By Kristen Dowd/The Voorhees Sun
It certainly felt like a dog day of summer at Connolly Park on Saturday, Sept. 8. With temperatures soaring into the 80s, tail-wagging canines — with owners in tow — converged on the park for the Voorhees Animal Orphanage’s 16th annual Woofstock.
“We had an exceptionally amazing day,” said Christine Todd, shelter director. “It was the biggest one yet.”
The festival ran from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., drawing between 3,500 and 4,000 people. Connolly Park was transformed for the event, dotted with rows of tents housing the vendors and non-profit participants. A large stage, manned by DJ Scuilli, who provided free music, was also the scene of pet contests and demonstrations. Celebrity guests included animal communicator Dr. Liz Severino, Larry Levine and his dog Oogy, and the Camden County and Gloucester County Sheriff Departments’ K9 units.
“The K9 demo was a big hit,” said Todd. “The Gloucester County Sheriff Department took one of our dogs, and he is now in their training program to be a narcotics dog. It makes you realize these people work really hard and that the dogs are not only companion animals but protect us, too.”
It was the first year Wendy and John Cikot, of Pennsauken, were not away on vacation for Woofstock, and the duo was excited to take part with their Chihuahuas.
“We’re just here to support the shelter, buy treats, meet dogs and have fun,” Wendy said while pushing along her sleepy pooch, Chi, in a stroller.
There were 60 vendors at the festival, touting everything from sweet-smelling candles to fresh, bright sunflowers. Attendees could be seen carrying bags of homemade dog treats, colorful Frisbees and handcrafted fall décor as they strolled the grounds.
Gwen King, the “Crazy Dog Lady” of Westampton, had a booth with her handmade dog clothes at the event. With others manning her booth, King took time to walk the grounds with her own dogs.
“It’s a lot of fun, seeing all the dogs. That’s what I like the most,” King said. “Plus, it benefits the orphanage, which is a good thing.”
The Animal Orphanage wasn’t the only shelter making its presence known on Saturday. Plenty of other animal rescues set up booths with adoptable four-legged friends, including New Life Animal Rescue, All They Need Is Love Animal Rescue, Howling Woods Farm and the Cumberland County SPCA, just to name a few.
“I like to come to these events and try to get (our animals) adopted,” said Kelly Webb, a volunteer with the Cumberland County SPCA.
Woofstock wasn’t all about the woof — there were some definite meows going on, too. Adoptable cats and kittens were lazing comfortably at the various animal rescue group booths. There was even a 12-day-old kitten nursing from a tiny bottle with Finally Home Farm Animal Rescue, and the little black-and-white critter drew quite a crowd.
Positive feedback has been coming in from the 30 nonprofit groups involved, according to Todd. “Just to get the exposure is a plus for me when we network,” she said.
In addition to the exposure, there were plenty of adoptions coming out of Woofstock, too. Todd said The Animal Orphanage adopted out several kittens and received promising applications on many of their dogs. She knew other shelters also took in strong applications that would most likely turn into new forever homes for their canines.
At the beginning of Woofstock, an Alumni Parade invited all past Animal Orphanage adoptees and their owners to march the park, a fitting way to kick off an event that, at the end of the day, is all about animal adoption.
One such marcher was a rottweiler named Apollo. Once slated for euthanasia due to a perceived temperament problem last year, Todd — then a shelter volunteer — and other volunteers rallied behind the dog, bringing in a second professional opinion to show that the dog did not, in fact, have temperament issues. Todd and her husband, Tony, fostered the dog before finding him a fantastic home.
At Woofstock, Todd saw Apollo as he crested the Connolly Park Hill to join the Alumni Parade, and she said it was an incredible feeling.
“That, to me,” Todd said, “was the best part of Woofstock.”