Changes to Critter Carnival bring event to Chapel Hill

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Sigmund, the Shih Tzu, smiles at the Critter Carnival on Saturday afternoon.

Southern Community Park was full of live music and plenty of animals Saturday. The park hosted the the third annual Critter Carnival to raise awareness for animal rescue and rehabilitation organizations. 

The Critter Carnival, previously called Furry Friends Festival, was founded by Paul Kerr and Kevin James. It was originally held at Shakori Hills, but the event this year was renamed to Critter Carnival, held in the afternoon and moved to a park. The event previously focused on rock and roll, but the music featured this year was jazz and bluegrass. 

The new location for the event is nicer and more developed, said Rick Gardner, co-owner of Binky & Bell, an organization that sells original cartoon dog art to support animal rescue groups and shelters.

"It’s a great location for us, and the weather for the first year was raining the whole day so we were up to our feet in mud," he said. "But the music’s great and the benefits — each of the vendors — part of their fee goes toward supporting local rescue groups."

Kerr said he hoped the changes would help boost attendance rates and raise more awareness about animal rescue and rehabilitation. He cited moments in his life — including owning six dogs and three cats as a kid — as inspiration for the organization.

"I became friends with a lot of musicians and performers and as I walked into the woods one day, I asked ‘Okay, how can I put all of these things together to showcase these great animal charities and try to help out,’” he said.  

Seven charities were present at this year's carnival: All Breed Animal Rescue of the Carolinas, Animal Resource Friends, Chatham Animal Rescue & Education, The Conservators Center, Hope Animal Rescue, Piedmont Wildlife Center and Independent Animal Rescue. 

Kerr said it was important to have exposure to a diverse array of charities at the event.

Brittany Thadani, director of All Breed Animal Rescue, said she hoped the event would help people understand the importance of fostering and volunteering. 

“We are limited in the dogs we can bring [to the Carnival to be adopted] to the amount of volunteers we have," she said. "So today, we had a couple of volunteers but they also had dogs to bring. So if we had five more people, we could have brought five more dogs."

Performers and musicians gave free performances throughout the event. For the Bucket Brothers, a band comprised of brothers Casey and Logan Valleroy, their desire to participate in the carnival was personal. 

“We have a golden retriever adopted from Neuse River Golden Retriever Rescue so we are really into animal benefits and helping out,” Logan Valleroy said.

Kerr said profit made from the carnival is divided up evenly between participating charities. An online silent auction is available until Oct. 1 and proceeds raised will also benefit the charities.

Legacy Academy Chapel Hill lead teacher Whitney Benton, who found out about Critter Carnival through a flyer, said the event is good for all. 

“Everyone should come," she said. "It’s fun. It’s really beautiful.” 

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