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It is the largest annual event for Orangeburg County and is billed as the nation’s largest field trial for raccoon-hunting dogs.

Coon hunters from across the country will descend upon the Orangeburg County Fairgrounds Jan. 4-7 as the 53rd Grand American Coon Hunt comes to town.

The event typically brings in about 1,000 dog/owner teams and between 25,000 to 30,000 visitors, according to the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce.

As the kickoff to the UKC coonhound events calendar, the annual Grand American is the first major event of 2018.

Presented by American Cooner magazine, the Grand American is a national event that features dog/owner teams, which represent each of the seven coonhound breeds, competing for various prizes.

In addition to the hunt, it is a time for people to admire, buy, sell and trade hunting dogs and gear.

Fairgrounds and barns will be open beginning at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Kicking off the weekend will be Coon Fest, which begins Thursday at 2:30 p.m. The event will feature food, country music, entertainment and door prizes.

Opening ceremonies will be held at 10 a.m. Friday in the Bates Building at the fairgrounds.

The Grand American got its start in the 1960s when prominent coon hunters searched for a hunt in a warmer climate as snow prevented much winter hunting in the North.

A panel of national competition hunters was formed, along with some hunters from The T&D Region.

One of its members, Jim Mathis of Denmark, met with the newly formed Orangeburg Coon Hunters Association’s president and Lynn Anderson agreed to have the initial hunt in Orangeburg at the fairgrounds.

The 2018 event’s lineup is:

Friday, Jan. 5

• 7 a.m. – Gates open

• 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. - Barns open

• 8 to 10 a.m. - Bench Show entries taken for Registered, Dual Champion and Pairs in the Bates Building. A United Kennel Club Easy Entry card or registration certificate is needed.

• 10 a.m. – Opening ceremonies in the Bates Building, and Bench Show begins

• 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Changes or corrections due on advanced entries for either Friday or Saturday nights, in the headquarters building corner office.

• 12 p.m. – Confirm all advanced entries for either Friday night hunt, in the headquarters building corner office. A UKC Easy Entry card or registration certificate required to enter.

• 1 p.m. - Treeing Contest

• 2 p.m. – Deadline to confirm all entries.

• 3:30 p.m. – Prayer/drawing out of casts at the headquarters building. Handlers must report to Stake.

Saturday, Jan. 6

• 3 a.m. – Friday night scorecards must be returned to the headquarters building corner office.

• 7 a.m. – Gates open

• 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. – Barns open

• 8 to 10 a.m. – Bench Show entries taken for Champion, Grand Champion and Overall Grand American winner in the Bates Building. A UKC Easy Entry card or registration certificate is needed.

• 9 a.m. – Presentation of trophies/Friday night winners' photos to be taken.

• 10 a.m. – Entries close for Bench Show; Kid’s Bench Show will be held before the licensed Bench Show begins.

• 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Changes or corrections due on advanced entries for Saturday night hunt, in the headquarters building corner office.

• 12 p.m. – Confirm all advanced entries for Saturday night hunt, in the headquarters building corner office. UKC Easy Entry card or registration certificate is required to enter.

• 1 p.m. – Treeing Contest

• 2 p.m. – Deadline to confirm all entries.

• 3:30 p.m. – Prayer/drawing out of casts at the headquarters building. Handlers must report to Stake.

Runner-up will receive a dog box from Clinch Mountain.

Sunday, Jan. 7

• 3 a.m. – Saturday night scorecards must be returned to the headquarters building corner office.

• 3 a.m. (after scores and placements have been tabulated) - Presentation of trophies/Saturday night’s winners’ photos to be taken.

• 3:30 a.m. – Final Four will hunt to determine Grand American Overall Champion.

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