FREEDOM HILLS – On Monday, September 3, the Annual Coon Dog Labor Day Celebration will be held to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the world’s only Coon Dog Cemetery. Located about 20 miles southwest of Tuscumbia, Alabama, near the town of Cherokee and theNatchez Trace Parkway, the world’s only Coon Dog Cemetery is the burial ground for about 300 bona find coon hounds. This year, the hours for the event have been expanded, beginning at 10:00 a.m. and concluding about 4:00 p.m. The event is free.
Those attending will enjoy live music all day by three groups – The Southern Strangers, Karren Pell and Travis Wammack. The Southern Strangers perform old timey bluegrass and gospel, Travis Wammack is a well-know Shoals resident and American rock and roll guitarist who began his musical career when he wrote and recorded his first record at age 11. He hit the American charts at #80 in 1964 when he released the instrumental “Scratchy”. He was Little Richard’s band director from 1984 until 1995 and plays various venues locally and around the southeast today. Karren Pell is a modern troubadour and Nashville singer-songwriter published and recorded internationally. Her musical compositions range from commercial songs to theatrical works, to the historical ballads of Alabama Troubadour, her first book published. Her compositions have been recorded internationally. In 2010, two songs were included on a CD that won a Norwegian Grammy. She has performed in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Canada. Karren’s latest show, “The Old Alabama Town Revue,” features a variety of original songs and old favorites, with Tim Henderson, Toni Wood-Meyer and guest artists. They have created a special show for this year’s Labor Day Celebration and are looking forward to a “howling” good time celebrating coon dogs!
Official memorabilia will be sold throughout the day, including T-shirts, hats, mugs, color prints, and the final 200, 4-inch, Trapper, Case Knife, engraved with the Coon Dog Cemetery Monument and the Coon Dog Cemetery logo, along with the words, 75thAnniversary. The 200 knives will be sold beginning at 12 O’clock (Noon) and will be the final knives available in the limited edition of 500. Buyers will be limited to purchasing one knife. There will be a live auction of knife #75 with bidding open to everyone.
One new item that will be available for purchase this year is a 16” x 20”, signed and numbered color print from an original oil painting by Tuscumbia artist Martha Carpenter. The print depicts a scene from a former Coon Dog Labor Day Celebration.
A full day of fun is being planned for the day.. Get ready to be entertained with a great line-up of live music, buck-dancing, and the usual liar’s contest. L. O. Bishop with his famous “Hawg House” BBQ will be on hand, beginning at 11am, to sell barbecue plates. Colbert County Commissioner and dentist Dr. Jimmy Gardiner will be the Master of Ceremonies for the event.
All net proceeds from the event will be used to maintain and enhance the cemetery. The Coon dog Labor Day Celebration is coordinated and managed by the Friends of the Coon Dog Cemetery and the Colbert County Tourism Bureau. The cemetery and the annual Labor Day celebration bring national media attention to this remote location each year. It is estimated that at least 150,000 visitors see the Coon Dog Cemetery each year.
From Tuscumbia, travel U.S. Highway 72 West to Alabama Highway 247 (about six miles), turn south and travel 12.8 miles to Coondog Cemetery Road. Turn right and travel five miles to the cemetery which will be on your left. A sign marks the entrance to the cemetery. Parking is free and this year, transportation will be provided from the parking area to the festival site.
The cemetery was begun on Labor Day, September 4, 1937, when area resident Key Underwood buried his beloved coon hound Troop in the Freedom Hills of northwest Alabama. He buried him near the spring where the two had spent countless happy hours, hunting together. It wasn’t long until Mr. Underwood’s hunting buddies began to lay their special hunting dogs to rest near the grave of Troop. In all, about 300 graves are marked in the cemetery, many with colorful epitaphs on the tombstones. Some are hand-constructed, others are expensive, professionally prepared stones. All pay tribute to special friends and to the camaraderie among sportsmen.