Three-month-old Treeing Walker pups cuddle together for a nap in their enclosure during the UKC Winter Classic coon dog hunt at the Exchange Club Fairgrounds.
ALBANY, Ga. -- For a quarter century, at this time of the year, the United Kennel Club would join with the Exchange Club of Albany to present its Winter Classic Coon Hunt.
The fairgrounds hosted the event, attracting vocal Blueticks, Red Bones, Black and Tans and other participants ranging from as far away as Michigan and Mexico. It historically has been been a busy weekend for Albany.
This year, however, the hunt has moved to Batesville, Miss.
But local night stalkers in all the local coon hunt clubs can cheer up. On Saturday and Sunday -- the same weekend of the Batesville hunt -- the Exchange Club of Albany will co-sponsor its first AKC Southern Heritage Hunt & Show, which is open to all coonhounds and their owners.
Other event sponsors are the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau and Albany Beverage Company. The Southwest Georgia Coon and Squirrel Hunters Association will be the host coonhound club.
"It was a real surprise when we found out they were leaving," said Joe Brown, an Exchange Club member. "They never said for sure, but it could be because Batesville is putting it in their civic center."
According to Brown, the reason Albany still has a coon dog event with a world-class kennel is because of the efforts of Jimmy Phillips, an Exchange Club member who happens to be district representative for the AKC.
"He's the one who ramrodded AKC coming here and starting a new hunt, Brown said. "When we found out UKC wasn't coming back, he got on the phone and worked it all out."
Both the dog show and hunt are "world qualifying," AKC officials state, with winners cleared to move forward to the World Hunt Championship or 2013 World Show.
While secondary to the main attractions, there will be an aspect to the show, Brown said, that was not included for the UKC events: Malaysian Semara chickens. According to Brown, the birds are small -- less than 19 ounces -- colorful and they "kind of strut" when they walk.
Past UKC events included independent vendors, selling outdoor-related items from duck and turkey calls, to radio collars, boots and hunting gear. AKC, however, has no vendor contracts. To help build interest for the new event, local non-food vendors may participate for free. If electricity is needed for a booth, the charge will be $25 each, said A.J. Nobles, an Exchange Club member who is working with the hunt. Coonhound judging and all daytime activities are free to the public.
For competitors, show entries will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday, with the show itself starting at 11 a.m. The entry fee is $20. Deadline for the hunt is 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with a fee of $35 each night.
According to AKC sources, two high-score dogs from each of the two nights will "hunt it off" for the final hunt to be one hour. Ten placements will be awarded each night. The overall hunt winner will receive $1,000, with prizes to other winners including a Garmin Tracking System, a full-size diamond plate dog box and a Dakota Light.
The Exchange Club will offer hamburgers, hotdogs, sausage dogs, soft drinks and coffee. At noon on Saturday, a full dinner of roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans and rolls will be offered as well.
The South Georgia CHA will hold a raffle for a 40-inch JH Williams Snap-On toolbox and a .22 caliber rifle. Single tickets are $5 each or five tickets for $20. Raffle tickets may be purchased by check, payable to South GA CHA, Shannon Roland; 2318 US Hwy 82 E. Cuthbert, GA 39840. Include name and telephone number. Raffle contact is Trey Miller, (706) 577-4124. Event sources state that all proceeds from raffle and food sales will go toward the prevention of child abuse.
For vendor information contact Phillips at (229) 894-8550.