Author Archives: austine647

Sunburst Stables: A Place to Remember

In a quiet town, nestled in the north Georgia mountains, there is a small business that has been committed to their customers for years.

“Sunburst Stables has been open for almost 24 years, and in these 24 years, It has been more rewarding than I ever expected,” says Becky Elliott, co-owner of Sunburst Stables. “People tell us every day how much they will remember their time with us.”

Sunburst Stables is a small business that provides activities such as ziplining horseback riding and boating tours on Lake Rabun. They have expert staff that are trained on the activities and on information about the area. This combination of well-crafted tours and expert guides creates an experience that attracts thousands of people a year.

“We are always looking at our property and trying to find new things to add and expand what we can offer,” says Mark Elliott, co-owner of Sunburst. “Everytime we add something new, it’s always rewarding to have customers tell us that they enjoyed it. It makes it worth it.”

Sunburst started as a small horse stable that did the odd tour every so often, but mainly held on by housing local’s horses for boarding fees. Mark and Becky Elliott then bought the land and transformed the business.

“I first found Sunburst when I went to their kids camp,” says Savannah Roper, a current employee. “After coming back over and over I decided to apply for a job. I figured, I love it so much I might as well work here.”

The staff begins their training by shadowing a senior employee in their daily tasks. Then they are passed through the gauntlet of learning all of the procedures. Then finally, the employee must learn how to treat customers of all types. This allows the employees to be equipped to handle any situation and calm even the most anxious people.

“I remember one tour I was on. There was a little kid and he was terrified to zipline,” says Roper. “His parents had tried to help but he was set on not going. So I sat and talked to the kid for a minute and asked him if he would go with me on the first one. We went down together, and on the next line, I asked him if he could see if he could go first and that I would come down after. We had a blast on that tour. He cried when we got back to the barn because he wanted to go again.”

The future of Sunburst is still changing. New activities are always on the way, and new memories are always being made. The sky’s the limit, and the owners and employees at sunburst are ready to make dreams come true.

“There is one story that will last for me,” says Mark Elliott. “A very old woman came one day. She brought her daughter who was still older than me, and I’m not young. The two of them wanted to go on the ATV tour, but the old woman was too weak in her arms, so she couldn’t drive the vehicle. I could tell that she was very disappointed. I could feel the weight of it, so I went and got a work vehicle that we use to repair the trails. I loaded the two women in and I drove them on the entire tour. When we got back, the older woman told me that she had just finished the last thing on her bucket list, that she wanted to ride in an off road vehicle. She then told me that this had been her favorite one. These are the people that we did this for, the reason we love our jobs so much.

Sunburst is open year round and are always avalibe to give information or book activities. Visit or call at 800-806-1953 or 706-947-7433


Becky Elliott-

Mark Elliott- Doesn’t know how email works – 706-768-4692

Savannah Roper-

Fire at Swanson Center

At 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 27 an explosion rattled the Swanson Center and left the building in flames, killing 28 and wounding many more.

“We received the call at around 10 a.m.” said Lynn Smith, Habersham EMA 911 coordinator, “As things progressed we were assisting additional units as well as the mobile coroner and Air Life Georgia 2.”

The first responders were on the scene almost immediately and the firefighters began by entering the building and getting the fire under control. As soon as the firefighters entered the building, the EMTs were prompted by members of the fire crew.

“If they’re dead, they’re dead,” said a fire deputy to the EMTs, “Don’t get tunnel vision. If they are just walking wounded or just holding their head, it’s better than dying so just get them out.”

The EMTs entered the building and immediately it was clear how serious this disaster was. EMTs accompanied by victims of the fire inside began to flow like a river from the building. The field outside of the center began to fill with victims, most burned but stable, but the more serious cases started to come more rapidly as the building was completely emptied.

“We have had over 100 injured,” said Captain Jeffrey Adams of the Habersham fire services, “Additionally, we have had 28 fatalities from the fire and explosion. About 29 were non-critical and 28 were critical. They have been transported to Haberham, Northeast Georgia, and one of the children’s hospitals.”

It is still unclear how the fire was started and a pending investigation will release their information in the next 24 to 48 hours.

Dr. Al Pleysier

The world can hide amazing things, finding them is half the fun.

Dr. Al Pleysier is one of those few that revels in new places and adventures. Originally from Holland, Pleysier moved to America when he was about 7 years old. But he was never quite sure where life would take him.

“When I was in 6th grade, there was the Soviet Union,” he said. “My geography teacher would lecture on communism and the Soviet Union, and I remember sitting in class and thinking that I would never go – it’s impossible.”

Several years after starting at Piedmont College, Pleysier was asked to participate in an organization called People to People. This organization was meant to connect different people from different cultures around the world in order to de-alienate the foreigners and improve relations between the two cultures. Pleysier was invited to Russia along with about 30 other professors.

“Of course, I thought back to sixth grade when I thought that this would never happen,” he said. “But they do.”

Pleysier met people in that program that he still works with today.

Since then, Pleysier has taken many trips to Russia and other countries for numerous reasons. He has taken trips to Egypt with groups of students in order to learn and appreciate all that another country can offer.  

“We had two very close friends that were Muslims, and they would take us everywhere,” he said. “They would take us places that tourists couldn’t go, to climb pyramids.”

Giving others access to these experiences is something Pleysier holds dear. “I remember one student who was in his 50s and he was with us, and we were going to go climb at night. The moon was out and the stars were gorgeous, and he climbed all the way to the top. This was the second night we were there and he said, ‘Dr. Pleysier you can take me home, this has been worth it.’ ”

Pleysier now plans to go to Vietnam on a bicycle tour and is looking forward to do exactly what he has done in the past: meet people, make memories and explore a new world.