By Marlena Chavira-Medford
This Sunday, March 20, Solana Beach’s furry, four-legged neighbors are invited to La Colonia Park for the annual Paws in the Park, a day
chock-full of fun for pets and people alike.
The Solana Beach Parks and Recreation Commission (PRC) is hosting this free event, which started five years ago as a way to raise awareness about spaying and neutering pets. Though that’s still an integral part of the event — and, in fact, Spay and Neuter Action Project (SNAP) will have an information booth at the event this year — the day has evolved into more of an all-out celebration for local dog-owners.
“There’s a whole dog network in each neighborhood, and we don’t have a dog park in Solana Beach, so this is a way we can call get together at one time and learn about how to be better dog owners,” said Solana Beach Parks and Recreation Commission member Gerri Retman-Opper. She sits on the Paws in the Park subcommittee with Kelly Harless, Courtney Boulle and the entire PRC, which works together to set up and run the event.
Throughout the event, which is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., neighbors can stroll through the park with their leashed dogs, browsing information and vendor booths, most of which feature small, local groups and businesses. Nobody is charged to have a booth at this event, with the aim of giving exposure to some of the smaller operations not typical of most pet expos, including independent pet trainers and pet sitters, dog-food makers, groomers, pet artists and photographers, and masseuses for dogs. Many vendors have also donated gift baskets and gift certificates for pet-related services that will be raffled off, with the proceeds going to the Morris Animal Foundation’s Canine Cancer Campaign.
And should you be in search for a new pup to love, several area rescue groups will also be onsite with adoptable dogs. Neighbors are also encouraged to bring their gently used dog toys, beds and other pet products so they can be donated to the rescue groups.
Paws in the Park will also feature its popular pet contests, with awards going to the cutest dog, the biggest dog, the smallest dog, best pet and owner look alike, and best costume. The judge panel this year will include Solana Beach Mayor Lesa Heebner, Solana Beach Councilman Mike Nichols, and a few PRC student commissioners.
There will also be all-day entertainment via performances by dogs doing flying disc routines and relay races, and a carting demo by Bernese Mountain dogs. Dawn Celapino from Leash Your Fitness will also be onsite to share some fun ways to work out with your dog, and toward the end of the day, Pacific Animal Productions will have an educational show featuring exotic animals, which is highly popular with kids.
A neighborhood soccer team with Surf Soccer Club will also be running a concession stand offering fresh lemonade, hamburgers and baked goods, with proceeds going back to the team.
“This is a family-friendly, pet-friendly way for people to enjoy a day in the park, ” Retman-Opper said.