Westport Dog Festival to return after COVID cancellations

WESTPORT — After the Westport Dog Festival was canceled twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it will make a grand return this weekend.

The festival regularly attracts an average of about 3,000 people and roughly 1,000 dogs, said Matthew Mandell, executive director and president of the Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce. “It’s quite popular,” he said. “People love doing it. People love their dogs.”

People expressed disappointment when the event was scuttled, first in spring 2020 and again in spring 2021. But now the festival is back — albeit in fall, as opposed to spring, when it’s taken place in the past.

The fifth annual Westport Dog Festival will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday in Westport’s Winslow Park. The Chamber of Commerce is collaborating with The Alliance in Limiting Strays, a charity that promotes spaying and neutering animals.

Mandell said the time seemed right to bring the festival back, as the pandemic-associated lockdowns likely have left area residents, and their furry friends, hungry for fun activities.

“It’s an outdoor event, so people will feel safe,” he said.

The event will include police K9 presentation, kids activities, vendors, food trucks, and other events. Competitions sponsored by Earth Animal will offer prizes to pooches in such categories as best tail wagger, best dressed, best kisser, best trick, best lap dog over 50 pounds, and dog that most looks like its owner. Judging will be done by many of the Westport’s elected officials.

Surrounding the main activities will be more than 50 pet-related vendors and lots of giveaways, as well as an assortment of food trucks.

Visitors will also get a chance to meet Piglet, the deaf and blind pink Dashchund/Chihuahua mix who is the subject of the book “Piglet: The Unexpected Story of a Deaf, Blind, Pink Puppy and His Family,” by veterinarian Melissa Shapiro.

Parking is available at the Westport Country Playhouse, and at other lots offered by neighboring businesses. Festival patrons can look for these designated lots along the Post Road.

The festival entrance fee is $10 per person and $25 for a family of four (two adults, two children). Proceeds will benefit nonprofit organizations, including TAILS, the Connecticut Humane Society and others. So far, more than $22,000 has been donated by the chamber to groups from the prior festivals.

Dog owners can register for the competitions online or at the festival. All information about the festival can be found at www.westportwestonchamber.com/dogs. A rain date is set for Oct. 17.

Mandell said organizers are keeping an eye on the weekend’s weather, as they have had to reschedule past events due to rain.

“Nobody likes a wet dog,” he said.