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Big Canoe residents competing on royal court
Mardi Gras events supports not-for-profit hospice care
6. Mardi Gras in Mtns Armentrout mug

Two Big Canoe residents hope to be crowned King and Queen of the mountains come February.

Katharine Armentrout and Bill Saling will represent Dawson County as they set out to collect donations for the 12th annual Mardi Gras in the Mountains, a black tie optional fundraiser that benefits Georgia Mountains Hospice, as well as Knights of Columbus and the Rotary Club of Jasper.

For Armentrout, the source for her inspiration to help Georgia Mountains Hospice came from her beloved sister.

"I had a sister that had a genetic lung illness, and as she got sicker... she spiritually got more whole, and part of that was through the hospice people that cared for her. It was just remarkable," she said. "They are able to find meaning near the end of the life, and I can't think of anything more wonderful."

A former Dawson County commissioner and decorated Vietnam combat vet, Saling said the work Georgia Mountain Hospice does for veterans helped lure him to support the cause.

"At any given time, there are 45-50 families that are in the hospice program, and out of the population of people, there's always 10-12 that are veterans," he said. "We do a program with North Georgia Veterans where we've got people trained in each of the branches of service to be available for families.

"Most times the military vet would like to have their service acknowledged, so we're going to do that for the 10-county area for anyone who wants it."

Based in Jasper, Georgia Mountains Hospice has provided care to the people of north Georgia since 1993. As a not-for-profit community hospice, patients are served regardless of age, diagnoses or the ability to pay.

"The Mardi Gras is an event that we started about 12 years ago. It's a fundraiser, kind of a prom for adults," said Gina Pendley, organizer and director of Georgia Mountains Hospice. "Banks and Shane will be the entertainment. Everybody loves them."

There's also a silent auction and catered dinner.

"The food is incredible. Last year, we had 450 people there," she said.

King and Queens represent Dawson, Gilmer, Pickens and Cherokee counties.

"We nominate two people and they get monetary votes, with $10 representing 10 votes," Pendley said. "The King and Queen with the most votes wins, and nobody knows until that night."

Last year, the Kings and Queens raised $40,000 just in votes.

The money raised is distributed to Georgia Mountain Hospice and also to the Knights and Rotary Club sponsored charities.

In addition to patient care, Pendley said the fundraiser also helps makes wishes and dreams come true.

Similar to the Make a Wish initiative, through the Wishes and Dreams program a local 12-year-old boy was able to watch a Georgia-Georgia Tech game from the 50 yard line, 16 rows back.

"Kenny Stewart, everyone knows him as Soldier Boy, he wanted to go to the Georgia-Georgia Tech game," Pendley said. "He took his mom, brother and little girlfriend."
Tickets are still available for the event by calling (706) 253-4100. Votes for King and Queen can be cast at