Whether you have a golden retriever or not, all dog lovers will be thrilled at an event this weekend at the Shell Factory.
Golden Retriever Rescue of Southwest Florida hosts the fifth-annual GoldenFest on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Doggy Heaven at the Shell Factory & Nature Park.
And although the focus will be on golden retrievers, all breeds of well-mannered, leashed dogs are welcome.
Admission and parking are free.
"This is the second year we've partnered with the GRRSWF, so it's a bigger event," Shell Factory marketing director Rick Tupper said. "I think this going to be an annual event."
The Shell Factory and all its attractions will be open, as well as Dogbones, which has been renovated to include a larger bar, Tupper said.
Dogbones is an outside cafe at Fishbones.
GRRSWF is a non-profit group that has been in existence for five years that relies on its foster families and volunteers to care for the dogs they rescue, according to Mark Dahlberg, board member of the GRRSWF.
"It's too easy to locate the dogs and get them into medical care, but once we have them evaluated, it's the foster families who are the organization's strength," Dahlberg said. "We're more than just a few board members."
Goldenfest is the biggest fundraiser the GRRSWF holds every year. Dahlberg said the Shell Factory is the natural place to host it since it's a pet-friendly destination.
That also makes it a place for other rescues to come.
"It's a celebration of other rescues and efforts from the Humane Society and other shelters," Dahlberg said.
Last year's event had more than 300 dogs and between 400 and 500 people. Tupper said more are expected this year as the snowbirds slowly trickle back to town and things in the area start hopping again.
The event will include pet vendors, exhibits, Santa pet portraits, flyball, a "Furminator" grooming booth, a huge raffle, a blood drive with Florida Blood Center's Bloodmobile, refreshments and more.
Among the other events includes an AquaDogs dock-diving national qualifying competition, which will take place over the weekend.
About 20 vendors came last year, Tupper said, and about 30 are expected this time around.
Louise Hawthorne said the vendors will include animal clinics, a pet hospital, specialty items, boarding facilities, even a kissing booth if you want a smooch from a golden retriever.
Raffle items range from theater, dinner cruise and hotel tickets to rounds of golf and lavish gift baskets.