The University of North Georgia (UNG) celebrated Dahlonega's 57th Annual Gold Rush Weekend with an alumni reception where hundreds of graduates enjoyed an afternoon of food and fellowship.
Gold Rush, held in honor of the 1828 discovery of gold in Dahlonega, features activities such as a gold panning contest, king and queen coronation, live entertainment, and more than 300 art, craft and food exhibitors.
The Blue Ridge Rifles, part of UNG's Corps of Cadets, march
in the 2013 Gold Rush parade.
UNG's Corps of Cadets, led by the Golden Eagle Band unit, kicked-off the annual parade. The corps, now more than 800 cadets strong, marched down East Main Street and through the square packed with throngs of parade-goers before turning back onto campus at the intersection of West Main Street and Sunset Drive.
Later in the afternoon, more than 250 members and guests of the Alumni Association came together in the Dining Hall Banquet Room and on the adjacent veranda overlooking the Gen. William "Lipp" Livsey Drill Field. Conversation and laughter rang throughout the space as graduates representing nearly seven decades reconnected with old friends and made new ones at the annual reception, which has been held since the early 1970s.
"This reception is a great opportunity to renew friendships and relive memories in an informal atmosphere," said Phil Collins, associate vice president for alumni relations and annual giving. "It allows alumni a chance to escape the festival crowd for a while and let their kids run around in a friendly environment. This year's event saw one of the largest crowds we've ever had, and everyone appeared to enjoy themselves. When retreat sounded at 5 p.m. and the entire crowd outside stopped to pay homage to the flag, it was an especially poignant moment, as that tradition is woven into the fabric of the experience on the Dahlonega Campus."
The span of graduates included Al Wilson, a former cadet from the class of 1940, and Amanda Byerly from the class of 2004.
"It's great to have this chance to see old friends and hang out again," Byerly's husband, Joe Byerly ('03), said.
The event also afforded alumni an opportunity to let their peers know about ways to support the university. David Jordan ('75) and John Satterfield ('70) represented the Nighthawks Athletic Club, and spoke to many people about the ways the club supports UNG's NCAA sports teams.
"We have some 200 members now in the club, and we're here to encourage our fellow alumni to join," Jordan said. "We want to be more proactive in letting others know what we're doing, such as raising funds for events and athletic scholarships."
The Alumni Council also held its annual fall meeting during Gold Rush. Chris Kemp ('90) was presented with the Golden Steeple Award for service "above and beyond" to the council for helping devise and implement a new membership plan. Kemp's son, who is currently a freshman at UNG, also was in attendance.
Gold Rush is held the third weekend in October each year. The tower of UNG's iconic Price Memorial Hall is covered with Dahlonega gold. The building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is constructed on the site of what was originally was a U.S. Mint that produced gold coins. After the Civil War, the abandoned U.S. Mint property in Dahlonega was given to the state of Georgia for educational purposes, creating the foundation for what is now the University of North Georgia.