COOS BAY — Despite last-minute planning after not being able to find a suitable venue for this year's fifth-annual Barktoberfest, organizers said the event drew more than 200 people at a lot next to Coos Bay Ace Hardware over the course of the day on Sunday, Oct. 4, and declared it a success.

"This is by far our biggest year and that's weird because we had to move it from the airport hangar to here," said Julie Kremers, who organized the fundraiser, which is sponsored by the Coos County Animal Shelter and the shelter's nonprofit, Animal Shelter Partners, as well as Coos Bay Ace Hardware.

The last few years, Barktoberfest has been held over two days at an airport hangar near Southwest Oregon Regional Airport. Despite the large space, it was not suitable this year because COVID-19 guidelines from the Oregon Health Authority prohibit indoor gatherings of more than 50 people.

"Normally I plan for months, but with COVID I had to wait and wait," Kremers said. "That building was not an option, they closed it (due to the pandemic).

As Kremers was looking and waiting to see if she could even hold Barktoberfest, she attended a kitten palooza event at Coos Bay Ace Hardware and decided to ask if they could help. The manager immediately stepped up and the owners offered the parking lot next to the business at no charge.

Kremers and all involved in the event followed strict COVID-19 safety guidelines, including requiring masks, having a separate entrance and exit, reminding people to social distance and having everyone sign in with a phone number if contact tracing becomes necessary.

"I had basically three weeks to throw this together," Kremers said. "We did scale it back. We don't have any entertainment or a pets parade and I didn't have time to do a raffle."

To that end, Barktoberfest, in partnership with CCAS, will hold an online auction between Thanksgiving and Christmas, with details forthcoming. Anyone who would like to donate to the auction can drop items off at the shelter or call Kremers at 541-294-0951 or CCAS shelter operator Jaclyn Rosenberg at 541-751-2480.

Due to location of the Ace Hardware lot adjacent to U.S. Highway 101, the event drew many passers-by who saw the tents and flags.

"We've had people from all over who were just driving by," Kremers said. "We had more people in one day than we did over two days last year. A huge thank-you to Ace Hardware for allowing us to use the space."

There were pets, too.

"We've had a bunch of pets," Kremers said. "It's all about the pets," adding that she may organize a follow-up online pet parade fundraiser.

Barktoberfest featured 16 vendors, with the registration fee going to the shelter and some vendors donating their proceeds as well. The shelter had cats up for adoption at the event and adopted out one kitten and two or three cats by Sunday afternoon, Rosenberg said. People also donated food and supplies for the shelter.

Jacquelyn Darnell, who used to volunteer at the shelter, dressing animals for photos to help with adoptions, can no longer volunteer due to COVID-19. Instead, she's focused her energies into crafting with resin. All proceeds from her booth at Barktoberfest will be donated to the shelter. 

"We've had a lot more exposure this year," said Karen Jernstedt of Morgan Veterinary Hospital, also a vendor at the event. "It's a chance to outreach and talk to people and promote pet wellness and it's a chance to give back to help the shelter. We're here to help support them."

Morgan Vet also partners with CCAS to spay and neuter shelter animals. Donations for the shelter can also be dropped off at Morgan Vet, which is conveniently located in downtown Coos Bay at 230 Market St., one block west of Highway 101. 

Rosenberg said at the beginning of the pandemic, more people were adopting animals and fewer people were bringing them in, prompting the question of whether the  pet owners planned to keep their new adoptees over the long run.

"We've gotten back to normal now," she said. 

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