Elmbrook Humane Society puts on seventh annual Wagfest

Natalie Pender, of Milwaukee, waits for her husband with her dogs Harley (left), Josie (center) and Moxie at Wagfest in 2010.

Natalie Pender, of Milwaukee, waits for her husband with her dogs Harley (left), Josie (center) and Moxie at Wagfest in 2010. Photo By Peter Zuzga

Aug. 19, 2014

It's an event that would have even humans wagging their tails if they had them.

The Elmbrook Humane Society is gearing up for its seventh annual Wagfest.

The event is the shelter's largest annual fundraiser. It takes place in Mitchell Park, next to the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6.

The event has grown in its seven years, and that growth will be on display again this year, with new vendors, new prizes and new fun.

"It's amazing to see how much it has grown," said Elmbrook Humane Society Executive Director Heather Gehrke. "To know that the community supports us so much through this event is just great. I definitely feel like Brookfield and Elm Grove people know how to take care of their pets."

Elmbrook Humane Society is anticipating an attendance of approximately 5,000 people along with hundreds of canine friends. Gehrke noted the event is far from restricted to dog owners.

"Certainly this is a dog-themed event, but we see a lot of people and families coming without dogs," Gehrke said. "There's something for everyone."

Among those features will be food vendors, live music, shopping, a silent auction and raffles. Silent auction and raffle prizes include Harley-Davidson items, gift baskets and wheelbarrows filled with premium liquors, wine and beers. In all, Wagfest has over 60 vendors.

Living up to its name, Wagfest features plenty of activities for dogs as well. Three full lure courses; an agility demonstration and practice arena; and reduced cost microchipping are among some of the offerings families will be able to see their pets enjoy.

In addition to all the entertainment, the shelter will also be bringing some of its adoptable dogs to Wagfest where interested families can meet them.

Elmbrook Humane Society is the only no-kill shelter in Waukesha County and, as such, often operates at full capacity. Officials, such as Gehrke, often have furry friends even calling their offices home during busy times of the year. All net proceeds from Wagfest go to the basic care of the shelter's residents.

"This event is our largest special event of the year and really helps us to care for every adoptable animal," she said. "Those dollars go right to what we do, which is providing care for 120 animals a day."

Due to its no-kill status, Elmbrook often sees animals stay as long as 12 months. Long stays can lead to additional costs.

"We have a dog right now that's been with us for 8 months," Gehrke said. "Certainly the very straightforward things like food and medical are a little bit easier to take care of, but keeping them mentally healthy as well, it's hard to put a price tag on that."

Gehrke noted the event would not be possible without the humane society's 200 volunteers who help plan and run the event.

"We started planning back in April," she said. "It's hours of planning and coordination and then hundreds of hours between the collective group when it comes to setting up, running it and taking it down."

The humane society's goal for the event is to raise $40,000. Admission to the event and parking are free. A free shuttle will also be provided to bring people and their animals to and from the parking lots.

"You see people of all ages at this event," Gehrke said. "It really has turned into a one-day, six-hour festival. It's free. Just come and see what Elmbrook's all about and have some fun."

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