VAO is getting ready to bark and roll at its 23rd Annual Woofstock Festival, a dog-friendly event open to the public featuring dog demonstrations, delicious food and, of course, music.
As VAO’s largest fundraising event of the year, proceeds support medical care, pet food and supplies for the community shelter’s dogs and cats.
“Each year, Woofstock helps raise awareness about VAO’s mission and helps us continue to provide medical care and feed and house cats and dogs until we can place them into their forever homes,” said Jennifer Bailey, marketing director, VAO. “This year is especially exciting as we raise money for our capital campaign, ‘Building for a Pawsitive Future,’ to support the construction of our long-awaited new animal shelter.”
Woodstock had the power to bring together more than 400,000 people with a passion for music. Woofstock, while on much smaller level, aims to connect people with a love for animals. And while the festival is now flourishing in its 23rd year, it’s safe to say it wasn’t always that way.
In its early stages, Woofstock, much like the Woodstock Festival of ’69, was hosted in the grass – on the front lawn of the Voorhees Animal Orphanage – where a handful of vendors were available for guests and the occasional passerby to enjoy.
“Woofstock was a quieter event in its early days, but through the years, we’ve seen it grow and progress to be our largest fundraising event of the year,” said Jen.
Once the event started to pick up some traction, it moved over to John Connolly Park in Voorhees Township. However, even though the venue allowed for more people to attend, logistical issues remained.
“It was extremely hard for people to find parking and get in and out of the venue,” said Jen. “The event needed to be moved somewhere else, especially if it was going to keep growing.”
VAO made the decision in 2018 to move the event to the Voorhees Town Center, formerly known as the Echelon Mall. The space provides ample parking, as well as enough space to accommodate the hundreds of people who now attend.
“This is only my fifth year managing Woofstock,” said Jen. “Kathy Schaefer, Woofstock Festival Co-Chair, and I have really concentrated our efforts in the last few years and made it our primary focus,” said Jen. “Woofstock was a lot of hard work in its early years, but we’re proud to say that the festival is now mostly powered by word of mouth!”
Preparing to Bark and Roll!
This year’s event boasts 125 vendors and 30 rescue groups – VAO’s biggest numbers yet. Even more impressive, revenue has more than doubled in the span of four years. Jen attributes the success of the past five years to the hard work of the VAO.
“Kathy and I firmly believe in being inclusive event planners,” said Jen. “We delegate and let people run with it. By letting the volunteers take the initiative and assume responsibility, they are empowered and rise to the occasion.”
Woofstock’s success is also due in part to long-term planning. By December, VAO picks a date for next year’s event. By February, VAO has quietly started pre-registration.
A Groovy Affair
Entry to this year’s festival is just $2. Highlights include: pet photos, a performance from the Joseph A. Ferko String Band, more than 100 gift basket raffle items, a demonstration from the Camden County Sheriff K-9 Unit, master psychic medium and animal communicator Carole Tollen, $25 micro-chipping, craft, retail and pet products vendors, local veterinarian information tables, DJ and acoustic entertainment and more.
A tradition of Woofstock, VAO is proud to once again present an alumni parade, led by the Mummers, of former VAO animals and their families. “We love to have the dogs and cats we once cared for walk in the parade,” said Jen. “It’s heartwarming to see how happy they are in their new life.”
Woofstock at its core is about bringing people together who share a love for animals and desire to help them find a place to call home.
“Everyone at Woofstock, whether a volunteer, vendor or attendee, is an animal-lover in some shape or form,” said Jen. “We’re so grateful for all those who come out to help support our mission of finding these cats and dogs a forever home.”