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The Daily Tar Heel
Town Talk

The weekend I found myself and the meaning of life at the annual NC Corgi Picnic

The full photo gallery from the day's events can be found here.

YOUNGSVILLE, N.C. — Tucked away in sprawling fields, a steady trickle of cars donning bone-shaped magnets and corgi silhouettes winds through the back roads of Youngsville.

They’re on their way to the 14th annual N.C. Corgi Picnic, an affair drawing people from as far out as California and Canada.

For a few brief hours, Teamworks Dog Training facility transforms into a dreamland, where Pembroke and Cardigan Welsh corgis almost outnumber people, and it’s second nature for a canine attendee to easily surpass me in Instagram followers.

This year, organizer Amy Baker estimated an attendance of 300 corgis and 350 people.

Checking in, I fill out a tag with my name and hometown, uncomfortably pausing to etch a dash through the line asking for my corgi’s name. Outside the registration tent, I overhear a pair of women, bundled in windbreakers, conversing quietly with each other.

“OK, now, Bacon is the one to watch.”

More people file through the front gate, using Sharpies to sign a poster-sized liability form tacked up on the wall.

According to a schedule poster hung next to the waiver, the first event starts at 10:30 a.m. — the “Corgi Dash.” Until then, guests wander among a patchwork of tents and metal pens, greeting friends they recognize both from previous years and Facebook posts.

An occasional name is yelled excitedly — it’s always a corgi’s.

And there’s something you need to know about corgi names before you get to a picnic: They’re either absurdly regal or absurdly related to food. There is no middle ground. Hamilton, Churchill, Hazel. Bacon.

Laurie Odiorne, the games organizer for the picnic, calls the beginning of Corgi Dash into a megaphone. Her corgi, Chepstow, stands confidently next to her, occasionally barking at participants. At times it’s unclear which Odiorne is the sanctioned referee.

Unlike a greyhound race, a corgi dash is one by one — I’m informed it’d be chaos otherwise. Each dog sprints to its owner on the opposite side of the pen, passing a plate of hot dogs set midway as a distraction. If the dog takes the bait, he or she is automatically disqualified.

As I snap photos of the dogs barreling past, a corgi in a cart — the dog equivalent of a wheelchair — scoots next to me, occasionally casting an apprehensive glance toward my camera. Her name is Selene, and her pink feather clips blow subtly in the breeze.

After about 20 minutes, Odiorne announces that Bacon did in fact take first place — in a tie with Whisky, one of this year’s newcomers.

As the last of the older dogs make their runs, I wander off until the next event at 11:30. After suppressing a journalistic, moral struggle not to purchase anything while I’m here, I strike up a conversation with someone selling corgi memorabilia.

Stacey Stephens, the owner of charliethecorgi.com, tells me the story of how she was roped into this world. Occasionally peeking his head out, her business’ namesake sits shyly behind the table as we chat.

“I saw an Instagram account (of a corgi), and I said, ‘I can do that,’” she says. From that initial jump-off point, her memorabilia expanded from T-shirts and hoodies to bumper stickers and baby clothes.

She says she and 10-year-old Charlie have been here before, at the 2013 picnic. After missing the 2014 event, she’s happy to be back.

My conversation with Stephens is one of many in which I hear references to “frapping.” Someone eventually informs me it’s an acronym for “frequent, random acts of play” — a reference to frolicking in the way only a corgi can.

A large pen, equipped with a double entrance to prevent escapes, is host to this spectacle. As I walk up, 20 odd corgis race around, barking and nipping at beach balls and at one another.

It’s in the frapping area where I meet Scooter as he chases other dogs, occasionally (and purposefully) pausing for me to snap his photo. It takes me several minutes to notice he’s missing a front leg.

His owner, Nancy Hipsmen, says he had it amputated at 4 years old because of complications with cancer. But it's four and a half years later, andcooter’s never looked back.

At 11:30, human and canine attendees flood the frapping area. I’m introduced to the many strategies for carrying hefty corgis. I document at least four variations.

There’s a bit of a lull, and then comes what is arguably the picnic’s main event: the Costume Parade. One does not truly feel alive until experiencing more than 20 corgis dressed as anything from knights to tacos. The corgis caravanned through the camp — some obviously proud, some evidently humiliated — before convening at the front entrance for photo ops.

There were other events during the picnic — a raffle, bobbing for hotdogs, a planned corgi wedding. But as Saturday’s rain picked up, a good portion of the crowd also picked up to head for cover, bringing this year’s meet-up to a close.

Part of the proceeds from the day go toward next year’s N.C. Corgi Picnic, which will enter the planning stages just a few weeks after this year’s event winds down. The date is already set for Oct. 8, 2016, Baker said.

Organizer Nellie Maurer said what’s left of the raised money will be donated to CorgiAid, a nonprofit geared toward helping corgis and corgi mixes in need.

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