Just one week after its grand opening, the McDuffie Museum was the site of another unveiling. Approximately 40 members of the Classic South Travel Association, the Thomson-McDuffie Visitors and Convention Bureau, Georgia Department of Economic Development, Georgia Tourism Foundation, Atlanta Magazine Custom Publishing and local elected officials witnessed the unveiling of the 2009 Georgia Travel Guide with the Belle Meade Hunt featured on the front cover.
"This is a really big day for McDuffie County, if you ask me anyway," McDuffie CVB Director Elizabeth Vance said as she welcomed the guests.
After the ceremony, Mrs. Vance said the Belle Meade Hunt is "more than deserving" of the distinction, and she is honored by the publisher's choice.
"I am so proud of all that we have been able to accomplish over the last 22 months," she said. "With the Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival being chosen as a Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society in 2008 and by representing the State of Georgia on their primer marketing publication in 2009, we've come a long way."
Tourists generate tax dollars that local citizens do not have to pay, according to Assistant Commissioner of Tourism Kevin Langston during the ceremony. Mr. Langston said 62 million visitors toured Georgia in 2007, with 51 percent of them coming from other states. He said everyone who submits an inquiry on the state's tourism website receives a copy of the travel guide in the mail. The guides also are available at every welcome center in the state.
"So the guide is an important piece of our marketing collateral," he said.
Most visitors are looking for a destination that is "authentic American," according to Atlanta Magazine Publisher Sean McGinnis, who published the travel guide.
"We want people to be surprised and want to come check this out when they look at the guide," he said. "So, we think we accomplished both of these goals with this cover."
The picture on the guide's cover is of Belle Meade Hunt Club members LuAnne Durant, Charlie Lewis, Epp Wilson and Jim Hicks, Jr. on horseback. Ms. Durant and her horse, Toby, are the only ones fully visible in the picture.
"I'm so glad Toby is pictured," Ms. Durant, a whipper-in, said after the ceremony. "He's such a good boy. I ride him when I don't want to have to think, and I just want to enjoy myself."
Mr. Wilson, the Master of Foxhounds, introduced those in the picture to the crowd. Then he challenged everyone attending the ceremony to join him on a hunt. He received a loud applause when he quoted a poem about the hunt by Pinky Knox.
"This fits perfectly with our theme this year," Director of Creative Services of Atlanta Magazine Lynne King said. "Our theme is 'Discover the Unexpected,' and that is definitely what is happening here."