London Community News
By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
The grounds around Steve Plunkett’s enormous estate will once again go to the dogs later this month — actually, about 6,000 of them.
About 25,000 people, along with all those four-legged friends, are expected to come to the Plunkett estate for the fourth annual Pawlooza festival, Saturday, Aug. 18.
The festival, which also happens to take place on International Homeless Animals’ Day, runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Events include the always popular dock diving, the luring course, agility and obedience demonstrations and more.
Pawlooza is a fundraiser for two not-for-profit agencies: Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) Ontario and Leads Employment Services. Last year, the festival split $50,000 between the two organizations.
With all the people who have come out to the festival since it began, not to mention all the money it has raised, festival director Craig Huffman said the success of Pawlooza has been “truly remarkable.” And the reason for that success, Huffman said, can be fairly easily traced.
“I think the whole community has kind of rallied around us. Our sponsorships were full plenty early, our vendors sold out earlier than ever, about a month ago. We have 175 spots and we maxed out,” Huffman said. “We maxed out too on our volunteers. We need 300 and we had that about a month ago. So it is that plus all the donations, all the companies onboard, we are a good story everyone wants to help out and get involved in.”
That support is seen clearly, Huffman said, in the amount of money Pawlooza provides to the two charities. “We are usually square when the festival starts, all of our sponsorships, booth fees, they cancel out all our costs and the day of is what we split between the charities.”
ARF works with First Nations and rural communities throughout Ontario to rescue, rehab and re-home stray dogs and cats. Leads helps people with disabilities throughout southwestern Ontario find employment and receive skills training.
One of the biggest drawing cards of the festival is the Plunkett estate, which Huffman said is something of a tourist attraction all on its own. Huffman called Plunkett “an awesome friend,” who not only opened up his property to the festival, but also actually purchased more land so parking could be expanded.
But besides the location, the events that have become favourites, along with the addition of new ones, is something Huffman said makes a big difference in the festival’s success.
“We have anything you can think of for a dog. We have the luring course; we have dock diving. Pawlooza’s Next Top Model is always a humungous hit,” Huffman said. “We have a best dressed contest this year to accommodate all the dogs their cute/dorky outfits that everybody loves to dress them in. Pawlooza's Got Talent is a trick contest so we have the stupid pet tricks too.”
Pawlooza has grown by about 5,000 people each year, Huffman said, despite some consistently bad luck with the weather. However, with the record high temperatures and humidity that has hit the London area this summer, Huffman said extra care is being make to make sure everyone — man, woman, child, and dog — are kept safe and comfortable.
“New this year, we have a misting tunnel being trucked in,” Huffman said. “Usually that is reserved for college football games to cool people down, so we have that for the people and dogs. We are paying attention to the heat; we want to make sure everyone is safe.”
Pawlooza organizers focus not only of safety, but fun as well. Huffman said every effort is made to make sure participants, human or canine, have the best time possible.
Of course, that good time doesn’t just happen all by itself.
“With all those crowds, full parking lots, despite overcast weather and 95 per cent chance of rain, and of course all the people who rely on us to spread their message, which is the same as ours,” Huffman said. “All those things combined make it all worthwhile. When we see the crowds, the vendors all coming back, the community support, it just makes it all worthwhile to us.”
For more information about Pawlooza, visit www.pawlooza.com.
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