On heels of Doggie Dip, Wagfest promises furry fun
Events cater to pets, owners

By TOM JOZWIK - Special to TimeOut

September 8, 2016


Saturday will signal the return of Wagfest at Mitchell Park in Brookfield. There’s entertainment for pets and humans alike at the Elmbrook Humane Society event on the city’s west side.
Robert Borkowski/Special to TimeOut

At Greenfield Park in West Allis, the 12th annual Doggie Dip welcomed canine swimmers on Labor Day. In New York City, a Dog Film Festival has been scheduled — presumably for human audiences. In Florida, Key Largo’s Yappy Hours have targeted canines as well as their owners.

Soon, Dogtoberfest will come to Tucson, Ariz., Howl-O-Ween in the Park to Cincinnati and a Wine Walk (“sure to be a tail wagging good time”) to suburban Seattle. But dog lovers need not travel to distant parts of the country for canine-related celebrations. This Saturday, in Brookfield’s Mitchell Park, Wagfest 2016 — a fundraiser for the Elmbrook Humane Society — will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“The 9th Annual Wagfest is the place for animals and their people to come together as a community and celebrate the bond between them,” according to publicists of the event whose slogan is “Fun. Sun. Fur.” Located next to the Wilson Center for the Arts, the venue’s address is 19900 River Road. Admission and parking are free and transportation will be provided — for dogs and their handlers alike — from the parking lots to the festival proper.

 Three Samoyeds cool off at Cool Waters Family Aquatic Park at Greenfield Park in West Allis during Monday’s Doggie Dip when the pool goes to the dogs.
Annelore Ganz

Once at Wagfest, attendees will have access to restaurant foods and more than 70 vendors’ wares, raffles, and dog activities including games and painting. Music will be provided by Joe Richter and Those Fabulous Tremtones.

Typically, some 5,000 people have turned up at recent Wagfests, EBHS Executive Director  Heather Gehrke said. She added that a similar number — plus perhaps 1,000 dogs — is expected for Saturday’s extravaganza. Wagfest offers plenty to occupy human beings, whether or not they come with canines, she said. “We have a live band, a beautiful park and there are non-dog-related things to do.”

“Every year there are a couple of cats that come,” added Gehrke. No feline is known to have ever been traumatized or to have generated trouble of any sort by showing up for the event (at which flexi-leashes are not permitted). Among the festival’s vendors is a nonprofit cat rescue operation. Sale offerings include items for both cats and dogs, plus items related to neither — such as candles and jewelry.

Among the people-friendly features will  be three 50/50 raffles and stands representing the culinary of eight restaurants, among them first-time participants Blackfinn Ameripub of Brookfield and BelAir Cantina of Wauwatosa. “There will definitely be a good variety of things to eat,” Gehrke insisted.

While their masters are eating and drinking, dogs in attendance will be able to partake of puptinis — chicken or beef broth concoctions served in plastic martini glasses.

And then there’s the Doggy Dining Dash, a new activity in 2016. “Think of a pie-eating contest for humans,” Gehrke said by way of explanation.

Exactly what the Doggy Dining Dash “pies” will consist of has not been decided as of this writing, but they “will obviously be safe for dogs,” she said. The dashes will occur hourly from noon to 4 p.m., with each hour’s fastest eater being declared a winner.

Additionally in the area of innovations, “we’re adding a VIP bar area this year,” Gehrke noted. For a price, people can secure one of 40 VIP spots available, entitling them to a free Puptini, a free human beverage and private bathroom access.

“There are still only a handful of events like this (Wagfest)” in southeastern Wisconsin, said Gehrke. In previous years, some attendees have reported traveling hundreds of miles to attend Wagfest, she said. (Pet-friendly hotels in the Waukesha area, and elsewhere, can be located  online at About 200 volunteers are involved in setting up for the yearly event and helping on Wagfest day itself. Wagfest’s planners number 15 individuals.

“It’s sort of like planning a wedding every year,” laughed Gehrke, who as the EBHS executive director of 3 1/2 years heads a staff of 22. “But it’s fun,” she added.

“We assist about 2,000 animals a year,” Gehrke noted of the EBHS, which serves seven municipalities in Waukesha County. “We take care of dogs and cats and small animals” — that third category including even reptiles at times, if somewhat more mainstream pets like gerbils on a more consistent basis. For information regarding animal adoptions, and other EBHS-related info, go to

Future romps

More fun awaits canines and their owners:

- For anyone having to miss Wagfest on Saturday, or anyone attending and craving more of the same, a Barktoberfest celebration is scheduled from 1-6 p.m. Sept. 17 at Milwaukee County’s Estabrook Park, 4400 N. Estabrook Drive, Milwaukee.

The admission-free celebration will feature food and drink (the park boasts a beer garden), live music, vendors, dog agility courses, and demonstrations by the Milwaukee House of Corrections K-9 Unit. Barktoberfest is a ROMP-related happening; the acronym stands for Residents for Off-Leash Milwaukee Parks. ROMP was also a sponsor, with the Milwaukee County Parks, of Monday’s Doggie Dip at Greenfield Park.

For additional information, go to

- Jennifer Smieja, communications and marketing coordinator for the Humane Animal Welfare Society of Waukesha County, reports that Move Your Mutt for HAWS — a run/walk including 10K, 5K and 1-mile components — is slated for 9 a.m. Oct. 9 at Genesee Lake Road Park, 37505 Genesee Lake Road, Summit. Dogs are welcome in the 5K and mile categories and there’ll be food for them at the finish line.

HAWS (slogan: “Building a No-Kill Community”) also has two upcoming events that are not dog-specific. An Avian Extravaganza seminar, addressing such subjects as the current backyard poultry trend and avian first aid, is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday at the HAWS facility, 701 Northview Road, Waukesha. Stayin’ Alive, a four-hour disco party fundraiser, is set for 6 p.m. Oct. 21. Log on to or call 262-542-8851.

- The Waukesha Kennel Club offers all-day Pet College Oct. 1 and a multi-week  puppy program (“designed to get dog owners and their puppies off to a good start”) and dog obedience classes starting Wednesday. Go to


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