Saluda NC Coon Dog Day
The small town of Saluda, about five miles to the east of Old Homeplace Cottages and Cabins, hosts one of the most unique festivals in the southeastern United States. Saluda’s annual Coon Dog Day celebrated its 55th year in 2018. The Coon Dog Day festival, “celebrates the loyal pet used for many years for hunting and known for their unique bark and amazing sense of smell.” (romanticasheville.com). The event is held the first Saturday after the fourth of July and it draws about 15,000 people a year.
Coon Dog Day features a parade complete with floats and a Grand Marshall that is usually a local dignitary, a 5k run, food and craft vendors from all over the southeast set up booths, and a Coon Dog Day King and Queen are crowned. The festival lasts all day and into the night and also features music and a street dance towards the end of the night.
The day belongs to the coon dogs, and they have their own separate contests. They are judged in two different areas. They are judged in looks and style standing still, and they are also judged in their ability to tree a raccoon. The dogs chase a fake raccoon and they are judged based on how many barks they make in 30 seconds. They also have a night hunt the night before Coon Dog Day.
Saluda’s roots of Coon Dog Day go back to 1949 when some local hunters led by Saluda native George Johnson formed the Blue Ridge Coon Club that later became the Blue Ridge Coon Dog Association. The Association was formed to try and replenish the dwindling raccoon population in the area. The Association held fundraisers to try to raise money for this purpose and it began in the late 1950’s with a yearly chicken dinner held on the first Saturday after the 4th of July.
The Association got the idea for a parade from the success of an “Old Prospector” parade that was held in Saluda in 1962 to celebrate the opening of the Rock and Mineral Museum. In 1963 the first Coon Dog Day was successful held and has been held every year since then.