43rd Annual Folklife Festival

Coon Dog Open Water Race Still Main Attraction

by C.J. Reed

Every year in Franklin County, Ferrum College hosts the annual Blue Ridge Folklife Festival. Here, the community as well as people from all over the state get together in a day of fun and hard work to put on the best festival around. There are two special events at the Folklife Festival that everyone anticipates, the treeing competition and the coon-race. These events require hard work, training, and dedication. The coon-dogs are highly anticipated every year. These dogs have two important events every year and the majority participate in both; some dogs even compete multiple years in a row.

The first event is the treeing competition, in which a stuffed raccoon with actual raccoon scent is placed at a starting point and dragged on the ground and up a post mimicking a tree. The dog is then released by its owner, only then to sniff out the scent and tree the coon. The dogs are then judged by the number of times they bark at the treed raccoon in a span of 30 seconds.  After the 30 seconds are up, the judges announce how many times the coon dog barked. Whichever coon dog barks the most times is the winner.

The next event is the coon race. Here the dogs must swim across Adam’s Lake and chase the stuffed raccoon, which is on a pulley system hovering over the water just out of reach of the dogs. Four dogs are involved in the race at a time and the dog to swim across the lake fastest is the winner. These events bring happiness to everyone involved, especially the kids. After the events were over, I met with Adam Alley, president of the Back Creek Coon Club and also in charge of the two events here at the Folklife Festival.

“I look forward to participating in these events every year,” Alley said. “There is a lot of hard work and effort put towards these events prior to the festival. We have a lot of people come from all over the country to participate in these two events. Folks from New York, West Virginia and some from Georgia come to Ferrum to be a part of this great event.” Alley, who is now thirty years old, has been a member of the Back Creek Coon Club since he was 7. This is his second year being the president of the club and he looks forward to many more.

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