There's no place like it anywhere in the world -- The Belle Meade Fox Hunt near Thomson.
This past Saturday, hundreds of hunt participants -- donned in special attire and sitting atop beautiful horses -- along with visitors from throughout several states gathered for the 44th Annual Belle Meade Fox Hunt, which is the biggest hunt of its kind in the United States.
Everyone attending seemed to have a story of why they were at the prestigious sporting event, which has now launched another season that will span into March.
When the hunt was founded by the late James E. Wilson, he wanted it to become a family affair where people could come out, learn about the sport and enjoy one another's company in a special setting.
Everyone seemed to have enjoyed this year's event, like they have in years past -- the majority of them traveling in tally-ho wagons, sponsored by area businesses, which were pulled mostly by big trucks.
From field to field, tally-ho wagons, loaded with sport enthusiasts encircled areas to catch a glimpse of huntsmen showcasing their skill while they staged mock chases with dozens of special trained dogs.
Some of the fields and meadows seen along the journey from tally-ho wagons was breathtaking. Trees, shedding their leaves, provided an array of beautiful colors.
"I just love coming out here every year for this," said Ray Quarles, of Thomson. "I like watching them bless the hounds and seeing all the hunt people on horses."
His wife, Mary, said, "It's beautiful. We really like this a lot. It's a nice place to be with friends and meet new ones, too."
For three young women, it was a mini college reunion, time for a little relaxation and some fun away from their hectic lives.
"This is the fifth year in a row that I've gotten together with my sorority sisters from Georgia Southern University in Statesboro to attend the Belle Meade Fox Hunt," said Jessica Langham, of Thomson.
Miss Langham, who works at University Hospital in Augusta, was joined by her close friends, Andrea Parkman, a registered nurse at Houston Medical Center in Warner Robins; and Allison Shedd, who is originally from LaGrange and now works as "a Hooters' girl" in Charleston, S.C.
"This is our annual reunion where we get to hang out and have lots of fun," said Miss Parkman.
Miss Shedd shared that sentiment, adding, "I get to see my two best friends when the Belle Meade Fox Hunt starts the season. It's by far the best day of the whole year for me."
The same holds true for close friends Jessica Parks, of Buford, a 2007 graduate of the University of Georgia, and Deanna Johnson, of Snellville, an emergency room registered nurse at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.
"The people here are very hospitable," said Miss Johnson.
Miss Parks' mother, Rita, a 35-year teacher at W.C. Britt Elementary School in Snellville, loves attending every year.
"It's something me and my husband have been doing for several years," said Mrs. Parks, whose husband, Dicky, helps Thomson friend Buster Langham cook a whole hog at the home of Mr. Langham and his wife, Debbie, on the Saturday night of the hunt season opening ceremony.
"We live in the Atlanta area where life is hectic. When we come here, it's like stepping back into the past. Everything is so elegant and simple," she said.
Her husband, a heavy equipment mechanic and barbecue chef, said he enjoys the fox hunt because "It's fun to be around good ol' Southern people."
One of those good ol' Southern people is Epp Wilson, who leads the Belle Meade Fox Hunt that his father founded 44 years ago.
"Epp is a generous person," said Mr. Parks. "He's a real nice guy -- real down to earth. I like being around people like him."
Mr. Langham, who has pulled a tally-ho wagon with his truck, known as "Old Blue," for the past several years, said he wouldn't miss the opening hunt ceremonies for anything.
"This is a special day that I look forward to every year," said Mr. Langham, who works as a welder and part-time disc jockey.