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By Staff | Feb 17, 2016

This is one event that has definitely gone to the dogs – to the delight of area pet owners.

Golden Retriever Rescue of Southwest Florida will once again host the seventh annual GoldenFest at the Doggie Heaven canine park at the Shell Factory on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The event will feature more than 40 vendors, exhibits, pet portraits, dock dog diving, a grooming booth, a raffle and silent auction, a pet products garage sale, refreshments and much more.

Mark Dahlberg, event organizer and a member of the group’s board of directors, said this is GRRSWF’s big fundraiser, and the fourth it has had at the Shell Factory.

“It’s time to raise funds to help the rescue continue operations in 2016. Everything raised goes toward the medical care of the dogs that are part of our organization,” Dahlberg said, adding that medical costs alone can reach up to $100,000 annually.

The event had been scheduled in October, but it was moved to February this time around to get more people to come during season when the weather is cooler and you don’t have to cross your fingers that there’s no rain.

“We were up against some hurricane threats and very hot weather. The event is outside, so it was a little too hot for the dogs to be out there all day,” Dahlberg said. “Many of our Facebook friends weren’t down in October. We moved it to February because Easter was so close this year.”

Rick Tupper, CFO and marketing director at the Shell Factory, said he expects triple the crowds from last time.

“It’s another one of those events we’ve been running that people can count on. We wanted people to appreciate what this group does,” Tupper said. “The whole place will be open and we’re looking forward to it.”

Raffle and auction items include theater, dinner cruise and hotel tickets, rounds of golf, gift baskets and numerous vacation packages. Among the vendors, not all of which will be dog-themed, include animal hospitals, boarding facilities, trainers, groomers, rescues and pet food companies.

“This will be an amazing event, even bigger and better than previous festivals,” said Alesia Galuppo, president of GRRSWF, said in a statement. “We are grateful to the Shell Factory for providing such a dog-friendly venue.”

“The staff at the Shell Factory has been wonderful in helping coordinate with us and deal with whatever comes up,” Dahlberg said. “They’ve been wonderful for allowing us to be there.”

GRRSWF is kind of a last resort for the animals whenever seniors or others cannot care for the pet. The organization has also rescued several golden retrievers from Korea, and they will have their own tent for attendees to visit with them and perhaps be adopted.

“We receive calls from shelters in Tampa and Orlando where they have trouble placing the dogs. They’ll bring them here,” Dahlberg said. “We could not survive without the foster families. They give the dogs a place to go.”

All breeds of well-mannered, leashed dogs are invited to attend with their owners.

For more information, to volunteer or to become a vendor, visit grrswf.org, email info@grrswf.org or call 369-0415.