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Coon Dog Day celebrates hounds with small town tradition

 

With the heat of summer in session and the kids out of school, sometimes a weekend visit to the North Carolina mountains is a good idea. Combine a sporting tradition like the celebration of coon hunting dogs with your trip, and you’ve got an outing with as much kick as a glass of moonshine! The 49th annual Saluda Coon Dog Day on July 7 shows how a small town can put on a big show.

Both hunters and families are welcome to join the City of Saluda, N.C. and the Central Carolina Coonhunters Association for this annual homecoming. An action-packed schedule lasts all day long, and while coon hounds are on display in a town park, other events such as a 5-K run, parade and even a square dance are fan favorites. Colletonians love Coon Dogs, and some local families own cabins in Saluda, which keeps a local touch when in a big crowd.

The Coon Dog events are headquartered in the Saluda school ball field downtown and along the parade route. Dog owners, dog breeders and dog enthusiasts arrive on Friday night to display their coonhounds and to take part in the sporting village. Puppies are for sale and no one can resist the cute little coon hounds, and the breeders are glad to provide canine papers with distinguished bloodlines.

The morning of Coon Dog Day starts with a 5-K Race and, while that does not sound too tough, don’t forget that Saluda lies on the side of a mountain. The railroad that runs through town is famously known as the ‘Saluda Grade’ for being very steep, so runners from the Lowcountry will surely be tested by this topography.

The annual Coon Dog Day parade gets underway at 11 a.m. and a large crowd of onlookers will cheer on the fire trucks, homemade floats, hillbilly-wagons, classic cars, antique tractors and more that will roll down Main Street. The best floats in the parade are awarded trophies for their efforts, and great pride is taken by the Parade Marshall Hop Foster and the Coon Dog Day King and Queen.

However, as soon as the parade is complete, the coon dogs in the park get all the attention. At 1 p.m., the Bench Show will allow entrants to have their coon dog judged for looks and style while standing still. Lots of prestige is heaped upon the winner of the Bench competition. Next, at 3 p.m., is the Treeing Contest where coon dogs will be turned loose where a fake raccoon will be placed up in a tree, and the number of barks recorded in 30-seconds will determine the winner.

The Central Carolina Coonhunters Association runs each contest and sponsors a night hunt at 8 p.m. for a fun way to close out Coon Dog Day. Of course, not all of the spectators can head to the woods after dark, so Main Street Saluda becomes the setting for a large Square Dance, with ‘Caller’ Archie Hardy achieving the status of a local celebrity. He tells the dancers which action to execute and, if everyone follows the plan, a community spirit is generated.

This year’s Coon Dog Day is rumored to be the hottest on record, but the sweat should not dampen the spirit of the day. It’s hard to believe that the 2013 Coon Dog Day will be their 50th celebration, but we need to give credit where it is due, since this big idea has taken hold in a small town. Colletonian coon hunting enthusiasts who want to visit Coon Dog Day sometime can expect large crowds of folks who celebrate hunting with hounds.

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com

Jeff Dennis, Contributor (345 Posts)

Jeff Dennis is a Lowcountry native. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com