve, one of the largest wildlife preserves on the American Flyway, and is the winter home for migratory birds from as far away as Alaska and Canada.In recognition of this, the city — in collaboration with the Cosumnes River Preserve and Galt Joint Union Elementary School District — sponsors the annual Winter Bird Festival every January. The event attracts more than 800 bird lovers and photographers from around the United States and the world.

One of Galt’s biggest draws is the Galt Market on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The market features new retail and wholesale merchandise, antiques, produce and garage-sale and flea-market items.Other events are the Strawberry Festival on the July 4th weekend and Lighting of the Night Christmas Parade on Dec. 3, when many residents dress in costume, decorate their boats or trucks and go along on the parade route.Annual Herald Day activities include a crafts fair, food, entertainment, music and a mud-volleyball tournament that last year had 50 teams registered to play.The Porch Club, a group of older men, meets every day at the Herald Store for coffee, doughnuts and conversation. They claim they don’t know of any other place in Galt or Herald where they can get coffee for 50 cents and enjoy the company of old friends.

Galt had its beginnings during the Gold Rush, when a group of farmers settled around the banks of Dry Creek, a small stream near Galt. In 1869, the town was laid out by the Western Pacific Railroad, and rancher John McFarland named the community Galt after his hometown in Canada.In 1869, the post office opened at Fourth and B streets. According to the city website, by the year 1880, Galt had two general-merchandise stores, a variety store, a hotel, a harness shop, two blacksmith shops, two saloons, a meat market, three physicians and one attorney.Today, some of the 100-year-old buildings in the downtown core are under renovation to reflect the community’s roots.The Galt Chamber of Commerce website celebrates Galt’s simple, bucolic appeal.“Although Galt does not have the hustle and glitter of a large city,” the site says, “it does have the breathtaking sunsets, the song of a variety of birds and the peace of a quiet countryside.”

Such attractions suit Lucero and her family just fine.“If there’s a small-town America in this area, Galt just might be it,” she said.