Dog day afternoon

Published 1:01 pm Friday, July 9, 2010

Hop Foster has seen Coon Dog Days come and go, and hes also seen Saludas signature summer festival grow since its debut 47 years ago.

Foster has not only attended every Coon Dog Day since its inception, he has emceed the annual Coon Dog Day Parade each year since the beginning.

It really hasnt changed that much, except that the crowds gotten bigger and bigger, Foster said of the festival. Its kind of a family reunion people come out to see their classmates, their college mates and family they dont see all year. Its still that way. The only change I can see is that its gotten bigger.

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The parade has grown along with the event, giving Foster more to talk about as he announces each entry. The number of entries in this years parade wont be determined until they are cued by Foster early Saturday morning before the parade gets started at 11 p.m.

It used to last about a half hour, but now its an hour or maybe an hour-and-a-half, said Foster. I try to tell a little story on everything and everybody that comes through. You come up here and youll hear me do some powerful talkin, fast.

That means more work for Foster, but he said its never seemed like work.

Its the pleasure I get out of it, he said. I enjoy seeing a lot of people and seeing people around town and asking them to be in the parade. I get a lot of joy out of doing it.

The 2010 Coon Dog Parade grand marshals are Rodney and Melody Gibson.

Crowd estimates for last years event were in the 20,000 range, but Coon Dog Day Commissioner Leon Morgan said its impossible to be sure.

Thats guesstimating, but who knows? Morgan said. The streets were full from the schoolhouse to the barbecue, so its however many the streets will hold.

In addition to the parade, the staple of Coon Dog Day has been the annual coon-dog contests, which begin this year with a bench show at the Saluda School ball field at 1 p.m., a treeing contest at 3 p.m. and the annual night hunt at 8 p.m.

The competitions have grown in stature and were formerly affiliated with the American Kennel Club. The 2010 competitions have been licensed by the United Kennel Club and the Central Carolina Coon Hunters Association. Funds raised from this years contests will benefit St. Judes Childrens Research Hospital.

The North Carolina state coon dog championship has been held here before, said Morgan. Its become a big event. Its one of the biggest things that happens here in Saluda all year long.

After a two-year absence, the Coon Dog Day 5k run returns to the schedule with an 8 a.m. start time. Runners are allowed to pre-register at

The annual breakfast will run from 7:30 a.m. until 10 a.m. at the Saluda Senior Center.

On-stage entertainment will begin at 8:30 a.m. with the bluegrass sounds of the Green River Boys. Eight different acts will take the stage over the course of Coon Dog Day, which is scheduled to last until the end of a street dance with The Lonesome Road Band from 8-11 p.m.

We try have something for everybody. We try to do things for children give them places to ride rides and things, said Morgan. I think we have a good selection for everybody who wants to come out to Coon Dog Day.

Weve got music on the street all day and weve got the dogs. Its really turned into a nice festival.