Albany hopes to replace UKC Winter Classic - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Albany hopes to replace UKC Winter Classic

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South Georgia coon hunters and event sponsors say they are already working to replace one of the city's biggest tourism events.

After 25 years in Albany, the United Kennel Club announced yesterday they are moving their Winter Classic Coon Hunt to Batesville, Mississippi.

There are some hard feelings over the way the UKC handled the move, but South Georgian coon hunters say it's likely another coon hunt will replace the Winter Classic.

The United Kennel Club Winter Classic was one of the two or three biggest tourism events in Albany annually.

Last year bringing more than 5000 visitors from across the nation, pumping about a million and a half dollars into the economy.

South Georgia organizers say Albany was never given a chance to keep the event.

The Exchange Club of Albany has hosted the UKC Winter Classic at their fair grounds for 25 years, and in recent weeks started to hear rumors about the event moving to Mississippi.

"We knew something was up because they would never return our phone calls," said Exchange Club Fair of Southwest Georgia, President Larry Griffin.

South Georgia Coon Dog Hunting club leaders admit the decision hurt many feelings.

"The press release, if you read through it, it basically says Albany was good for 25 years, but we are not good enough for the next 25. That has caused the hard feelings," said Deep South Classic Coon Hunt Club, President James Lawrence.

The new home of the Winter Classic will be the Civic Center at Batesville, Mississippi.  South Georgia organizers say they have been told the UKC wanted out of the deep South.

"When it came right down to it, Albany was not geographically located where they wanted to be, in the central part of the United States.  So we weren't given the opportunity to bid or come back and go to bat with Batesville," said Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau Manager, Rashelle Beasley.

The UKC may be gone, but organizers remind there are other coon hunting organizations, and Albany can host another event.

"We're not sitting down and crying over this. We're working.  We're working," said Griffin.

"We have the people. We have the capabilities, we have the experience, we have the reputation," said Beasley

And South Georgia has the weather and the land that coon hunters say the Mississippi Delta region may not be able to match.

"Parts of it, is real good, if the weather cooperates. If the Delta floods, they are in trouble."

Organizers say they are trying their best to host a coon hunt event early next year," said Lawrence.

No doubt losing the UKC Winter Classic will be an economic blow to Albany businesses.

Every year there would not a motel room or an empty restaurant across South Georgia and those businesses will miss that weekend.

The UKC Winter Classic will be held January 25 - January 27 in Batesville, Mississippi.

Here is the full press release from United Kennel Club

The perfect location to host a National level coonhound Nite Hunt and Bench Show is hard to find. It has to have a combination of elements that are all outstanding in their own respect. It must blend excellent hunting, an excellent satellite club network, generous community support and an outstanding facility. Every organization that hosts a national level event wishes to hold it in the best location possible for the enjoyment of their event participants. Researching such locations can take a lot of time, money and effort. It's a decision not to be taken lightly; especially when you are considering moving an event that has a storied history at another location.

That being said, United Kennel Club has made the difficult decision to move the UKC Winter Classic Coon Hunt to the Batesville Civic Center in Batesville, Mississippi. We are indebted with gratitude to the people and community of Albany, Georgia, and the surrounding clubs for their help and support in building this outstanding event. However, in looking ahead to the next 25 years, we feel we can take this event to a new and unprecedented level by making this move.

Coonhound enthusiasts and their families are certain to find the hardwood bottoms of the famed Mississippi Delta to their liking. Our initial response for club and guide support has been very encouraging. The central location makes the hunt more easily reached than ever before, and the Batesville Civic Center will bring a stadium atmosphere never before experienced in the sport and our goal is to turn this into a coonhound event unlike anything in the sport.

The 2013 UKC Winter Classic will be held on its traditional weekend of January 25-27, 2013. The ad with all event specifics will appear in the October issue of COONHOUND BLOODLINES magazine and also on the UKC website.

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