DANVILLE, Ohio - Let's get one thing straight right upfront: Raccoon tastes nothing like chicken. It's more of a cross between dark turkey meat and roast beef. And the people of Danville love it.
DANVILLE, Ohio — Let’s get one thing straight right upfront: Raccoon tastes nothing like chicken.
It’s more of a cross between dark turkey meat and roast beef. And the people of Danville love it.
For more than two hours, they lined up out the door, waiting for their chance to plop down $11 for a plate of masked critter at the 70th annual Danville Lions Raccoon Dinner.
By the time dinner in the St. Luke’s Community Center was finished last night, more than 500 people — and more than 500 pounds of raccoon — had been served.
Cathy Hoffman of Centerburg was an apprehensive first-timer, accompanying her husband, Dan, a raccoon-dinner veteran. They’ve been married for 12 years, Dan joked, “and tonight it might stay at 12.”
Ham was available for the squeamish, and Cathy counted herself among them.
“Raccoons are supposed to be in the wild, not in the kitchen,” she said.
At the table, though, she tried a bite at her husband’s coaxing. Her eyes widened.
“Oh, my gosh. It really does taste like roast beef. It’s so tender,” she said as she reached her fork toward her husband’s plate for another bite.
A table away, Mary Ann Burke and Terry Finnegan dined heartily. She had driven all the way from New Jersey to attend her third raccoon dinner, stopping in Pittsburgh to pick up Terry, who was attending his fifth. They met through an online dating service and have made the Danville Lions event a tradition.
“Really knows how to treat a lady,” a man nearby joked.
About 200 raccoons were hunted and trapped for last night’s dinner. About 120 of them were provided by Leonard Mickley and his nephew, Brian Payne. The two Knox County residents have been hunting with their two Mountain Cur dogs since the season opened on Nov. 10.
They sell the pelts — this year, the going rate was $9.50 apiece — and donate the meat.
“I’ve been catching coons for the coon dinner for about 50 years,” Mickley said. “My grandpa was one of the ones who started it. I just want to see the tradition keep going.”
Mickley’s aunt, Barb Mickley, is in charge of the kitchen. This year, she and more than a dozen other women prepared and browned the raccoons. Twenty-one large roasters filled a long table, with 26 pounds of raccoon meat in each.
“It’s a family thing,” Leonard Mickley said. “It’s community.”