When the Hark Forward group rolled into the North Hills Hunt fixture in Burwell, Nebraska on April 4, 2018, we were greeted by this fabulous sign that listed all of the visiting hunts. Of course we had to get our picture next to it, proudly pointing to Belle Meade's name on the sign. "What a cool way to welcome visitors", we all agreed. "We need to do that at home!"

Even though it was put together quickly, our first rendition of the "visiting hunts board" was a big hit with our visitors! Just as we had done in Nebraska, visitors proudly stood in front of it, pointing to their hunt's name on the sign while smiling for the camera. In its debut season, we posted the name of 38 hunts on that board, and we were so proud! Last season, that number grew to 62! Wow! That speaks volumes about the wonderful hospitality of our members! A lot of hunts offer visitors a great hunting experience and beautiful scenery, but we know we've got a really special and unmatched level of hospitality here at Belle Meade! We should all be VERY proud...I know I am!

We can declare "mission accomplished" with our visiting hunts board. Only those who have been to Burwell know that our sign really paled in comparison to that of the North Hills Hunt. And only Stephanie Pitts knew how much more it paled in comparison to the vision in her mind!

Stephanie Pitts does so much for Belle Meade. She chaired Opening Meet for many seasons, she refreshed the kennel vet room, she is a wonderful decorator, she painted those beautiful hound statues that you see in front of Boots Hall, she volunteers as field secretary, and much, much more. And Stephanie does all these things quietly, behind the scenes. Well, this time she has really outdone herself!

Stephanie cut, sanded and sealed at least 65 individual name boards for our new sign. Then she painted the names of the 62 hunts that visited us last season on those boards. The remaining 3 boards she painted with chalkboard paint so that new visiting hunt's names can be written on in chalk and hung on the board for the ceremonial photograph - BRILLIANT! - and she can paint the name on a new board later to permanently add IT to our collection. Each board has two eye hooks that she installed, and she wrote the name of the hunt on the end of its respective board for easy storage and cataloging - again, BRILLIANT! Stephanie painted the Belle Meade logo that appears at the top, and the "Welcome" heading. There's no telling just how many hours Stephanie put into this effort!

The dimensions and quantity of the individual hunt nameboards determined the overall size of our sign, plus room for growth. If you haven't seen it yet, it is MASSIVE! Approximately 8 feet wide and 12 feet tall! Steve Latham led the construction effort, with design input from Robert Alan Wilson. They enhanced Stephanie's original design with the addition of the gabled peak and the bench. It really is a sight to behold, and something we all should be very proud of.

It's no surprise that visitors for our Opening Meet weekend were awestruck by our new and greatly improved visiting hunts board. Over the course of this season, I look forward to many photos taken in front of that sign, with countless happy, smiling visitors all proudly pointing to their hunt's name! Any bets on what the new number of visiting hunts will be by the end of the season?

The inspiration: North Hills Hunt's visitor board that welcomes guests as they arrive their Burwell, Nebraska territory.

Our "first draft".