Kenton Nationals

Has anybody out there ever attended the Kenton National Coon Dog Field Trials or Kenton Nationals?

This was an event held on labor day weekend each year in Kenton, Ohio. I believe it was started in the mid 1950's but I a not sure. I attended every year from 1990 to 2002 except for 1996. I was introduced to the event from an avid coon hunter from North Carolina.

People seemed to attend from all over the country, as evidenced by the licence plates on the vehicles. There was a large campground and people could also set up as vendors. It was one large flea market, although it centred on hunting dogs. It seemed to grow in size each year that I attended.

The event is no longer happening. It was cancelled as far as I know for 2009, but was on in 2010 and 2011, although guns, dogs and anything hunting seemed to be unwelcome. I can only guess at this as the best I can come across is snippets from a few scattered interent postings. Such a large and popular event seems to have vanished and is apparently forgotten, almost totally off the radar.

I have been told that a similar event has been organized up near Lima Ohio, but I may be wrong about the location.

The old event seemed to be a great model of mid west and southern culture. I still remember the many characters that would attend on a regular basis.

I understand that the man who founded the event had passed away several years prior to it ending, but I have never been able to find any information on that, just a lot of speculationa and rumors about what may have happened to the event, which I will not repeat here.

If anbody else remembers or went there, let me know, share your story.
Older1962 Older1962
51-55, M
19 Responses Jan 17, 2013

My family had been going for many years since the 1950s. With growing concern of gun control and animal rights, I believe that had much to do with the changes which led to many not returning. Although it is not the same with the coon field trials and selling of guns as it were, it is now held in Lima, Ohio at the fairgrounds over Labor Day Weekend. It is still a large flea market according to my uncle. I plan to be there this year to check it out.

My father was an avid coon hunter and frequently took us to the Kenton Field Trials in the late 50's early 60's. As a child, I remember it was like a country fair, but with dogs competing in field events. My father, a WWII vet from WV continued to hunt well into his mid 80's until he could no longer walk without falling and then his younger hunting friends took him with them so he could hear his hounds. One on my favorite movies is 'Where the Red Fern Grows' because it reminds me of my father and going the Kenton Field Trials.

Thank you. What a wonderful memory of your father. I have heard many times about elderly hunters who would still go out just to hear their hounds.

I spent the summers of 1997 and 1998 water racing coon dogs with Bob Lawhead RIP True Americans, real people, and the time of my life. I still cling to the stories and adventures he told me about Kenton and coon dog racing. After his daughter and I divorced I never got to go again, I had made plans one year and was told it was moved but not where to.

I'm an aussie and if you were there in 94 you may have seen me there I was working on a friends stall selling mainly the official join dog trial tshirts as well as cross bows and knives.
It was a real eye opener that's why I googled it and came across your post.
Seeing people spend the weekend trading guns including Amish and I even saw an inbred family with the odd shaped heads.
A weekend I'll never forget.

Was there in 1994, but memory is fading. I added a few replies to my original post, I do not know if you read them, but I tried to gather as much information as I could. It seems to have disappeared completely with no trace, never even found any type of statement from the operators. Plenty of speculation though. I hope what I have added is accurate, should you find out anything else, please feel free to add. My posting seems to get the greatest number of hits about two weeks before Labor Day each year. Btw. I live in Canada.

I remember going as a little boy with my dad, every year close to Labor Day I looked forward to going, the best times of my life were watching the people go by with anything and everything that you could imagine. guns,bows,knives you name it it was there all you had to do was look hard enough and you would find it, I spent countless hours walking over all those rows looking at thing.just buying and selling trading was the best fun that you could have, and I remember watching a lawn mower pulling a small trailer with a picnic table in it and it full of people drinking, they drove by in all that mud and as they stopped for the crowd they started whooping and going on I will never forget as they started to take back off the driver popped the clutch and the trailer came loose and drunks and beer and liquor went skyward, just good times they said and hooked back up and collected what wasn't broken or spilled and off they went. I still have some of the hats and shirts that I gathered over the years, and as I found them again I started looking online to see if the event still went on. I have hats and shirts saying " Leafy Oaks Field Trials" that was the first few years I attended. I never missed a year of going with my Dad and I wont ever forget the things that we did there those are some of my favorite memories with him, the dogs barking all night, Traders Row, getting breakfast on main row, the people were the best if you spoke to someone they always spoke back and more than likely they would talk with you like you known each other for years, the music at night as you walked down the rows, the smell of camp fires burning, tromping around the place in mud knee deep, just the whole experience was the best times of my life. And I am proud to say that I was there for many years and I wouldn't trade any one of those years being tired from walking so much or covered in mud from head to toe for a million dollars that time with my Dad was worth more to me than gold, I was planning on getting him and making one last trip but I was told that it has been stopped and I feel bad that it had to end but as long as I live we still have those memories to share and stories to tell the kids and grandchildren I am going to miss it

thanks for the reply. Your vivid description made me feel like I was back there again.:)

I went in the 50's. We went every year for a week of camping. Loved going. I even had pins of the years I went. People don't coon hunt anymore. I am finding people who have these dogs tend to have them for inside pets. Which, was not in my days. Good times!! And I am a female.

Well here we are again, another labor day gone by, today being September 1, 2014 (Monday). Thanks to all who have commented and added their experiences from Kenton to my post. I am pleased to see that in the two weeks prior to labor day, for the two years this has been up there is approximately 1500 views of my post.

I am glad to hear from so many who enjoyed the event and that it remains in peoples hearts. Hopefully, it will never be forgotten.

Labor day 2014, approx. 4500 views. Let's all keep the memory alive!

I started going to kenton in 94, my father had been going since the mid 70's and had never missed a year. When I started going we were leaving in Texas at the time. That first year my dad drove up earlier in the week and I flew up on thursday since I was in school. I had a blast the first year. Meet alot of new people that over the years have become some really great friends. We went all the way up to the year they closed. When the guy that had started it died his daughter took over and over the years had started to try and change it to be more family friendly then what it had been. By making a lot of changes and rules.
For years we camped out in the only camping area and you had to be there early when the gates opened to get a spot close to flea market area. So we decided to try and get a vender lot. Since we would have the same lot every year and we would be right in the middle of it all. That first year we tried, we got a lot down on row 19 lot 22. I will never forget that number. That was 2000 I believe. From there till 2008 we kept that lot and couldn't wait to meet our neighbors each year. We were about 6 months out from Kenton when we got a letter in the mail from them telling us that they were not going to be having it because of the recession and the cost of insurance was going to be to high. As you can guess we were pretty mad, we had already requsted the days off and had started making plans to go. So we decided instead to make a reservation at a campground in Va and take the whole family. About a month out from labor day weekend we get a call from one of our neighbors at kenton. Telling us that a guy named max decided to through his own thing since kenton was no more. Unfortunately for us we could not cancel our camping trip as it was a holiday week and we would have to pay for it if we did. So we missed the first year of Max's. But we put in for it as soon as we could for the following year. And we have been going ever since. Theres been some plus's and minuses to Maxs. The big plus is theres electricity on the lots so no more noisy generators. But we cant have fire pits which is one of the things we loved to cook over. But we have learned to adjust.

I was never allowed to go when I was a kid...late 1950s. My dad wouldn't even let me go with the family - I guess he thought the crowd was too rough. But it was a big deal every fall. I was raised in West Mansfield, and the Legion had food and beer stands there as well as other community groups. I'm sorry to hear it doesn't exist any longer.

I have been searching to see if this show still exists. My dad took me here the first time in the late 80's and I had no idea as a kid that it would be one of the coolest places i would go in my life. Even though i was born in Toledo, my mom moved us to the Bronx N.Y. at a very young age, so when we would visit our Dad he would take my Brother and I to cool places like this, on his 58 Pan head. me in the front and my brother on the back. I remember just seeing all those cool farmers walking around with rifles and hand guns over their shoulders and on their hips, and being in awe, remembering that i needed to be cool to fully enjoy the experience and come back. Rows and rows of stuff. i always felt like it was cooler to try to trade or barter knives and stuff you had. everybody was cool and everybody had dogs, which i remember barked all night long, adding to the experience. There was a auction as well, as you walked towards the flea market through traders row (i think it was called) and the night time dog races were awesome. The first dog to hit the tree, and the first one to bark I think were the wagers. And one terrified Coon. As I got older we drove and camped with my Dad and stepmom Lori, who passed 6 yrs ago, boy when I think back, that was such an awesome place, glad we were all able to experience it together.

thanks for the reply :)

My husband and I started going in a 1980, then we got our own spot in row 19 down from the bathrooms. we had it there till 2008, in 2009 they closed that year, then the next they gave our spot away, but we got another a few spots down from ours. We had the same neighbors for all them years, then they screwed us.
My Husband went the next year but only as a walk in, we did not set up, and they had a mess... the venders were so scattered that you had to walk a long way before you got another vender. Our neighbors that was there on their normal spot had nobody around them, they were out in the field all by themselves. My husband started going to Lima not setting up and have liked it. The NEW owners I believe was his children ruined a good thing, and they are paying for it now, everybody is going to Lima now . Its a shame it was a great time and met allot of ppl =great memories=

I never rented a spot down there, but I knew a fellow by the name of Roland Humphries from North Carolina who would go every year and set up on Road 13 by the fence. I was introduced to the event by another man from North Carolina. Fond memories. I remember the guys that set up almost across from us, would sound a siren each time they sold something and had snake that looked real but would squirt water at people.

yes it has been moved to lima at the fair grounds-- i went to kenton for yrs and have been attendin this one in lima since it began-- still a GREAT TIME and growin larger every yr-- not as crazy as kenton but still alot of the folks from the old coonies r still going-- check out the website: and also see pictures there

I attended these field trials as a teenager from 1970-76 with Tom & Ralph Angelo from Honeoye NY. I helped them train their dogs and attended races in New York Pennsylvania and Ohio almost weekly from April-October every year. What a life I had growing up is all I can say!

I knew Tom and Ralph Angelo from NY. My dad is Doug Wickham and we raced dog. My dad and brother still race the dog but there is not as many races as before.

hi i dont know if anybody will read this but my grandfather was one of the men that started it in the early 1950s then he was killed by a train in 1957 back then it was called leafy oak i think was only there couple of times

Thanks so much for the reply. I am more than thrilled to hear from somebody related to one of the event founders. If you have any picture or stories you are willing to post, or if you know anybody who has first hand knowledge of the event from the beginning and over the years, or their friends an family I would be greatful if there is a willingness to share.

I have been told, but can not remember from whom that the event actually dates back to 1926. It moved to the Kenton location in the fifties. Do you know if that is true?

Thanks again for your reply.

Here I go again, commenting on my own story. Thank you to all who have read this. The number of views of the story increased this year as summer approached , with over 800 hits alone in the two weeks before labor day weekend.

So many people have been there, so many people remember and miss it. A fond part of all of our lives. All good things.......

I am sooo sad-it has been awhile since I was there but used to go every year-not gonna go if in Lima-the best part was huge flea market and camping-people had perm spots to camp allways the same people around you it was like a reunion-so sad

Thank you for your reply. I must admit, I am impressed with over 1500 views of this story, so far the most popular of my postings.

You are absolutely correct, Kenton was Kenton, it can not be replaced or duplicated in Lima or anywhere else, and yes, half the fun if not more was seeing the same campers and vendors in the same spot each year after year. Very fond memories of the event. I have a few pictures in an album, some tickets and I just came across a few hats in the basement from the event. You may be able to find some pictures if you google Kenton Nationals, you may want to print them off now. They really captured the event. Thanks again for your reply.

I attended the Kenton National one year, I was friends with Stew and Helen Plank back in the mid 70's. I had a blast watching the races and walking their dogs, Fog and Smog if I remember correctly.

I remember the Planks and yes the dogs I remember Fog and Smog. My dad and brother still race the does. My dad is Doug. wickham

In the two months that this posting has been up, it has approximately double the readers of anything else I have posted. So glad that it interests so many people.

<p>The Kenton Coondog Trials are now held in Lima Ohio. It has been renamed Max's Flea Market, google it. It is still on Labor Day weekend as well. I guess in Kenton they were unable to come to an agreement with the Coondog Trials (whoever handled it) and that is why they moved it to Lima. They don't have all the events they had in Kenton, they still have the water dog races and the dog climbing contest and things like that. I have not been to it sense it has been moved to Lima but heard the grounds are much nicer there, in Lima there is more room, there are more vendors selling things and paved parking and walking areas, which was a big problem in Kenton after a good rain. We are reserving a vendor spot there this year and it will be the first time that we seen it out there in Lima, so I am hoping it is every bit as nice as I have heard. Hope to see you there.</p>