July 7, 2018
The tiny town of Saluda (700 residents) welcomes 10,000+ visitors for Coon Dog Day. The very fun, quirky street festival in Saluda celebrates the loyal pet used for many years for hunting and known for their unique bark and amazing sense of smell. The celebration held for 50+ years includes a parade, music, street fair with art and food and dog judging. While many street festivals discourage dogs, this one loves them! It's about 35 miles southeast of Asheville. (We took all of these photos in 2017.)
The festivities kick off early at 8 AM on Main Street with the 5K race through town. Folks bring chairs early to claim a shady spot for the 11 AM parade that features bagpipes, homemade floats, fire trucks, antique tractors, hillbilly cars, King and Queen, and plenty of coon dogs. It's the highlight of the day, lasting about 30 minutes. The day ends with the street dance that wraps up at 11 PM. Admission is free.
Coon dogs are the stars of the entire day. The dog judging starts at 1 PM with the Bench Show for looks and style standing still. At 3 PM is the treeing contest with dogs chasing a fake raccoon. The winner has the most number of barks in 30 seconds. Dogs are welcome to join in the fun as long as they are leashed. Get your official Coon Dog Day t-shirt at the historic Thompsons Store.
Meet many dogs up for adoption from several agencies at the festival.
- 7 AM: Breakfast for $6 at the Masonic Lodge on Ozone Drive. The Blood Connection on-site for donations until noon.
- 8 AM: Coon Dog Day 5K Race/Fun Walk. Register on Friday, July 7, 5-7 PM at Saluda City Hall. Or Saturday morning 6:30-7:30 AM.
- 8 AM-11 PM: Main Stage Entertainment and vendors along Main Street.
- 10 AM: Pedal Cars for the Kids in front of Don Mintz Builders office on Main Street and Obstacle Course & Rock Climbing Wall on the Saluda School tennis courts.
- 11 AM: Famous Parade with lots of personality.
- 12 Noon: Lunch at First Baptist Church of Saluda on Carolina Street. Fried chicken with all the fixings for $10 per plate.
- 1 PM: Slip & Slide across the street from the Saluda School on US Highway 176. Free.
- 2:30 PM: American Kennel Club Licensed Show in the Pavilion at McCreery Park. Treeing Contest immediately following Show.
- 4 PM: Big Wheel Race for Adults and Kids on Greenville St.
- 6-8 PM: Shag and Swing Music.
- 8-11 PM: Street Dance.
Find many goodies to buy for dogs and their owners!
Don't forget to explore all the cool shops, general store and galleries in downtown Saluda. Parking for Coon Dog Day is scattered around downtown in many lots (look for signs), including the local school, churches and fire department. Many of these organizations use it as a fundraiser with $10 parking that includes a golf cart ride right to the festivities.
Directions from Asheville: Take I-26 East about 35 miles to Exit 59.
Watch Our Video of Parade Highlights
In 1949, the Blue Ridge Coon Dog Association was organized to replenish the local raccoon population, which had dwindled to almost nothing. By the late 1950s the club was holding a fundraising barbecue each year on the first Saturday after the 4th of July. Proceeds were used to restock the woods with ‘coons. The popularity of the barbecues, and the success of the “Old Prospector” parade that had celebrated the opening of the Rock and Mineral Museum in 1962, convinced the club to try their own annual parade beginning in 1963. Coon Dog Day was wildly successful, and the event has grown over the decades.