Going to the dogs: Canine events proliferate at Summerset Festival

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By AJ Vicens

Tens of thousands of people attend the Summerset Festival in Clement Park every year, and over the years more and more canine companions have joined them.

So it might even be fair to say that the 2009 edition of Summerset is going to the dogs. And, with a little luck, a few pups looking for permanent homes will go a long way toward finding new owners.

This year's Fun Day For the Dogs, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 20, will host 15 to 20 canine rescue groups that will reach out to potential adoption families.

Other pooch-centered activities will include the Colorado Disc Dogs competition, a dog agility course, a performance by a deaf cattle dog that responds to her owner's hand signals, and "Pupessori," a canine dance troupe.

Debbie Grummer, who coordinates the Fun Day for the Dogs, is hoping adoptions will take off in the event's sixth year at Summerset.

"Pushing hard on this whole adoption angle is new," Grummer said.

She estimates that 30 adoptions were facilitated last year.

"I'm hoping we can double that this year," Grummer said. "I'm hoping we can get at least 50 or even more."

Nobody will be going home from Summerset with new dogs, however. The point is for rescue groups representing various breeds to meet potential adopters and begin the process.

Many dogs are in desperate need of homes, Grummer said.

"There are a lot of dogs going into shelters because of the economy," Grummer said. "One of the groups we have represents dogs from New Mexico. Apparently there's a rash of roaming dogs down there, and some are getting moved up here. There's a lot of dogs that need to be rescued."

The increased emphasis on dog adoption is a natural byproduct of the overall growth of the event, Grummer said. The canine convention began in 2004 when the area that hosts a car show shifted to a large grassy expanse north of the skate park on Saturday. That left a large open space on Sunday, and Grummer saw that as a solution for the crush of canines at Summerset.

"People kept complaining about all the dogs in the rest of the park," Grummer said. "I thought that it wasn't necessarily a bad thing, and maybe we should find a way to incorporate that."

Grummer signed up just a handful of vendors during Summerset’s first year of the dog. This year at least 40 vendors will be on hand, and there will be a full stage with an emcee, along with the agility course. Contests will be held for best-dressed dog and owner-dog look-alikes.

Deer Creek Animal Hospital is the main sponsor.

"It's grown a lot," Grummer said, adding that she'd like to turn the Fun Day for the Dogs into a two-day event in the future.

"Dog people are very different. They're passionate about their dogs," Grummer said. "I think it's because they give you that unconditional love. They're so happy to see you, whether you've been gone five minutes or five days. They just give so much without asking for very much."

The Summerset Festival, put on by the nonprofit Foothills Foundation to raise funds for the Foothills Park & Recreation District, typically draws 40,000 humans over three days.

"The whole event is incredible," Grummer said. "It's a neat thing to have in our community."

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.

The Summerset Festival will take place Sept. 18-20 at Clement Park. For more information and a schedule for each day, visit www.summersetfest.com.