Guests Marshall Lee Portivent, Jr., left, and Negin Kalantarian look over auction items during the Quail Unlimited 27th Annual Celebrity Conservation Hunt’s Covey Finale Saturday night at the Albany Civic Center.
ALBANY, Ga. -- The 27th annual celebrity conservation hunt hosted by Quail Unlimited, which included events spread over a three-day period, wrapped up at the Albany Civic Center on Saturday.
Quail Albany, the area chapter of Quail Unlimited, independently hosted the hunt for the first time this year. The festivities included the inaugural National Celebrity Golf Classic at Stonebridge Golf and Country Club, two days of hunting as well as representation of well-known visitors and musical acts.
Among the celebrity guests was television and film star Patrick Kilpatrick, who has been participating in the hunt for 10 years -- long enough to have made a number of good friends through the annual event.
"It was wonderful," he said. "I stayed at Ray Knight's house, and he's a sweet guy. It is always very different at each of the plantations, and the weather was fabulous.
"This a completely unique experience. You can't do it anywhere else ... I'll do this for as long as they let me."
Guy Cox of Greenboro, N.C., won the opportunity to participate in the event through a raffle.
"It was great. I enjoyed it," he said. "This was my first experience, and I would do it again.
"I thoroughly enjoyed the whole time. There was never a dull moment."
The events began with the golf tournament on Thursday followed by the Bruners Landowners Appreciation Evening, which preceded the two days of hunting on Friday and Saturday at more than 30 plantations and properties, a conservation dinner on Friday and the Covey Finale event Saturday evening.
All the evening events where conducted at the civic center. Artists Bobby Pinson, Rivers Rutherford, Wynn Varble, Leah Seawright, Mark Herndon and up-and-comer Gannon Adams of Tifton were among those who made musical appearances.
At Saturday's finale dinner, artists Andy Griggs, Keith Anderson and Josh Thompson each did a half-hour set followed by a special number called "Twenty Little Angels" co-written by Griggs and Pinson in memory of the victims from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last month in Connecticut.
The main act was Nashville country music group Restless Heart, complete with all five original members.
The celebrities participating in this year's hunt also included Ryan Klesko, former University of Tennessee football coach Johnny Majors, Bill Stanfill, Hank Williams' daughter Jett Williams, Vince Dooley and Bobby Dews.
Most of the revenue generated from the event over the years has gone toward developing, protecting and restoring quail habitat nationwide and in Albany, and research aimed at keeping the bird healthy and in large numbers, officials from Quail Unlimited say.
"By far, this is the best event we've had," said Bill Bowles, president of Quail Unlimited, at Saturday's closing event. "The attendance was record setting, and the economic impact has to be record setting....and we've been blessed with great quail hunting weather.
"(The event means) much more than economic impact. It's a chance to shine a positive light on Albany and Southwest Georgia. We have people come in from all around the world; it's important they leave with a good impression."