GULFPORT — Adoptable pets will be the guests of honor Saturday when Gulfport's Get Rescued animal adoption fundraiser takes over Beach Boulevard for a festive street celebration.
Dogs and cats, vendors and visitors can mingle and make merry from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Lynda Shehan, an 11-year Gulfport resident who has been involved with rescues for 25 years, introduced the idea here seven years ago, and it has continued to grow. Expected this year are 69 nonprofit animal rescue groups, 145 vendors, and thousands of visitors, many accompanied by their leashed furry friends, making the animal festival one of the largest pet events in the state.
There will be a pet fashion show, pet parade, training demos and education, canine massage and acupuncture, American Kennel Club canine good citizen testing and more.
Indulge in food, music and games. Visitors are encouraged to bring donations of dog and cat food, cat litter and pet supplies that will be distributed to participating rescues the day of the event. All proceeds raised, after expenses, will also be divided among the rescue groups.
"We raise money for this event all year round," said Suzanne King, who is coordinating vendors. She has been involved for five of the seven years.
"This is one of my favorite events," King said. "This one is heartfelt and we're doing such a good thing for all of these rescues. Secondly, we don't even need entertainment for this event because the animals are the entertainment."
Sharon Smith, vice president, secretary and foster mom of Dachshund Adoption Rescue & Education of Wesley Chapel, has been attending Gulfport's Get Rescued since the beginning. She said that about 12 adoptions have resulted from being present at the festival, and that in 2009 two of DARE's dogs were chosen, as ambassador and mascot.
"From my perspective of what we do and how it has impacted our rescue and how much fun we have, we couldn't do it without all the members, volunteers and foster homes, because if we don't have foster space, that's one we can't save," she said.
The free event will be followed by Gulfport's Get Rescued Celebration, a party from 7 to 11 p.m. at the Gulfport Casino Ballroom, 5500 Shore Blvd.
Catered hors d'oeuvres, a cash bar and fresh flowers will add to the atmosphere. The event costs $20.
The festival is sponsored by the city of Gulfport, the Gulfport Merchants Association, the Gulfport Chamber of Commerce and several other groups.
For information on the daytime festival call Suzanne King at (727) 322-5217.
For the evening event call Mike McCue at (727) 667-7531.