A FESTIVAL celebrating dogs and their owners has named a trio of animal charities to benefit as it gears up for a weekend of activity.
The first Dogstival will be guest-hosted by TV naturalist and New Forest resident Chris Packham at Pylewell Park, near Lymington, on 18th-19th May.
Organiser Richard Nowell, who with his wife Domine also runs the Lymington Seafood Festival, has picked as charity partners the disability assistance helpers Canine Partners, Waggy Tails Rescue, and welfare group Hampshire Hounds.
“The weekend aims to showcase the New Forest as a great place for visitors and locals to enjoy with their dogs, but also help people understand more about our unique environment,” said Mr Nowell.
“With wild roaming animals, bird nesting season or general ‘Forest etiquette’, it’s important to ensure we strike a balance between encouraging tourism that brings important business revenue into the region versus ensuring the Forest is looked after for generations to come.”
Attractions will include spectacular four-legged displays in the main arena, a specially built stage to explain dog behaviour, have-a-go activities, and more than 200 stalls selling everything from dog gifts to food and drink for the owners.
There will also be talks and advice from Mr Packham and experts from the national park authority and Bird Aware Solent.
Gemma Tupper, community fundraiser for Canine Partners, said Dogstival was a “great opportunity to raise awareness of our life-transforming work and our amazing dogs amongst the dog lovers attending the event”.
Sue Carr, of Waggy Tails, said: “This is our 25th anniversary year so the visibility of the event will enable us to continue our work of helping dogs in need of new forever homes.”
Hampshire Hounds founder Tracey Vickery said: “The public will be able to see evidence of the work our volunteers are doing on the front line of dog rescue and how they themselves can help, even from the comfort of their own home.”
The New Forest has a 34% dog-ownership ratio, according to a New Forest District Council census in 2016, said Mr Nowell, who claimed “the phone and email hasn’t stopped” with interest for the event.
He added: “We want visitors to ‘make a weekend of it’ in May. Come and enjoy Dogstival for a day, but head off around the Forest, explore our coastline and pop into the many cafes or pubs that welcome dogs. The ‘hound pound’ is a powerful part of the tourist economy.”
Entry is priced at £13.50 for adults, £7.50 for children aged 6-16 years, and under-6s go free. Tickets are on sale now at www.dogstival.co.uk