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Grace Episcopal Church Holds Annual Blessing of the Hounds

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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) -

On Thursday Grace Episcopal Church’s 88th annual Blessing of the Hounds took place in Keswick.

Hundreds came to take part in an event the stretches back more than 80 years.

The ceremony is an outdoor church service honoring the history of foxhunting in central Virginia and throughout history.

The story of Thanksgiving and foxhunting goes back to the very start of our country.

"Thanksgiving was first proclaimed by George Washington and Washington was also an avid fox hunter, something we often don't remember. We're going back to some of the earliest traditions of our nation," said Miles Smith.

The Blessing of the Hounds service is a celebration of that history.

"It's a Thanksgiving service and it's a time to see the riders as they get ready to go on their hunt and we give them a blessing," said Smith.

The blessing is for the animals to locate the foxes as quickly as possible. The event attracts spectators of all ages.

"Hundreds and hundreds of people, its beautiful today so it's great to be outside and to also worship and be a part of this glorious spectacle," said Smith.  

Gina Norton is a Keswick native that has seen the ceremony multiple times. She says it plays a big part in the community.

"It's a big horse community. A lot of people ride. A lot of people hunt. So it's a nice tradition in our area," said Norton. "It's just a good way to start the morning with service and to watch the hunt."

She says her family is grateful to witness this unique event annually and plans to keep coming year after year.

"Thankful and appreciative. It's a beautiful morning so it's nice to come out and celebrate the holiday."

During the service the church also collects offering money for animal service organizations in central Virginia like the SPCA and the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

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