by Dennis Dalman
It looked like a gathering of the tribes – what with colorful banners, tie-dyed costumes and music drifting in the air. And it was, in fact, a “tribal” meeting – “Woofstock,” the annual fundraiser of the Tri-County Humane Society in St. Cloud’s Wilson Park.
The Sept. 7 event attracted at least 485 registered walkers for the 5k trek, as well as 280 pets, mostly dogs gussied up in hippy-type T-shirts or bandannas, like many of their owners. Many walkers showed up after the walk had begun and so organizers estimate the total number exceeded 500, which was a record set last year. Saturday’s event was the 25th annual “Companion Walk” of the local humane society.
As of Tuesday, the initial funds-raised tally was about $47,000. However, that amount is certain to top $50,000 once all the pledges are counted, said Marit Ortega, the humane society’s manager of fund development. This year’s fundraising goal was $50,000. Last year, that same goal was also raised. Woofstock is the organization’s biggest annual fundraiser, and money is used for a variety of daily needs at the animal shelter.
Ortega said she and others were concerned that brutally humid heat last Saturday might decrease the turnout, but she was happy when so many people and animals began showing up at Wilson Park. Pools and buckets of water throughout the park and along the route helped keep the animals cool. Some of them took running leaps into kiddie pools in the park and plopped down in the cool water, next to other dogs big and small. People, too, drank plenty of water throughout the day as they strolled among the two dozen exhibitors’ booths or sat and listened to music.
“It was hugely successful,” Ortega said. “There were so many donations of food, silent-auction items and donations by sponsors above and beyond pledges for the walkers.”
Ortega said the success of Woofstock was a good way to top a good summer at the humane society. Two cat sales in the summer months were successful beyond the wildest hopes of shelter staff and volunteers. The latest three-day sale just two weeks ago resulted in the adoptions of 36 kittens, 22 adult cats, eight dogs, two puppies and two guinea pigs.
“Those sales helped immensely,” Ortega noted. “We’ve been able to keep up with adoptions.”
The sales were necessary because the shelter had become overwhelmed with cats and kittens, at one time with 50-100 cats or kittens coming in during a few weeks. During the sale, all adult cats were free, and kittens were $50 each, one-third of the usual $150-per-kitten adoption fee.
“People have been coming from far and wide to help us,” Ortega said, “because they’d become aware of how many cats and kittens we had.”
Another big plus, she added, is all of the people who adopted cats appear to be very good, dedicated animal-lovers. The staff interviews prospective adopters, who fill out questionnaires.
“Not one time did a red flag go up about the people adopting,” Ortega said. “We tend to watch for that, and there wasn’t one single red flag.”
The money raised by Woofstock, Ortega said, will greatly help the humane society maintain successful services, like adoption sales, throughout the next year.
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.