Dressed in gold, green and purple, North Georgia royalty celebrated as if they were partying on Bourbon Street and in the process raised more than $55,000 for a local hospice care center.
Big Canoe residents Bill Saling and Katharine Armentrout represented Dawson County for the 12th annual Mardi Gras in the Mountains earlier this month.
Proceeds from the Feb. 6 fundraiser benefitted Georgia Mountains Hospice, as well as charities supported by Knights of Columbus and the Rotary Club of Jasper.
"I was honored to represent Dawson County as the king candidate for this year's Mardi Gras in the Mountains," said Saling, a former Dawson County commissioner and decorated Vietnam combat vet who was drawn to help when he found out how much the organization does to assist veterans.
More than 460 people attended the black tie event at the Appalachian campus of Chattahoochee Technical College in Jasper.
"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."
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."
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.
Of the volunteers from Dawson, Gilmer, Pickens and Cherokee counties that were selected for the royal court, Jack Dunn from Pickens County and Sidney Mahan from Gilmer County were named King and Queen of the Mountains.