Lakeland First Friday Went To The Dogs With Dog Days Downtown
by James Coulter
Downtown Lakeland went to the dogs, quite literally, during the Dog Days Downtown themed event for last week’s Lakeland First Friday.
The event allowed local residents and visitors an opportunity to roam around Munn Park and Downtown Lakeland with their furry four-legged friends for a free evening of food, vendors, and live musical entertainment.
Visitors and their canine companions could peruse many of the local downtown businesses, which remained open late after hours, or the many other local vendors that set up booths along Kentucky Avenue.
Other fun activities that evening included pet shows and demonstrations in Munn Park, live musical entertainment on almost every street corner, and inflatable games and bounce houses.
Sponsored in part by Audi Lakeland, the event allowed every cent of its proceeds to go directly towards Zelda’s K9 Rescue, a local non-profit animal organization that seeks to pair rescue animals with good foster homes.
Linda Frohmander, an executive assistant for Audi Lakeland, had adopted two dogs from the organization. So it only seemed fitting for her own business to provide their support by sponsoring the event and raising proceeds for K9 Zelda Rescue.
“Every cent we make will go towards Zelda K9,” explained Kenneth Stewart, General Manager. “I felt this was an opportunity to do something different, most people get behind very good charitable events. I just felt that everyone has a dog and can get behind something that is different, that doesn’t get as much publicity as your [other] big charitable events.”
Lakeland First Friday is a monthly event hosted with the goal of drawing in local residents and other visitors to the Downtown Lakeland area for a free family-fun evening to help support local businesses and organizations.
This month’s event more than exceeded expectations by drawing in more than 6,000 to 8,000 attendees and raising more than $5,000 for Zelda’s K9 Rescue, Stewart said.
“I am blown away,” he said. “We want to be known in the area…because we are here to be a part of the community and support businesses in all fashion.”
Zelda’s K9 Rescue was started 12 years ago and named after one of their very first rescue dogs, Zelda. She passed away in 2015, but her legacy remains strong. The organization named after her continues to help take in dogs of all breeds, especially with special and medical needs, explained Jackie Rose, Owner and President.
Most of the proceeds raised that evening will go towards helping meet the medical needs of its rescue animals, with treatments including heartworm prevention, spading and neutering.
“I think they did a really good job organizing everything,” Rose said. “I try to come every year. It is a great way to socialize.”
Many other local animal organizations were in attendance that evening. One such organization was the Polk County Bully Project, which aims to help rehabilitate Bull breeds and provide them with good loving homes.
For a dollar that evening, attendees could “smooch a pooch” to help raise funds and awareness for the project. Not only do they seek to help Bull breeds find good homes, but also help make Polk County a no-kill county by 2025.
Shannon Medina, Co-Founder, was one of the people invited for the event. She and her teammates were impressed by it, especially later that evening when the sun went down and the air-cooled off.
“We can always use community support with fosters for the dogs once we have placement for them to go north for a few weeks,” she said. “It is a big thing that we would love.”
For more information about Zelda K9 Rescue, visit their website at: http://www.zeldask9rescue.com/