Dogs, humans stroll and shop in Central Park at Fireplug 500
SCHENECTADY Charlie was running late as the hounds began to descend on Iroquois Lake. The annual Fireplug 500 Walk is sensory overload for him — there are 400 other dogs running around and adults with treats and toys — and he needed some time to collect himself before setting out on the official walk.
“We’ll hook up with them later,” said June Hyra, the 6-year-old beagle’s owner. “He really enjoys socializing and seeing all the other dogs. Plus, he got one of these grip toys and little treats, and then he got his toe nails clipped.”
Vendor booths lined the pavilion and Tiny Tot Land areas of Central Park, offering everything from dog toys, dog jewelry and dog sitting to dog grooming, dog T-shirts and even dog-waste removal. The day begins with a blessing of the animals, followed by an opening ceremony, a walk through Central Park and activities like pet caricatures, raffles, prizes and food.
All proceeds from the event go to the Animal Protective Foundation in Glenville. The walk brings in about 400 dogs and their owners and families for an estimated crowd of 1,000 people. Although that number dropped a bit during the recession, the proceeds each year still contribute significantly to the daily operations of the group’s Maple Avenue shelter, said Kim Jess, community outreach manager for the foundation.
“This is our biggest single fundraiser, and it’s a community tradition,” she said, “so we see a lot of the same people come every year. It pays for everything — electricity, heat, medications, salaries, everything that keeps our organization up and running — so it’s a big help.”
Last year, the event brought in between $50,000 and $60,000.
Now in its 21st year, Jess said, the event pretty much runs like clockwork, though she expects some regulars saw new vendors this year.
“There are a lot of new pet businesses that are opening, so this is a wonderful event for them to come and try out their business,” she said.
Jerry Guidarelli scoops poop. So far, he has advertised his five-month-old business through the local newspaper and on Facebook. But Saturday’s event gave the Rotterdam entrepreneur a new outlet to test the public’s reaction to his side job.
The idea for JG’s Scoopin’ Poop was rooted in Guidarelli’s mind all his life.
“Back in the day, my father always used to say, 'You want to make money, son? Go out and pick up dog poop,’ ” he recalled. “Nobody wants to do it, so if you can go out and do it and make money at it, you might as well. And that’s what I did.”
For $9 a week, a Capital Region dog owner can have their pet’s poop scooped once a week. Guidarelli compares it to any other waste management service. He visits the home, lets himself into a backyard, cleans up all the poop, lets himself back out and leaves an invoice in the mailbox.
“A lot of people have not heard of this kind of service,” he said, “so I’m really trying to promote it at this event. We’re raffling off one free month of service, and all our proceeds are going to the APF. We’ll be back next year.”