Good food, great music, spectacular arts, and dogs. That’s what awaited visitors to the 2003 annual Riverfest in Little Rock when an Independent Dog Rescue 'swat team' of volunteers showed up with puppies galore to the delight of smiling crowds.
Perhaps ‘swat team’ is a bit of an exaggeration, but as you will learn, it may as well have been a mercenary operation as far as the Riverfest organizers were concerned.
Long before the festival’s opening day, IDR contacted the owners of Tipton and Hurst to see if they would be willing to sponsor an adoption event on their doorstep. Despite the potential problems of crowds blocking the entranceway, they were kind enough to offer their services.
Literally within minutes of arriving, crowds were packed around the entrance to Tipton and Hurst to see the puppies. Young children, who only seconds before had been crying and complaining from the noise, heat, and their exhaustion were smiling and giggling at the playful young pups. Needless to say, any seating in the vicinity was quickly taken by parents who were happy to get a break while their children changed back into little human beings again.
The event was turning out to be a stunning success, and within only a few hours, most of the puppies had applications for their adoption. However, the success was to be short lived.
Late in the day, Tipton and Hurst closed, and the staff abandoned the noise and crowds to go home. The adoption volunteers stayed on, but within minutes the organizers of the festival announced that the adoption showing and the dogs were not welcome.
Thankfully the eviction came late in the day when most of the pups potentially had new families. The volunteer repeatedly called the Riverfest Committee but no one obviously thought we were important to return our calls. They must have assumed that kicking us out meant we would not return. Little did thry know.
However, there were still a few puppies that needed homes, and the event was clearly a golden opportunity for the puppies that would otherwise have to endure possibly weeks or months of showings to lighter traffic.
The volunteers were not to be completely undone however, and the next day, they and the remaining puppies showed back up to conduct a showing just outside the east entrance to the festival.
More than a few Riverfest officials gathered just inside the fence from the adoption showing that next day. It was obvious they were not pleased with our tenacity. But there was nothing they could do. The volunetters received permission from the Little Rock Police Department who were very supportive along with Sticky Fingers and Flying Fish restaurants. The event was allowed to continue, and more of the pups found new homes.
Clearly, based on feedback from people and the reaction of the crowds, adoption showings are popular with Riverfest visitors, and it is hoped that the Riverfest organizers for next year will be wiling to sanction a formal adoption event in 2004.
If you were one of the many visitors to the adoption showing, and would like to see more of the same next year, please contact the Riverfest committee and let them know how you feel.
We’ll keep you posted.