Updated: Aug 8
Welcome to the ultimate pet paradise - the Dorchester Pet Fest in Dorchester, Ontario, Canada - it’s a celebration of all creatures big and small. Discover the story behind this remarkable event - to be held July 29-30, 2023 - where pet lovers and their furry, scaly, and feathered companions come together for a day of fun, bonding, and learning. From the exciting Canine Fun Zone to supporting local animal rescues, Nicole Ramsdale, the festival's founder, shares the magic behind the event's charm and success.
Key Takeaways from Our Interview with Nicole
Unique Features and Activities: The event boasts a variety of unique experiences, including an exciting Canine Fun Zone, a secondhand pet items marketplace, 'For Pets' Sake' heat transfers, Goat Yoga, Henna Tattoos, and many more.
Learning Opportunities: Attendees are given opportunities to learn new skills, like pet CPR, and understand the importance of pet socialization and mental stimulation.
Inclusive Event: The festival is not just for pet owners but welcomes all who love animals. There's something for everyone, pet owners or not, at the Dorchester Pet Fest.
Q: How did the idea for Dorchester Pet Fest come about?
A: I have always enjoyed attending pet events to provide socialization opportunities for my dogs, and to find fun ways to spoil them and give them new experiences. Last year, I was working with a local group, and we wanted to plan a community event that would help bring everyone together and I proposed the idea of a pet festival. They loved the idea, and I took it and ran with it. It was planned in six weeks and with no starting budget or paid advertising.
Q: What sets Dorchester Pet Fest apart from other pet-centric events?
A: Dorchester Pet Fest is truly about all pets. We include various types of animal rescues as our beneficiaries, and we also include rescues and businesses that cater to all pets as exhibitors. Our entire event is focused around creating a relaxing and fun environment for families and their pets. Everything we do and plan is focused on this. Our licensed area is a fun addition to the event this year that brings in craft beverages to create a new experience for attendees.
Q: The CANINE FUN ZONE is an exciting feature. Can you share more about this and why it's important for dog socialization and enjoyment?
A: The Canine Fun Zone is an area for dogs to engage in various experiences, some that may be new to them, and provides them with the opportunity to be stimulated and interact with one another and with their family members. It’s also a way for pet parents to see possible interests their pets might have for certain things like the agility/parkour area and lure course, which are both free for them to experience. Ball pits, bubble parties, cool down pools, and a misting tent offer sensory stimulation. Pawprint paintings and temporary fur tattoos bring a splash of color and provide a keepsake memory from the event.
Dogs that have been socialized can approach new situations with curiosity and confidence rather than fear, which helps to reduce anxiety and stress. Providing opportunities to exercise their minds each day helps dogs to be more content and settled since they are highly intelligent. This mental and physical activity helps to reduce behaviours pet parents don’t want that tend to occur when a dog is not finding enough stimulation in a day.
Q: I noticed the event is organized in support of animal rescue. Can you share more about this, such as which organizations you support and how the funds are used?
A: This year we are supporting four animal rescues. Pine V Ranch and Recue, which is a horse rescue; Happy’s Place Retirement Home for Dogs, which is a senior dog rescue; Ontario Reptile Rescue, which rescues reptiles; and Woodstock Kitten Nursery and Rescue, which rescues kittens and pregnant or nursing mothers. We try to ensure our rescue beneficiaries reflect the “all pets” focus of our event. The money is given to them to support their work - whether that be a specific animal's care or to purchase needed supplies.
Q: You offer unique features like a secondhand marketplace and 'For Pets' Sake' heat transfers. Can you talk more about these features?
A: The heat transfers are a fun way for people to support Dorchester Pet Fest’s mission and add a reminder to a shirt, bag or other fabric item that the event and the efforts are for pets’ sake.
The Secondhand Marketplace is a way to support all pet parents. We collect new and gently used items to include in the marketplace. These items might be items a pet has outgrown, items someone purchases for the table, donations from pet stores, or possibly items from pet parents whose pet has passed away. The goal of this table is to provide a way for these items to be used to help other pets and pet parents helping to keep them from going to landfills and giving them new purpose. I wanted to provide a way for people who may not be able to afford something new, to be able to find items for their pet and pay what they can afford. I also wanted to give pet parents of a pet who has passed away to have a space to part with items and know that they will not be discarded. My hope is to bring comfort to pet parents who have lost their pet, and bring joy to those who are happy to find items for a price they can afford – all with the focus on supporting animal rescues.
Q: The festival includes an array of activities, including some that are not pet-centric like Goat Yoga and Henna Tattoos. Can you share your thoughts on why you decided to offer a broad range of activities?
A: I wanted to create an event helps bring families together and offers experiences not often seen at other pet festivals. Not everyone who will attend Dorchester Pet Fest will have pets, but they should feel welcome and have fun opportunities to enjoy too. Depending on where people live, some of the pets like goats and those in the petting zoo might be pets as well.
Q: How does Dorchester Pet Fest ensure the safety of all pets in attendance, especially considering the variety of animals and activities involved?
A: All animals need to be leashed or contained in some way to help their owners maintain control. We also have a waiver that all attendees with pets need to sign that asks them to confirm their pet is not a risk. Our event is spread out over a large space with multiple areas, so people have the opportunity to be more spread out too, and move with more freedom. We also have people who understand animal behaviour overseeing the events and will communicate with attendees if their pet or they themselves need to leave an activity or the event for the safety of themselves or others.
Q: What are your top tips for those attending a pet festival for the first time?
A: Give yourself time! Take it all in and explore the different experiences we have. Bring your pets and your family. This event has so much to offer, and it really is a family event. It is a great way to spend a day away from screens and enjoy each other's company..., putting the focus on our family pets.
Q: Can you share an inspirational or heartwarming story from past Dorchester Pet Fest events?
A: I think the most heartwarming story for me is, truthfully, just how much fun people had at the first event last year and how much they are looking forward to coming this year...This event has grown leaps and bounds already in one year with the support and excitement from businesses and community members, and I really look forward to this year and seeing where it goes in future years.
Q: What future plans do you have for Dorchester Pet Fest?
A: I have a lot of different things planned for the event and the non-profit organization. I’m a dreamer and I love to keep options open and various ideas on the table. The main goal though is to support animal rescues and the work they do to help take care of the animals in their care.
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