Who let the dogs in? Andover Rotary Club members did, that's who!
The group is hosting its fourth annual Andover Cares festival this Saturday, Sept. 15 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in The Park and organizers say the festival, devoted to opioid abuse awareness, includes a "pooch parade" for the first time. Organizers hope the parade will bring more families, and their leashed canines, to the festival.
Andover Cares was founded as the opioid crisis was hitting communities, including Andover, hard.
Vendors set up booths and help with addiction counseling resources. Previously held in October, the festival was moved to September in hopes of better weather.
In addition, the festival has broadened a bit, taking on a block party theme this year, with the pooch parade, a best trick contest and a dunk tank as a way to get more people to attend. Plus, health and wellness is now a key part of the festival's mission. There will also be music and food.
"Andover Cares has evolved each year to reflect what we believe is the best way to accomplish the mission of 'A Fight Against Addiction and A Celebration of Wellness,'" said Rotary Club member and Selectman Paul Salafia in an email. "To increase attendance and awareness, this year the committee voted to have a more family friendly event with fun family games, food, music and a dunk tank. The more people who attend will mean the more people that will be exposed to the message of wellness and fighting addiction. Of course, we will still have addiction counselling resources to assist the community in dealing with these challenges."
Salafia said the pooch parade was just one of the ideas intended to increase attendance.
"After all, who doesn’t love their dog?" he asked. The dunk tank will be featuring some well-known names our community including Salafia and selectman Alex Vispoli, school superintendent Dr. Sheldon Berman and Andover High School baseball coach Dan Grams.
Teams can register for the contests to win prizes. Also throughout the day there will be pony rides, inflatable bounce houses, jousting, face painting and more.
IF YOU GO
What: Andover Cares block party
When: Saturday, Sept. 15, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., includes pooch parade and best trick contest noon; dancers, singers and more on main stage .
Where: The Park, Chestnut and Bartlet streets, Andover
Who: Co-sponsored by the Rotary Club of Andover and the Town of Andover's Department of Community Services