BELFAST — The 14th annual Wienerfest drew hundreds of people, and close to that as many dogs, to Belfast’s Steamboat Landing Sept. 10. New this year was the group running the event; while previously held by the group Friends of Belfast Parks, this year PAWS Adoption Center took the leash.
The adoption center, located in Camden, serves 10 Midcoast communities, including Belfast. Proceeds raised from this year’s Wienerfest will go to support the many animals PAWS cares for.
PAWS Outreach and Events Coordinator Kelsey Walker said that although they don’t have an exact number, they estimate 300-400 people attended the event this year.
The day’s activities began with a parade of the four-legged attendants and their respective owners, drawing enough participants to create a dense line of people patiently waiting for their chance to walk.
Though Wienerfest is dachshund-focused, the dogs in attendance were as diverse as their owners, and all proved to be well behaved at the crowded event.
There were a variety of activities available, including multiple vendors, food trucks, and a raffle. More wiener-centric events included the parade, Doxie Derby, and the ever popular costume contest.
When asked just what drew them to the stubby-legged canines, many owners had difficulty articulating exactly what made the breed so irresistible to them.
Brandie Cardenas, who entered her dachshund Dr. Frank-N-Furter in the costume contest, said it’s partially their personalities that make them special and partially their eye-catching appearance.
“They’re just so cute and funny to watch, all around,” she said.
Dr. Frank-N-Furter arrived at the event with a yellow rain jacket and red balloon attached, inspired Cardenas said, by her affinity for Stephen King and the recently released film, It.
For others at the event, including the costume contest winners Bruce and Margo Metrick, the breed landed in their lives through serendipity.
Both Bruce and Margo volunteer for Almost Home Rescue of New England, an entirely volunteer based rescue program without an actual facility. Instead dogs in need are housed in participating foster homes while their forever families can be located, or until they’ve wiggled their way into the foster family’s heart forever.
It’s how the two ended up with five dogs rescued from the group, all within a close time span.
Penny came to the couple two years ago after Margo set out in search of a larger dog, only to fall in love with the tiny tubular canine, who she considers her own. Penny is one of two dogs husband Bruce considers to be permanent residents of their home.
The other is Bambi, a rescued Chihuahua he considers to be his own.
“The other three are guests,” he said with a knowing smile, prompting Margo to interject that they were not guests.
“They live here forever,” she chuckled.
Penny proved to be the crowd favorite after the Metricks dressed her up as the Yellow Submarine, of Beatles fame, complete with a member of the fictional army, the Blue Meanies, in pursuit.
Bruce, who served on two attack submarines, the USS Dace and the USS Cincinnati, from 1973-78, said it was his past and Penny’s shape that sparked the costume idea.
Despite it being their first time entering the costume contest, this marked the fifth or sixth time they attended Wienerfest. They both agreed that this year’s event was outstanding, a sentiment shared by many throughout the day.
It was a sunny, albeit cloudy day by the water, with many people commenting on what a lovely day it had turned out to be. Much of the event was filled with slightly cool breezes and later, scattered storm clouds.
Those storm clouds turned to a heavy rain shortly after 1 p.m., and although the downpour only lasted roughly 15 minutes, it was enough to send many visitors scattering.
Those that waited out the rain did so huddled under a handful of larger tents erected at the event, and were rewarded for their patience with the return of a pleasant day.
One person who knows about the impact of stormy weather on the event is founder Diane Wood.
“Nothing kills [Wienerfest] faster than rain,” she said, less than an hour before the first drop fell.
Wood said she was inspired to begin the festival following the adoption of her own dachshund 14 years before, a puppy she said was hamster-like in size when he came into her life. She happened to catch a news broadcast about a dachshund festival in Texas and immediately told her husband it was something she could do locally.
While her now ex may have chuckled at the idea, 14 years later and the festival is bigger than ever.
“I’m not very emotional usually, but I came over the hill there [overlooking Steamboat Landing] and I saw [the crowd] and I was like, overwhelmed,” she said of the huge showing.
Now living in Florida, Wood said she has been traveling around on her motorcycle the last three years, living the “gypsy life.”
Unsure of the state her home may be in upon her return, Wood noted that had Irma not wreaked such havoc she would not have been there to see the turnout.
“If it weren’t for Irma I would have been home yesterday,” she said with a small chuckle, “everything got canceled.”
Though currently residing in Florida, Wood said she eventually plans to return to the Midcoast, a place she spent 35 years, but not before at least one more adventure.
“My next adventure is I want to live on a houseboat for at least a year before I come back [to Maine],” she said.
Regardless of how long it takes Wood to make her permanent return to Maine, one thing is clear: Wienerfest is in great hands in her absence.
Additional photos here.
Erica Thoms can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org