Polk commissioner gives history of Coon Dog Day 

Published 10:39 pm Sunday, July 14, 2019

Close to 10K people attend event after 56 years 


SALUDA—Polk County Commissioner Jake Johnson gave a little history of Coon Dog Day this week estimated that approximately 10,000 people attended the event in Saluda last Saturday.  

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The Polk County Board of Commissioners met Monday and heard from Johnson during commissioner comments about Coon Dog Day. Johnson is from Saluda.  

Johnson thanked everyone for coming to the annual event, saying his great grandfather, George Johnson, was one of the founders of the event.  

This year marked the 56th year of Coon Dog Day.  

Johnson said the festival began with about 150 people in attendance and has grown significantly through the years with people now coming from all over the country.  

“I think if he could’ve been up there Saturday and saw what I could only assume throughout the day was close to 10,000 people or more, that would be a real shock to some of the original founders,” Johnson said. “That was very successful. Talking to people, people from all over the country come to this thing now. It’s definitely one of those things that makes Polk County special.”  

Johnson sent more history about Coon Dog Day later this week.  

He said Coon Dog Day was founded 56 years ago in an effort to raise money to repopulate the over-hunted and depleted raccoon population in the area.  

“Back then, raccoon furs were bringing good money so they had been heavily trapped and hunted for years,” Johnson said. “The money raised would be used to go out east and down south to buy raccoons so that they could be brought back to our area and released.”  

Johnson said stories passed down in his family from his great-grandfather were that the first festival had no more than a couple hundred people in attendance. The first festival had a small parade, a dinner where people from the community brought homemade food and a square dance at night.  

Those traditions continue today, but the parade is much larger, most years lasting for an hour, dog demonstrations and prizes and vendors now providing the food. A square dance is still held at night.  

“Today, Coon Dog Day usually draws crowds of over 10,000 people from all over the United States,” Johnson said. “It has kept a lot of the same traditions as the original festivals with the parade and dancing at night, as well as familiar local faces from year to year.”  

Jake Johnson said he does not think his great grandfather could have ever imagined what a huge event Coon Dog would become, but he is proud of the Saluda tradition.  

“I want to make sure that even though the festival itself may go through changes, I do not want people to forget the history behind it,” Johnson said. “ I look forward to seeing future generations enjoy it.”