ALBANY, Ga. -- Keep your quail hunt. The coon dogs are here and they are loud, proud and beautiful.
Since 1991, the Exchange Club has been raising money for children through the United Kennel Club Winter Classic coon dog hunt. The hunt is open to the public for free at 9 a.m. today and Saturday. It allows the club to open its fabled Boston butt barbecue Road Kill Cafe to serve the best funnel cake and barbecue around.
Exchange Club members love to raise money to combat child abuse through scholarships, gifts to worthy organizations and volunteering their time.
"We made $800 the first year we had the event," said Larry Griffin. "It has really grown from there."
Last year the event made $12,000, said A.J. Nobles. All the money goes to helping the club with its child-abuse fight.
Before, during and after the coon dog hunts throughout the area's woods, there are many events for children and adults at the Exchange Club Fairgrounds.
Children and adults can enjoy what is called a bench show. At the bench shows, which will be held all day long, breeders, owners and other coon hound enthusiasts show the dogs to find a best of breed.
The coon hound breeds on exhibition could include the American leopard, black and tan, bluetick, English, redbone, Plott and treeing walker breeds.
Breeders such as Alan White, in from Iowa for the hunt, will have black and tan puppies for sale at $400 each during the coon hunt. Other breeds will also be available.
Already have a dog? Venders made the fairgrounds into a kind of doggy mall Thursday. There were dog carry boxes, leashes, neon dog collars and more dog accessories than one could think of getting set up in displays.
Many vendors set up wares so hunters could also find clothes and accessories on racks at the hunt. Camouflage jackets to go with leather leashes perhaps.
Exchangeites will cook, serve and staff the Road Kill Cafe throughout the hunt. Besides the mouth-watering Boston butt barbecue, burgers and home-baked goods to go will be available. (Hot dogs will be available, too, but don't let the coon hounds know.)
In describing why the club likes to have the hunt at the Exchange Club Fairgrounds, Chris Butts, of the Deep South Classic Coon Hunters Association, said the size of the venue had a lot to do with it.
The Exchange Club Fairgrounds is big enough to hold the expected thousands of people who attend during different times of the day and still give them elbow room.
"So far we have 620 dogs preregistered to hunt. Based on today's economy, that is a good turnout. There will be dog shows all day," Butts said. "This facility is the right size for the event. The club really does a good job with it. It is the club's hospitality that brings people back."