Bark in the Park Returns for 15th Year
by James Coulter
For 14 years, Downtown Winter Haven has gone to the dogs. This year will be no different, as local residents will be able to visit with their furry, four-footed friends for an evening of fun, games, vendors, and, of course, the annual wiener dog race.
Bark in the Park will make its epic return to Central Park in Downtown Winter Haven on May 28 from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM. The annual outdoor festival will offer various activities, vendors, and games that can be enjoyed by owner and pet alike.
The biggest draw will be the Annual Wiener Dog Race, where daushuands of every length and size will be able to race for the coveted title of “Fastest Weiner Dog In Town.” The race will begin at 7PM in South Central Park, and all willing participants are welcome to join.
Also to be hosted at this year’s event will be a K9 Unit demo to be hosted by local law enforcement, and a dog yoga session to be hosted by an instructor from Inside Out Yoga.
“It is a fun evening for anyone who loves dogs to bring their dog to try new things and buy new products and get to know other dog owners,” said Bailey McDaniel, Assistant Director at Main Street Winter Haven Inc., which will be hosting the event as always.
Whether you want to buy homemade, organic treats for your favorite four-footed companion, get your nails trimmed and pampered, or even adopt a new friend to give a forever home from the Polk County SPCA and Humane Society, Bark in the Park has a little something for everyone, be they human or canine.
“For 14 years, pet vendors, owners, and dog enthusiasts alike have gathered in Downtown Winter Haven’s Central Park,” read the event’s press release. “This FREE event has become a fan favorite…that can be enjoyed by both owner and four-legged companions.”
To ensure the health and safety of attendees during these uncertain, this year’s event will enact extra measures and precautions. The overall venue in Central Park will be will be spread out according to city guidelines, with Central Avenue blocked off, McDaniel said. Every vendor will be required to have hand sanitizer, and while masks will not be enforced, they will be highly recommended, she said.
“The City of Winter Haven has guidelines based on restrictions,” she said. “We are required to submit a safety plan to them prior to the event. We will be spacing our vendors out more than six feet away from them. So it has more than ten feet between our vendors just to be sure, no lines back up for social distancing.”
Due to the current climate and studies based on recent community events, this year’s event is expected to draw in potentially 500 to 600 attendees, which is the average turnout for most local events, McDaniel said. Overall, expectations remain high even amidst these uncertain times.
“I am looking forward to having people gather again,” she said. “I think it is something we can all rally around, in a safe environment outside. I am always looking forward to the adoptable dogs get home every year. We had a good number of dogs find their forever homes at bark in the park, and it feels good.”
For more information about vendors, demonstration times, and adoptable dogs, please visit either the Bark in the Park 2021 Facebook event page, or their website at https://www.mainstreetwh.com/event/bark-in-the-park-2021/