Come see dogs fly at the 1st annual Port Jefferson Port Paws Dog Festival
Event will feature canine aquatic competitions hosted by Dock Dogs
By Julianne Mosher
The Village of Port Jefferson is bringing a new meaning to the dog days of summer.
The Port Paws Dog Festival is gearing up for this weekend and it’s going to be dog-gone fun.
Kevin Wood, economic development director for the village and chair of the event, said the event will bring not only lots of business to Port Jeff, but also is an excuse to show some friendly competition for one furry friend to another. “The Dock Dogs competition is open to everyone,” he said while standing next to his 18-month-old English creme retriever, Brody.
The dogs go tail-to-tail in different exercises — the biggest being retrieving a lure fastest in a 30,000-gallon pool that will be set up at Joe Erland Field, on Caroline Avenue, near the new Barnum Avenue parking lot.
Wood said he first saw the competition while visiting the East End of Long Island, and soon realized he needed to bring it Down Port. “Port Jefferson is a dog-loving town,” he said.
The Wood family always had small, lap dogs who they loved — but when they adopted Brody, who loves the water, he thought it would be fun to see how he, and all the other local dogs, would do in a friendly competition.
“No municipality has done this before,” Wood said. “I wanted to bring it to the next level and bring it to the village.”
Presented by King O’Rourke Auto Group, the three-day event starts on Friday, July 22 with a mini event for non-competitors — a trial event for dogs willing to give it a shot. Dog owners interested in signing up can do so that day for a $20 registration fee, with the event beginning at 5 p.m.
On Saturday, July 23 and Sunday, July 24, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., dogs from all over Long Island, and even some flying in internationally, will complete on who can jump the highest, swim the furthest and retrieve a toy in the pool the fastest after jumping and diving off of a dock, to be built on the field, and into the giant pool.
The inaugural jump will be dedicated to Aida Ramonez, an 11-year-old Port Jefferson resident who passed away earlier this year. She was an avid animal lover who would have loved an event like this, Wood said.
Throughout the show, Dock Dogs will present the Big Air Wave competition accompanied by an Extreme Vertical and Speed Retrieve competition for both competitors and spectators to enjoy. The Big Air competition features dogs running down a 40’ dock and diving into a pool of water after an object, in which they are electronically judged for the length of their jump.
The Extreme Vertical competition is a “high jump” for the dogs as they each lunge to snag a “bumper” suspended in the air. With each grab, the height increases in two-inch increments until only one dog is crowned king.
Rounding out the action is the newest form of competition known as Speed Retrieve — where the dogs are put on the clock to see how fast they can run down the dock, jump into the water, swim to the end of the pool and retrieve an object which is held by a modified extender arm.
The competitions are open to any and everyone. Teams are made up of one dog and one handler. Your canine must be six months or older to be eligible. Canines of any breed, size or shape are welcomed. Not only is the competition open to all types of canines, but also handlers above the age of seven are welcomed. There is even a “Youth Handler” class for those who are between the ages of seven to 14.
But Wood said that the weekend-long event won’t just be for games — they decided to turn it into a full-blown festival with dozens of dog-centric vendors, rescues, trainers and some food trucks for their human companions.
“This is the first time in a long time that something attractive will be at this field,” Wood said, noting that he first brought the idea to the village more than eight months ago before it was officially voted on.
Mayor Margot Garant, who has a furry friend named Wyatt who will be in attendance, said that the village is excited to host this family event.
“Our dogs are integral members of our family and should be celebrated as such,” she said. “I can’t wait to see everyone there and to enjoy the comradery and competition.”
Tickets are $10 for entry, while children under 12 and dogs are free. Proceeds from the event will help fund the Port Jefferson Harbor Education and Arts Conservancy, with hope to bring new drinking fountains (for humans and dogs) to different locations around the village.
Wood added that the event will be livestreamed on Facebook, and shuttle buses will be circling all of the parking lots to help bring people to the event.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit portpawsdogfest.com.