It's never been done before, so no one knows quite what to expect, but Leonie Exel has no doubt whatsoever that the Far North's (and Northland's) inaugural Bark in the Park, at the Kawakawa Rugby Club on Saturday week February 23, will be phenomenal.
The idea is to raise some money for BOI Animal Rescue, the charity that rescues the lion's share of Far North District Council pound dogs, and to encourage responsible dog ownership, and it promises to be a day that no dog would ever forget.
"We are supporting this peripherally from BOI Watchdogs, but all the real work is being done by BITP co-ordinator Sam Stewart — mother of four, part-time house cleaner, slave to two dogs and frighteningly efficient festival organiser, and Summer Johnson, who lives and breathes voluntary dog rescue," Leonie said.
"They've put this together in the last few months, and it's really something." District councillor Dave Hookway (who has five dogs) will open proceedings at 10am, with rottweiler owner Cr Kelly Stratford judging the novelty dog show featuring 16 categories including best golden oldie, best rescue dog, and waggiest tail.
The Edge will be there to run a Puparazzi competition, with photos on their website.
Events will include police dog, conservation dog, agility and obedience demonstrations, with a canine cool-off zone with paddling pools and dog ice blocks, and a dog photo booth.
Raffle prizes donated by locals, will include three nights at a dog-friendly holiday home, Terracotta Gardens in Russell, a day on a yacht for two , Countdown vouchers and more.
Poo Fairies will wander around, and Prize Fairies will hand out spot prizes.
AFFCO has donated 1000 sausages, 4 Square Kawakawa and Moerewa providing bread, and Animates and Masterpet have donated dog food for prizes.
More than 35 stalls had been confirmed, along with car boot sales, a bouncy castle and food vans. People with dog products are encouraged and stalls will be set up by local dog groomers and vets, offering microchipping, worming and general health advice.
Bark NZ will teach kids how to be safe around dogs.
Leonie said BOI Animal Rescue deserved strong community support.
"These guys have taken more than 70 dogs from the FNDC pounds in the last two years. They foster them out and then find them furever homes. They take more dogs than any other rescue organisation, despite the fact that they are completely run by volunteers," she said.
"They also rescue dogs from all over Northland — 260-plus in the last three years. They have a charity registration number, and are waiting for the process to be finalised at the moment.
"Max Newport, from BOI Vets (Kawakawa, Kerikeri, Kaikohe) is on the board of BOI Animal Rescue. They've de-sexed 192 dogs since January last year and have spent $54,000 on vet bills in the same period. It is worth noting that this is a really discounted rate, at least half price."
BOI Animal Rescue was also striving to get more involved in community education around dogs, with Summer working with people she met to encourage them to care better for their pets. This kind of event would enable her to do that on a grander scale.
Meanwhile 10 of the most needy dogs would receive de-sexing vouchers at Bark in the Park, and the plan was to collect the names of those needing further efforts to gain funding.
A few rules
There will only be a few rules at Bark in the Park — children under 13 need to be accompanied by an adult, all dogs need to be on leashes and under control at all times, and all dogs need to be vaccinated.
There will be no eftpos at the venue.