Hundreds of paw-ticipants came out to Handloff Park on Saturday for the fifth annual NewBark PawLooza, a pup-ular event in Newark each year that brings out the best in people — their dogs.
The Newark Parks and Recreation Department hosts the event, and a collection of vendors also had tents and tables. Some vendors, like Playtime Doggie Daycare, were canine-centric, while others, like Point To Point Wealth Planning, brought smiling faces and dog treats. Even the Newark Police were in on the fun.
“This is our fifth year for the event,” recreation supervisor Sharon Bruen said. “We wanted to do something to cater to the residents of the area that had dogs. It started out as a springtime event, but we found out there were a lot of other events happening around the same time.”
Bruen decided to move the event to fall, to great success. Her massive dog Zoya was just one of the dozens of dogs who attended this year.
“It’s been successful,” she said. “We get about an average of 200 dogs with their owners, and a few rescue groups. Everybody loves dogs.”
Contests with prizes from the parks department abounded, with Best Trick, Best Smile and Best Costume being the most crowd pleasing. Bella, a Scottish Terrier, dressed in a ladybug-themed tutu costume performed a rousing round of tricks with her entire (human) family.
But it was Rocket that took the winner’s prize for the best trick. The floppy-haired dog shook hands, caught a ball and performed several other combos for a truly fur-tastic finish.
Blue, an English bulldog, was one of the contestants for best smile, but Gracie, a 4-year-old Boxer, emerged the winner.
“We finally found something she was good at,” said her owner Amy Fiero, laughing.
Loki, a black Standard Poodle, won second place for Biggest Dog.
“I thought he might win for Biggest Dog, but I’m happy with second,” owner Christina Free said. “He’s my personal service dog. I have Ehlers-Danlos, but everyone needs a service dog. He helps me so much.”
Loki sat patiently during the interview and provided a secure — and very cute — energy, despite the chaos of the event and other dogs.
“I have come out to about three of these,” said Free. “I like watching all the contests and the canine demonstrations. I never miss it. I like meeting all the other dogs. Lots of dogs are dressed up in costume.”
Melissa Dahling attended the event with Buffy, a seven-month-old foster Terrier mix.
“We’re not really sure of her breed,” said Dahling. “She was a stray, and she’s my foster.”
Dahling volunteers with A Buddy for Life, a Newark-based foster and rescue nonprofit run by Crystal Literal. The service, who was represented at a vendor tent, provides a “fighting chance” for dogs and cats that have been discarded. Their service relies on volunteers like Dahling, and requires willing community members to foster would-be pets.
“I’ve had some that I’ve fostered for as little as a week who get adopted right away,” said Dahling. “But I’ve had others who are harder cases. One dog I’ve had for nine months. He had an owner that died, and he was discarded. His whole world came crashing down.”
Literal said she currently has about 10 dogs that are being fostered, and said she always is looking for people to help out or foster and adopt animals.
Several foster animals were there to meet and greet both two and four-legged participants at the event. Literal made a presentation with several pups who are looking for permanent homes.
Nicole Magnusson, a financial advisor with Point to Point Wealth Planning, a private wealth advisory practice with Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc., was part of a vendor team handing out dog treats and meeting people and pets.
“This is our first year to come out,” said Magnusson. “We just love meeting all the dogs. This is a really great event.”
The team is known for being animal lovers, and other representatives from the company also extolled the virtues of community and events like the PawLooza.
With leaves falling and crisp temperatures rising a bit as the event came to a close, people and their pets all walked in a circle around Handloff Park as part of the fun and merriment. From big dogs to little dogs and from fosters to rescues, it was a canine consortium of camaraderie for all.