by Jessie Ammons
It’s hard to miss the Dixie Deer Classic: One of the State Fairgrounds’ largest annual events brings more than 20,000 folks to town the first weekend of March. This year’s show March 3 – 5 marks the 50th anniversary of the Wake County Wildlife Club, the local conservation nonprofit behind the event. “It’s a phenomenon that’s built on itself,” says club member Jim Hudson.
The Dixie Deer Classic is the 100-member Wildlife Club’s only fundraiser. Begun 37 years ago to showcase local deer hunting in a time when hunters often left the state to seek prizewinning bucks, Hudson says just a few hundred people attended that first show. Those numbers have since multiplied by 100, and the scope now encompasses environmental stewardship education and kids’ outdoor activities, too. These include biennial “wildlife careers days” led by outdoors writers, park rangers, and environmental scientists that middle and high-schoolers can attend for academic credit. There’s a family-friendly scavenger hunt and exhibitors galore – and there’s also still an area for hunters to bring buck mounts and racks to be scored.
While the Classic’s roots are local, word has spread. “People come in from all over creation,” Hudson says, to reconvene annually. The atmosphere is familiar and convivial, much like a family reunion. “It’s very festive.”
General admission for the weekend is $12, and kids ages 12 and under are free; on Friday, youth, seniors, military, and women can buy a day pass for $6; dixiedeerclassic.org