BELFAST – It will be Wieners on Parade at the annual Belfast Wienerfest, with diminutive dachshunds strutting their stuff from the Boathouse to the Public Landing.
The city will go to the dogs Sunday when hundreds of dachshunds and their human handlers are expected. Last year’s festival drew about 250 dogs and twice that many humans.
“We’re going to march from the Boathouse and back, if their little legs will take them that far,” organizer Diane Mende said Sunday. “We’re hoping they can make it.”
The annual Wienerfest is an afternoon of fun designed to provide lovers of short-legged dachshunds a chance to watch their favorite dogs in action and also get a glimpse of the animal.
How weird can the wieners get? Well, besides the newly added parade, this year’s festival will also feature the usual Dachshund Dash races, fashion show and Bobbing for Wieners competitions that thrilled all who attended last year.
Mende and her fellow organizers Vertene Carter and Linda Soares have scheduled enough activities during the noon to 4 p.m. festivals to keep the dachshunds and their handlers happy. Each of the women own dachshunds and can’t wait to see their pets square off in heated competition with the other dogs at the waterfront Steamboat Landing park.
Mende got the idea for the Wienerfest last year while watching television with her dachshund Lu Lu on her lap. When a piece aired about a dachshund festival in Texas, Mende turned to her husband and told him she wanted to hold a similar festival in Belfast. With the help of the Internet, the response was immediate.
“Even with last year’s bad weather we had a lot of dogs. People just kept coming by all day,” she said.
Dachshund owners form a bond with their dogs early and many have more than one dog. Mende said the dogs’ size make them ideal pets to keep in numbers. She said many of those who attended last year’s festival had more than one animal.
According to the American Kennel Club, the dachshund was bred in Germany more than 300 years ago to hunt badgers. The dogs require routine brushing to keep their coats healthy and are naturally free of odor. They also are loyal and easy to train. Cleaning up after them is also easy.
“We use sandwich bags, they’re not very big,” said Mende.
Dachshunds come in two sizes – standard and miniature – and are bred with three types of coat; smooth, wire-haired and longhaired. The dogs are known to be clever, lively and courageous to the point of rashness. Any display of shyness is considered a flaw, according to breeders.
That is why Mende guarantees some interesting attitudes among the dachshunds that will take part in the fashion show, races and hot-dog bobbing. She said the dogs enjoy showing off and never turn their nose when a wiener is offered.
As for the races, “We just line them up and let them go,” she said. “Sometimes they stop and sniff each other, and sometimes they run. We put a handler at one end and someone saying ‘come on, baby’ on the other. It’s just a lot of fun because they look so funny when they run.”
The Belfast Wienerfest will take place at the Boathouse at Steamboat Landing at noon Sunday, Sept 11. For more information check wienerfest.net.