Dog park and dog festival coming soon

By Brenda Sullivan - ReminderNews
Manchester - posted Wed., Aug. 10, 2011
Contests, gift baskets, demonstrations, a silent auction and more are part of the fourth annual Manchester Dog Festival, hosted by MDOG, coming up on Sept. 10. Photo courtesy of Alysia Duke. - Contributed Photo

They may be called “dog parks,” but they are as much a benefit for the two-legged caretakers as they are for the pups.

“There are tons of benefits to having a dog park in our town, and not just for the dogs,” said Shirley Gronholm, one of the board members for the Manchester Dog Owners Group and an original champion of the dog park project. “We call it a dog park, but you know, to a dog, the whole world is a park. Really, this is a park for people to come and enjoy their dogs in a safe environment.”

Unlike a regular park, “you don’t have kids running by, or people who are afraid of or don’t like dogs – things dog owners have to be on the alert for… At a dog park, you can relax and you can enjoy the other people,” she said.

Dog parks also make life more enjoyable for pets who live with people with limited mobility – the elderly or disabled – or who don’t have a yard where their dogs can run and get exercise, she said. And again, a dog park provides the dog owners the stimulation of interacting with others.

It’s for these reasons that Gronholm and the other members of MDOG CT have worked for more than three years with the town of Manchester to build such a park. And Gronholm is “very, very happy,” she said, that groundbreaking for the first phase of the park is in just a matter of weeks.

The park – which is to be considered part of Mt. Nebo Park – will begin with a portion of the total 1-acre site using dollars raised to date. The idea is to meet the town’s deadline to begin the project no later than December 2011, according to MDOG member Alysia Duke.

Bids from contractors are still coming in, so the date when actual construction will begin hasn’t been set yet, Duke said last week.

When the entire park is completed, the first portion will become a small-dog area where little breeds and senior dogs can play without being trampled by the young and rambunctious ones.

The first phase will be funded with approximately $40,000 raised as of April 2011 through a number of activities and donations.

It’s estimated it will cost another $35,000 to complete the entire park, but the final figure will depend on the bids that come in from contractors, Duke said. MDOG is hoping contractors might reduce their prices in light of the nonprofit nature of the project.

But there’s still a lot of fundraising to be done, Duke said.

The community has been very supportive, Gronholm said. “The economy being what it is, we’re happy we’ve raised enough to actually get the park started,” she said.

MDOG has partnered with others for events such as the annual Taste of Manchester, and hosts some large fundraisers throughout the year, including the very popular Easter Egg Hunt in April, and the upcoming annual MDOG “Manchester Dog Festival,” which is held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 10 (rain date Sept. 11) at Globe Hollow (100 Spring St.).

As of last week, the event sponsors included “Top Dog” donor Bolton Veterinarian Hospital, “Friend of Fido” donor Camp Bow Wow, and a new pet store in downtown Manchester, Fintastic Aquariums.

The festival will include dog-friendly activities, police dog demonstrations, information booths and a large variety of vendors such as groomers and dog trainers, one of which will be the “dog listener” Phil Klein, an expert on dog behavior modification (

“We normally have about 20 vendors, but we can accommodate as many as 50, so we will take requests [to be a part of the festival] all the way until a week before,” Duke said.

The event organizers are also looking for volunteers to help both with organizing in advance of the event and on the day of the festival.

“We need about 40 to 50 volunteers, because we break into shifts so no one has to work the whole day… a lot of people want to be able to enjoy the festival, too,” Duke said.

Volunteers can help with setting up the event, handing out “goody bags,” supervising contests and packing up at the end of the event.

One of the most popular events at the festival, which is now in its fourth year, is the Recall Race. Dogs are held at one end of a path and their owners wait at the other. The dogs are released when the owners call their pets, and the fastest dog wins.

The race makes a point, Duke said. “People think of ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ as important commands, but the most important is to come when called, just for the safety of the dog – you don’t want them running out into traffic, for example,” Duke said.

The festival also includes a silent auction, and the organizers are looking for donations of all kinds - not just dog products - such as a gift certificate for a movie and dinner at a local restaurant, gift cards or bottles of wine.

Once the first phase of the park is completed, there will be a grand opening event to get the word out and to celebrate.

More information about MDOG events can be found online at or by contacting Duke at or 860-647-0119. The group also has a Facebook group page: Manchester Dog Owners Group CT.

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