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By Staff | Mar 20, 2018

Sunday will be a day that will, quite literally, go to the dogs.

The Shell Factory and the Golden Retriever Rescue of Southwest Florida will present the ninth annual GoldenFest from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Doggy Heaven canine park.

While the event is in homage to the golden retriever, one of the world’s most popular and loyal dogs, any well-behaved dog on a leash is welcome. With the date was moved from October to March, more dog lovers than ever are expected to attend.

“The crowds were iffy before. By moving it to March most of the snowbirds are still here, so we’re doing a lot of advertising for it,” said Rick Tupper, marketing director and CFO of the Shell Factory.

“October proved to be a bit warm for the animals. There’s a lot of asphalt. We have a lot of followers on Facebook that are snowbirds,” said Mark Dahlberg, organizer of the event. “They asked us to do something during season so they can attend because they follow the dogs as they come in.”

This is the fifth time the Shell Factory has hosted. It started as a small gathering of adopters and has grown from there, moving briefly to Sarasota before coming here in 2014, Dahlberg said.

The event will feature vendors, exhibits, pet portraits, a dock dog diving exhibition, a pet spa, doggy garage sale, refreshments, a huge raffle and silent auction, and more.

Raffle and auction items range from attractions, theater, dinner cruise and hotel tickets to rounds of golf, gift cards and lavish gift baskets. All funds go to the GRRSWF to help pay for veterinary help.

“We will have everything from booths selling dog-related items to grooming services, and pictures with Santa. And there is a park where dogs can play together,” said Louise Hawthorne, GRRSWF volunteer, who has brought her dog numerous times. “It’s a great thing for families to do because there’s so much to do.”

Vendors include animal hospitals, boarding facilities, trainers, groomers, rescues and pet food companies. There will also be a reunion tent for the goldens GRRSWF has rescued from South Korea.

Since 2015, the rescue has saved 40 goldens from that country to raise awareness about the dog-meat industry that still exists in some countries. Several of those dogs are expected to be at GoldenFest.

“This promises to be an amazing event,” said Alesia Galuppo, president of GRRSWF, in a statement. “It has grown enormously over the years and we expect this year’s event to be even bigger. We are grateful to the Shell Factory for providing such a dog-friendly venue and look forward to sharing the day with fellow dog lovers.”

“It doesn’t matter what dog you bring. People bring their dogs in doggie baby carriages. It’s welcoming to all dogs and their owners,” Hawthorne said.

Admission and parking are free, and additional auction item donations and dog-related vendors are welcome.

The Shell Factory is at 2787 N. Tamiami Trail in North Fort Myers.

For more information, visit grrswf.org, email info@grrswf.org or call 369-0415.