Lorene Clayton

Woofa-Roo director pleased with attendance, despite rain



By Ron Giofu


Even though this year’s Woofa-Roo Pet Festival was held under cool, wet conditions, the festival’s director was still happy with how things went.

Lorene Clayton pointed out that while some of the outdoor events were impacted both Saturday and Sunday at the Libro Centre, it didn’t have that much of an impact overall. Indoor events went off as planned and Clayton said she was happy with the weekend overall.

“It’s a little bit slower but I am so impressed with the fact that we had terrible weather and so many people still came out,” she said. “It pretty much proves we have a loyal following who like to come out to see what we do.”

Events included the Dock Dogs diving competition, presentations from A-Team Robotics and their “Fetch-a-Roo” robot, the Border City Barkers dog agility show, presentations from various dog and pet groups, raffles, wiener dog races, vendors and more.

Corinne Googe and her dog Helena compete in the dog diving competition. They came in for the second straight year from Whitmore Lake, Michigan.

“People that are here had a good time,” said Clayton. “I’m sure we did well in spite of the weather.”

Clayton admitted to not being nervous when looking at the weather forecasts in advance.

“It is what it is,” she said of the weather. “I’ll take care of the things I can control but that’s not one of them.”

Julie and David Unholzer from Danes in Distress stand at their booth (right). Canine units from Windsor, Chatham-Kent and OPP perform demonstrations.

People will still come out rain or shine, Clayton added, and that they were anticipating warmer weather given the festival moved from August to July this year. Her highlight, she stated, was the same as it is every year.

“It’s the energy people bring to the festival,” said Clayton.

The volunteers were outstanding, she added, as they performed their duties regardless of weather without complaint.

“They all do it with a smile,” she said. “They’ve been just incredible. It’s impressive to see how well the volunteers are working.”

Corinne Googe and her dog Helena were competitors in the dog diving competition. They came in for the second straight year from Whitmore Lake, Michigan.

“I love it,” said Googe. “It’s one of my favourite events of the year. I just love the energy.”

Mackenzie Parks fires tennis balls out of the “Fetch-A-Roo” robot built by A-Team Robotics.

Googe added the competitors form their own little community but she said the Woofa-Roo Pet Festival in Amherstburg is special as she likes seeing the vendors, the dogs and the people.

Julie and David Unholzer of Danes in Distress brought their dog Mojo to the festival and said they help find homes for larger dogs like Great Danes. Julie said that Great Danes don’t do well in shelters and that her group helps shelters around the province find homes for the breed. She said that exposure at Woofa-Roo has helped them find homes for dogs.

Laura Greenwood from Wheatley said she comes annually to Amherstburg for the festival.

“I love it,” said Greenwood. “I come back every year, even if it’s raining. If you are a pet person, you obviously come back.”

Greenwood said she particularly likes the lure course, as she has “high drive” dogs and that tends to tire them out.

A-Team Robotics, the local robotics team featuring a lot of General Amherst High School students, were on hand with their “Fetch-a-Roo” robot, a robot which shot tennis balls in the air for dogs to chase. Mackenzie Parks, one of the robotics team members, said it was “a good challenge” for their off-season as they learned a different type of mechanism and how to design a robot to shoot balls.

“If we’re building robots to shoot balls, why not have a robot that shoots balls for dogs?” he said.

Police canine units from Windsor, OPP and Chatham-Kent were performing demonstrations at the Woofa-Roo Pet Festival July 22.

His father Allan, one of the A-Team’s mentors and coaches, said they also want to get the team more exposure. They were at Canada Day as well and plan to be at the Aug. 3-5 Amherstburg Uncommon Festival in the downtown core.

“We felt it was good chance to get in the community and give back,” said Allan.

Allan added that off-season challenges gives other team members a chance to “spread their wings” and show what they could do.

Joanna Pitcher and son Greyson came in from LaSalle for the Woofa-Roo Pet Festival. Joanna said they heard about it from other people while her son was playing soccer and decided to come out.

“It’s lovely,” she said. “It’s really fun.”

Woofa-Roo Pet Festival on tap for this weekend



By Ron Giofu


The Woofa-Roo Pet Festival returns this weekend to the Libro Centre.

Festival director and founder Lorene Clayton said there are a number of new events to join some of the popular returning attractions.

“We have several new things coming to our festival to round out our crazy fun weekend,” she said. “We are always trying to answer the call for more interactive things our visitors can do so we developed Woofa-Roo’s new Sterling Canine Citizen Award. This is a test in canine manners requiring a dog and owner to successfully complete 12 steps to earn our prestigious award. Using the same criteria, and evaluator as the CKC test – the Sterling Canine Citizen Award benefits our charities and rescues and is considered a real achievement for your dog’s training and social skills.”

Clayton noted there will be a “fetching field” where dogs with good recall can play fetch with a custom built robot designed by A-Team Robotics, the local robotics team with many of its members coming from General Amherst High School. All proceeds from this event benefit charities and rescues, Clayton pointed out.

“We are building on Woofa-Roo’s unique social environment,” Clayton added. “This year our new Shaggy Chic Cafe is a pet and family friendly place to meet, greet and eat. We’ll have live entertainment arranged by Lee Watson Academy of Music to enhance this great social space.”

There are a number of returning attractions as well at this year’s Woofa-Roo Pet Festival.

“Dock diving has to be one of the most watched events which return year after year. Dog agility, lure coursing and our very popular ‘Pet-Ucation Centre’ featuring experts on everything from dog training to the war on ticks and fleas are all returning,” said Clayton. “Some of these events have a large charitable component and will encourage our visitors to have fun for a great cause.”

Clayton added: “For non stop chuckles we have the hilarious Woofa-Roo Challenge – a game that tests a dog’s distraction with treats and toys. Following this we are off to the races with the wiener dogs and then an all breed race. All proceeds benefit the St. John Ambulance therapy dogs.”

The most anticipated event, Clayton said, is the presentation made by the Elite Windsor Police K9’s.

“This is such a fantastic opportunity to see the best of the best illustrate the force’s expertise from their many hours of training,” she stated.

The festival used to be held in August but is now in July. Clayton said she doesn’t know yet what, if any, impact that will have on the festival.

“Hopefully it will be a less congested weekend for festival goers. Our weekend in August was becoming very competitive with five major events in Essex County,” she said.

Clayton said the Woofa-Roo Pet Festival is “weather proof” and that if it is hot or if it is raining “come indoors for a spell.”

The public is encouraged to read the festival’s pet policy before bringing their dogs. For more information on that or the events happening at the festival, visit www.woofaroo.com.

“Our volunteers have to be the most enthusiastic people around. They contribute to the spirit of our festival with their great attitudes and willingness to make our event a ‘funtastic’ festival for pets and their people.”

Admission is $5 per person with children five and under free.

Town council refuses Woofa-Roo signage request, to look into programmable signage



By Ron Giofu


The Woofa-Roo Pet Festival will have to seek other ways of promoting its event after town council nixed a signage request at the April 23 meeting.

Lorene Clayton, festival director, asked council if the Woofa-Roo Pet Festival could share the Miracle League of Amherstburg sign along Front Road North. She said she was willing to have other festivals share the sign posts as well, not just her event.

“I would like to use the sign every year for one month prior to the festival,” Clayton requested. “I’d like to open it up for other festivals and special events.”

Clayton said she used to use the sign in front of Duffy’s Tavern and Motor Inn, but with that gone as part of the demolition of the site, she needs to use other options. Lawn signs are used, but Clayton said she understands the need to limit signage within Amherstburg.

Noting she has only two weeks to use lawn signs in Amherstburg, Clayton said that presents difficulty in advertising her event.

Additional signage to be affixed to the Miracle League sign on Front Road North was the subject of debate at the most recent town council meeting. The town is exploring programmable signage.

Asked whether she had permission from the Miracle League to erect the signs, Clayton said “they have no objections” to the plan. However, manager of licensing and enforcement Nicole Rubli told town council she was in receipt of a letter from the Miracle League requesting no additional signage be attached. That also meant a request from the Rotary Club of Amherstburg was denied later in the meeting.

Director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin said the Miracle League sign was not paid for by the town and noted there would be “a number of competing interests” if town council were to allow others to post on the same sign posts.

“It would be very difficult to co-ordinate that,” said Galvin.

Clayton disagreed, believing it would be no different than the banners that hang over Sandwich St. S. that are booked on a first come, first served basis.

CAO John Miceli suggested the town consider programmable signage at the north and south entrances to the municipality. He believed the town should be proactive as it pertains to promoting tourism and special events.

“It will be done tastefully. It will be programmed to a municipal standard,” said Miceli.

Council will receive a report on the matter with Mayor Aldo DiCarlo trying to console Clayton by stating that while her request wasn’t granted, her delegation did spark further investigation into the signage matter.

The Woofa-Roo Pet Festival will be held at the Libro Centre this year on July 21-22.

Woofa-Roo sees incredible numbers, despite brief storm during set-up Friday


By Jolene Perron


When a quick storm passed through some parts of Essex County Friday evening, a number of tents at the pet festival were overturned.

However, after putting in countless hours of work overnight, they recovered and the weather for the remainder of the weekend was in their favor.

From the dock diving organized by Ontario Dock Dogs, to the display of the many skills by Border City Barkers, the festival was a huge hit with pets and their humans.

One of the more popular events at Woofa-Roo’s festival was dock diving, where dog owners threw toys into a large pool of water to encourage them to jump as far as they could.  Some dogs reached lengths of 24 metres.

One of the more popular events at Woofa-Roo’s festival was dock diving, where dog owners threw toys into a large pool of water to encourage them to jump as far as they could.
Some dogs reached lengths of 24 metres.

“We’ve been coming here for three years and Cody really enjoys the event,” said Joe Ulakovich, owner of seven-year-old Yorkshire-bichon Cody. “We did some shopping, and it’s a great day out for the family. It’s a nice event, it’s very family-oriented and it’s comfortable being here with the family. We can give him treat samples and see what he likes.”

Owners such as Jon Ashe, owner of a two-year-old miniature Labradoodle, said the event is great for people who want to socialize their dog with other animals. Although it was his first year at the event, he said he plans on coming back next year and wants to teach his dog how to do dock jumping. He said all of the dogs they encountered over the weekend were great, and he loves bring able to bring his dog to an event, since he is a part of their family.


“This has been phenomenal, we have had record-breaking crowds,” said Woofa-Roo director/founder Lorene Clayton. “Everyone is happy, we have a lot of dogs and the response has been very good. This is a dynamic weekend with a charitable twist as our festival benefits nine different charities and rescues. We enhance their profile with the public, help their fund raising efforts, increase their volunteer base, foster homes and secure homes for animals needing to be re-homed.”


Woofa-Roo bringing thousands of pets, owners to Amherstburg for fifth year


By Jolene Perron


The Libro Centre will host Amherstburg’s Woofa-Roo Festival this weekend.

On Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.– 6 p.m., this region’s only pet and family friendly festival will be celebrating our relationships with our beloved pets.

“This is a dynamic weekend with a charitable twist as our festival benefits nine different charities and rescues,” explained Lorene Clayton, Woofa-Roo director/founder. “We enhance their profile with the public, help their fund raising efforts, increase their volunteer base, foster homes and secure homes for animals needing to be re-homed.”

Clayton explained they have been coined as “the festival of smiles” because everyone has such a great time. She said the mood at the Woofa-Roo festival is friendly, funny and focused on bringing people together with common interests – the love of their animals. Even people who aren’t pet owners, or who choose to leave their pets at home enjoy the festival because there is so much to see and do, both indoors and out. With more than 70 exhibitors, there is truly something for everyone.

“All friendly dogs are welcome to bring their responsible owner,” said Clayton. “We do have a pet policy which we ask people to read prior to bringing their pet. With well over 3,000 dogs in attendance we’ve had zero incidents last year because the majority of our public practice good animal stewardship.”

Woofaroo logo

This year, the popular Windsor Police K9 Unit presentation will be taking place in an enhanced event field. They are also expanding their events on this field to include a new game of distraction called The Woofa-Challenge.

Other popular events include dock diving, organized by Ontario Dock Dogs, which is a marquee event drawing competitors from all over the U.S. and Canada. They will also have the dog agility event, which demonstrates the skills of the Border City Barkers dogs.

For a full list of events, visit www.woofaroo.com.

“Our volunteers are among the best and more dedicated,” said Clayton, “many coming back year after year for various reasons. Some love the social aspect of our festival, some need the volunteer hours for their community service requirements but all are there because they love animals. They are an integral part of our festival and we depend on them to keep the wheels turning at our event.”

Admission to the event is $5. Reminder that the entrance is through the temporary driveway off of Simcoe St. and that the intersection of Simcoe St. and Meloche Road is closed.

(UPDATE – Aug. 11 – Please note that the Meloche Road/Simcoe St. intersection is now OPEN. Construction had been expected to take four weeks but the contractor completed the work quicker than originally anticipated.)