There's nothing like springtime in Georgia to lure newcomers to take up residence in the Camellia City. Last May, Luba Kim and her two teenage sons, Vladimir and Victor, spent a few months in Gibson, waiting for the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus to resume its season.
"I breathed in the air, and it felt so good, and I said I just want to stay here," Ms. Kim said. "For the first time in my life, staying in one place tipped the scales over going on the road."
Ms. Kim emigrated from Russia 12 years ago with her husband and her sons as circus performers. Ms. Kim's parents were horse and bear handlers for the circus in Russia, and Ms. Kim said "actually growing up with all these animals, I never considered doing anything else."
A few years ago, Mr. Kim died from a heart attack, and Ms. Kim decided she was going to make it on her own. This proved difficult as their bears had to be put in a sanctuary because she was unable to afford to take care of them. Then, the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus decided not to use animals anymore, due to PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) concerns.
All that she had left was her four horses, three of which are from Russia, and one pony. Ms. Kim has cared for the animals for so long that they are like an extension of her family.
While in Gibson, Ms. Kim "stumbled across" Chris Smith, chairman of the board of directors of the Old Frontier Camp in Thomson. Mr. Smith offered Ms. Kim the opportunity to come work at the camp with her horses.
Ms. Kim and her sons received their American citizenship two years ago. Her sons have jobs in local restaurants.
"It's nice here, I feel in my heart that this is home," she said.
The Kim family said they hope to become involved in the community, because they have found there are a lot of horse riders here. They want to "bring something different, some showmanship, something fun for the people to see."
Ms. Kim said she trains her horses "liberty style," where she simply stands in the middle of a ring, and the horses run around her. Her sons have learned horseback juggling and acrobatics.
"I like performing, but I like working with the animals more. Once you step into the ring, you never get out of it," she said.
The Kims will be performing at 3 and 5 p.m. this Saturday at The Old Frontier Fall Festival. The Festival will be from 1-6 p.m., including catch-and-release fishing, games, pony rides, carnival-style prizes and concessions. Admission is free. The Old Frontier is located at 1853 Old Milledgeville Road. For more information, call 533-2544.