ORANGEBURG COUNTY, S.C. — It's the 58th year of the Grand American Coon Hunt in Orangeburg County.
Coonhounds compete in casts of four dogs to simulate a coon hunt. The Orangeburg County tradition was founded in the 1960s and draws crowds by the thousands every year.
“It’s always been here in Orangeburg, South Carolina; so, it’s had a long, long history and it’s a big deal for the dogs who win this first event of the year," said senior director of hunter operations Allen Gingerich.
On Friday, there was a treeing competition where male and female dogs were judged on how fast they can bark at a raccoon within 30 seconds. Terry Jessup comes every year from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and has been coon-hunting since he was 13.
“To me, it’s a dying sport but, in the last two years, it seems like it’s really picked up," he said. "We’ve got a younger generation that seems to really be coming on strong and I just hope that it continues."
According to the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce, they are expecting a near-record turnout of approximately 20,000 visitors to Orangeburg for this year's Grand American. It is also forecasting an economic impact of around $4 million.
There are grand prizes of thousands of dollars available for winners of the competition. They could also win other prizes like dog boxes and tracking systems.
"Yes, there's a lot to win here with the prizes they have up for grabs for all the winners," Gingerich said. "But there's so much more than that. Just the camaraderie."
The Grand American continues through Saturday. For more information, visit the event website.