BATESVILLE – Word came down last week that the upcoming United Kennel Club Winter Classic coon hunt will be the biggest in the 26-year history of the event, which is moving this year from Albany, Ga., to Batesville.
Competitions for purebred coonhounds are scheduled for January 25-26 at the Batesville Civic Center.
There will be two night hunts with dogs and handlers spread out on public lands and private acreage all over North Mississippi, including Yalobusha County, and even into eastern Arkansas. The hunters will be guided by volunteers from area coon hunting clubs.
One volunteer is Ronnie Stark, who told the Herald more than a dozen casts will hunt in Yalobusha during both nights of the competition. Each cast consists of four dogs. Stark said much of the hunting in the county will be on Corps-owned land, but some private acreage will also be included.
Stark reminded everyone in the county to expect vehicles with out-of-state tags traveling rural areas in the county, especially at night, during the weekend hunt. He also urged motorists who may be in the lake areas to be on the lookout for dogs that may cross the road.
“It’s going to mean a lot of money coming into north Mississippi during the weekend” Stark added.
UKC officials reported last Friday that 900 dogs are registered for the hunts. That total exceeds the previous Winter Classic record of 825 dogs, Tanya Raab, vice president of media, said.
In addition, a yet undetermined number of dogs will be entered in the bench shows which will take place at the Civic Center both days. During those shows a UKC judge will select champions from among the seven participating coonhound breeds, based on physical attributes and conformity to breed standards.
Stark said the public is invited to the bench shows, and a kid who would like to show a dog can come over and “borrow” a dog.
With so many dogs, owners, handlers and family members headed to Batesville for that weekend, local hotels and campgrounds are filling up.
“We’ve had a noticeable increase in demand in our exterior corridor hotels,” said Vijay Vaghela, spokesman for a family of businesses that operate Batesville’s Holiday Inn, Days Inn and Quality Inn.
Representatives of six guest facilities in the city said that they are either sold out or nearing capacity.
Vaghela said that he is in contact with the Batesville Civic Center and the Panola Partnership to keep abreast of plans for the Jan. 25-26 event as they unfold. Registration for the United Kennel Club’s Winter Classic coon hunt and show has grown to the largest ever.
“We definitely need to do everything we can to make people happy with our area,” Vaghela said.
Jessica Rudd at the Hampton Inn said that registrations for the Winter Classic weekend began there in late November and early December. “They should have a big turnout,” Rudd said.
“We’re almost booked up, full,” said Tammy Bryant at the Ramada Limited.
Coon hunters have also booked lodging at Chickasaw Hills Lodge near Sardis Lake and at John Kyle State Park, where some cabins were still available when the newspaper checked last week. Plenty of camping sites are still available at the park, a spokesman said.
The UKC is managing 18 campsites at the Civic Center.