In Thomson, Georgia they know when Belle Meade holds its Opening meet. You just can’t hide 1,000 people in Thomson. Nor do 200 out of towners filling rooms and restaurant tables go unnoticed. It all started 34 years ago. the hunts very first year, when James E Wilson Jr, MFH decided to invite Neighbors , landowners and friends to join in the Blessing of the hounds and to follow the hunt in tally-ho wagons. Belle Meade has staged this special day every year since for two worthy reasons to make friends for foxhunting by sharing and demonstrating the joy of their sport and to raise money for the hunt. Lots of money.
There are foxhunting purists who deplore the notion of staging a foxhunting demonstration for a thong of party-goers, but the concept works in Thomson because for the rest of the hunting year, the Belle Meade subscribers Hunt the fox and the coyote behind one of the finest packs Crossbred foxhounds in the country and in accord with the highest traditions of the sport. It also works year after year because the joint masters—James E Wilson, his son Epp Wilson and Charles Lewis— are held in the highest esteem by their hunting members and by their community. Indeed Many who have moved from Thomson to other parts of the country come back, year after year, to man their old jobs and help make a success of this special day in Belle Meade’s hunting year.
The big money makers are the tally-ho and the book. This year a record 728 people, most of whom paid $30 each for the ride, piled into more than 30 wagons, many decorated, pulled by all manner of tractors and pick up trucks. These wagonloads account for over $12,000 of net income to the hunt.
The book, a picture filled yearbook of the previous Year’s activities, is unveiled on Opening Day. Of the 2,000 that are printed many are distributed at the weekends events, but the local Chamber Of Commerce also uses many, by the local businesses and by the local Hospital in its recruitment packages for the doctors. The book contains stories of special hunts,
Profiles of honored individuals, trips taken by the Belle Meade hounds to other hunting countries, reprints of articles about the hunt and reminders concerning hunting etiquette and correct attire. Members list, hound list and landowner list are included. And the ads. Well over 100 net another $10,000.
The proceeds of the Tally-ho feed the foxhounds for the year. Ad revenues from the book have, from day one, been reserved for capital needs such as kennel repairs, hound truck and trailer and the like.