‘A long but satisfying day’

Published 12:53 pm Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The tones and twangs of bluegrass music wafted about as the 47th annual Coon Dog Day Festival played host to hounds, warm temperatures and thousands of celebrants Saturday in Saluda.

The festival began in the early morning with the return of the Coon Dog 5k run after a two-year hiatus and the annual parade.

It was a long but satisfying day for Melody Gibson, who, along with husband Rodney, was grand marshal of the parade.

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We enjoyed it very much, said Mrs. Gibson. It was a great honor to be chosen as marshals.

The parade, considered the highlight of the event by many Saluda residents and attendees, lasted for around 90 minutes and included more than 50 participants. Parade organizers welcomed floats and other units into the parade up until the time it started on Saturday morning.

It was much longer than Ive seen it in the past, Mrs. Gibson said. I was surprised to see how long it was.

Saluda Mayor Fred Baisden said he has received mostly positive feedback from attendees.

Ive had a lot of people tell me that this is the best (Coon Dog Day) weve had in a long time and the best parade weve had in a while, Baisden said. Everybodys been stopping by and thanking folks here at city hall for keeping it clean and for doing a great job with the clean up.

Other than a few people unhappy with some parking violations theyve gotten, its been really positive. Everybody was really civil we didnt have any fights. We didnt have any accidents or anything.

Even as the crowds wilted under the hot afternoon sun, Mrs. Gibson spent most of the afternoon as one of the events many vendors, selling T-shirts and other merchandise to benefit the local library.

I think some people took a little break there during the afternoon, but came back in the evening, she said. Then, we had 30 people over for dinner but thats Coon Dog.

The afternoon also belonged to the United Kennel Club sanctioned Bench Show and treeing contest for the festivals namesake coon dogs held at the Saluda School.

Rutherfordtons Chad Toney said he has been showing his dogs at Coon Dog Day for about two decades. This year, his year-old Walker Hound, Tombstone, came away with the Best Male in Show Award against tough competition.

Some of the best dogs in the nation showed here today, Toney said.

Nathaniel Prater, of Newnan, Ga., was attending and competing in his first Coon Dog Day and came away with the male grand champion plaque.

Grand Champion Finley River Hardwoods Hunter called more simply, Hunter earned the win for Prater.

This was a good competition, Prater said. We had a lot of fun. &bsp;

The square dance began later in the evening at 8 p.m. and a good crowd returned for the evening performances and street dance, which has long been a staple of the event.

Its still Coon Dog to us, said Gibson. We work really hard to make sure it doesnt lose that (small town) flavor.