ST. GEORGE – A wide variety of pets, from rodents to reptiles, snakes to spiders, chihuahuas to cats and pit bulls to poodles, plus their two-legged companions, visited the SunRiver Pet Festival on Saturday to exchange a few smiles and sniffs while raising money for animals in need.
A portion of the event’s proceeds benefit the local animal welfare organization P.A.W.S., which had several dogs and cats up for adoption at their booth. Their participation in the festival is just one facet of their mutually beneficial relationship with SunRiver St. George. Many P.A.W.S. volunteers are residents of the retirement community, and P.A.W.S. usually has two or three successful adoptions at the festival.
“The support of this event and SunRiver in general is very important,” said Lynn Burger, P.A.W.S. director of operations. “They’re a community of pet lovers. The money they raise helps us tremendously.”
Pet-centric businesses also benefit from being vendors at the festival, as it is catered specifically to their clientele.
“This event gets our name out there. We do lots of things for pets at my shop and it helps people realize we’re another option,” Misty Hamilton, owner of Doggie Stylez, said. “I’ve had a lot of people stop by today. We will probably get a couple customers.”
Registered nurse Belinda Guglielmo attended to promote her business, ESI 2001, which offers training courses in pet first aid, health and safety. Her booth focused on the proper method of administering dog and cat CPR, which she developed after extensive research on CPR in humans.
“This can be lifesaving and it’s something every pet owners should know,” Guglielmo said. “It’s also easy to translate when needed for a person.”
The main focus of the festival, however, is to foster relationships between pets and pet enthusiasts in a fun outdoor environment. A two-mile pet-and-owner walk started at 8:30 a.m., and the majority of attendees began filing in at 9 a.m. Pets of all sizes, shapes and ages met up with old friends and made new ones while browsing through vendor booths and delighting onlookers.
“We’ve come to the festival for three years and Beanie always has a great time,” said SunRiver resident Deborah Kolb, who attended with her Boston Terrier mix.
Pets also had the opportunity to compete in four contests: The Best Dressed Fashion Show, the “Fur Real” Natural Beauty Pageant, the Most Talented Pet Contest and the Cutest Pet Photo Contest. Contestants, from toy dogs with bows and dresses to mutts with leather studded collars and bandanas, strutted down the red carpet with owners in tow. The top three places, along with some extra “honorable mentions,” were chosen by a panel of SunRiver residents and awarded a gift basket with assorted pet-friendly items.
A morning of socializing and showing off left pets panting from the excitement and early afternoon heat. The crowd was almost fully dispersed by 1 p.m. and participants bid farewell to an event not soon to be forgotten. SunRiver Communications Coordinator Sandy Naylor said that she hopes to see even more pet lovers back next year.
“This event is great for anyone interested in animals,” Kolb said. “It’s lots of fun even if you don’t have pets.”
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