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Celebrity Quail Hunt celebrates year No. 27

Quail Unlimited President Bill Bowles says that more than 30 plantations are hosting hunts at this week's celebrity hunts. (Jan. 17, 2013)

Quail Unlimited President Bill Bowles says that more than 30 plantations are hosting hunts at this week's celebrity hunts. (Jan. 17, 2013)

ALBANY, Ga. -- When something sticks around as long as the Quail Unlimited Celebrity Conservation Hunt, you figure something must be going right. For the first time in 27 years, Quail Albany, the local chapter of Quail Unlimited, will independently present the famous hunt, featuring a stellar lineup of country music stars, writers and well-known visitors.

Just to make things interesting, get ready for the first National Celebrity Golf Classic, to be held at Stonebridge Golf and Country Club on Thursday.

Quail Week

THURSDAY

WHAT: The Bruner’s Landowners Appreciation Reception and Dinner, Golf Tournament Awards, Salute to Veterans

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. — Dress attire, business casual (no jeans)

WHERE: Albany Civic Center

FRIDAY

WHAT: Hunting, Day One

WHERE: Depart to area plantations from Merry Acres Quality Inn, 1500 Dawson Road

WHEN: 7:30 a.m. — hunters will depart; 5:30 p.m. — Return to Merry Acres Quality Inn; 6:30 p.m.-7 p.m. — Social; 7 p.m. — Winchester Conservation Dinner with entertainment and live auction at the Albany Civic Center (Dress attire, business casual or coat and tie)

SATURDAY

WHAT: Hunting, Day Two

WHERE: Area plantations

WHEN: 7:30 a.m. — hunters depart; 5:30 p.m. — Return to Merry Acres Quality Inn; 6:30 p.m.-7 p.m. — social; 7 p.m. — Covey Final Event, with dinner and entertainment at the Albany Civic Center (Dress attire, casual)

"It's been really well-received," said Quail Unlimited President Bill Bowles. "A lot of individuals are playing, and there's an opportunity to sponsor one or more veterans to play as well. We all know that no matter how many times we say 'thank you,' we can't say it enough to our veterans."

On Thursday evening, the Bruner's Landowner's Appreciation Dinner will be held at the Albany Civic Center, where a salute to military veterans and to those currently in uniform will also be presented. Awards for golf tournament winners will be given.

"On Friday, we're out at 30-plus plantations and beautiful properties, enjoying a day of quail hunting and then back for an evening of special entertainment at the Civic Center," Bowles said.

Following Friday's Winchester Conservation Dinner, participants will be entertained by the music of three prominent Nashville lyricists: Bobby Pinson, Rivers Rutherford and Wynn Varble in what the artists call "Writers in the Round."

"Most people don't realize who wrote the songs the artists are playing on the radio," Bowles said. "They're all well-respected at their craft, and they sit around and talk about the songs they wrote and how they did it. Then they'll play it for you."

According to Bowles, this will the first year the event auction will be held simultaneously to the entertainment, in a separate room inside the Civic Center.

"We used to have (the auction and entertainment) at the same time," Bowles said, "but some people didn't like having to wait. It's the most prestigious auction we have all year, with some really incredible items up for bid."

Also performing at Friday's festivities will be Leah Seawright from Ft. Payne, Ala., appearing with her drummer, and Country Music Hall of Famer, Mark Herndon. Bowles said that up-and-coming artist Gannon Adams from Tifton will perform three numbers with Seawright, including "Game Face," a tune recently played during CBS TV's Rotary Lombardi Awards.

On Saturday, participants will enjoy an early day of hunting, dinner, the annual Covey Finale and still more entertainment at the Civic Center. Top country music artists Andy Griggs, Keith Anderson and Josh Thompson will each do a half-hour set, Bowles said, followed by Griggs' performance of a special number entitled "Twenty Little Angels." The song was co-written by Griggs and Bobby Pinson to honor the children killed recently at the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut. All proceeds from the music single will benefit the Sandy Hook Elementary School Foundation.

The highlight of the evening, Bowles said, will be the appearance of the Nashville country music group Restless Heart. The legendary band celebrates it 30th anniversary this year, complete with all five original members.

"We wanted to do something special for the community," Bowles said. "We're doing this for them -- to shine a positive light on Albany, Georgia, and to open up the gates to the city, the plantations and the beautiful land. The world doesn't get to see this every day."

Celebrities invited to participate in the Quail Unlimited Celebrity Hunt include actor Patrick Kilpatrick, Ryan Klesko, former University of Tennessee coach Johnny Majors, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, Bill Stanfill, singer and country music legend Hank Williams' daughter Jett Williams, Vince Dooley, Bobby Dews, Pat Dye and Ray Knight.

According to Bowles, most of the revenue generated by the celebrity hunt goes toward developing, protecting and restoring quail habitat nationwide and in Albany, as well as for research aimed at keeping the bird well and in large numbers.

In addition, Quail Albany has begun a new development program for youths called "Superbirds." Partnering with the Petty Family Foundation, Bowles said the Superbird program seeks to involve children ages 10-16 in outdoor activities, including wildlife and environmental conservation, hunting and fishing.

For ticket availability and prices, call Quail Albany at (229) 883-3209 or visit the website www.quconservationevent.com.