Following the success of Cat Con, 2019 gave us its canine counterpart, Doggy Con, a celebration of all things four legged, furry, and (with a few minor exceptions), friendly. The first ever canine convention took place on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019, in Atlanta’s downtown Woodruff Park- and if the smiling smiles and wagging tails were anything to go by, it was a huge smash.
Despite the scorching heat (temperatures rose to an almighty 90-degree (32.2 Celsius) during the hottest part of the day), dog owners and dogs managed to keep their cool and have plenty of fun, aided no doubt by the many doggy cooling stations set up around the venue, which kept paws cool and temperatures even. If that wasn’t enough to keep visitors on an even keel, there were plenty of icy treats and cooling beverages (suitable for human and companions alike) on offer from the scores of food trucks scattered around the park. Joining them where a lineup of pet retailers and animal welfare nonprofits offering advice, information and plenty of doggy related treats to festival-goers.
As the pictures attest, many who attended the event (whether of the 2 -legged or 4-legged variety) entered the spirit of the occasion by donning their most spectacular attire. Most chose to stick to the fancy dress theme by donning the gear of their favorite fictional character from pop culture (standouts included Megan Nelson and her cute mixed chocolate Labrador, Darla, whose choice of characters (Megan as a glamorous Cruella Da Ville and her companion as a cute-as-you-like Dalmatian),were the talk of the day; a tiny pooch kitted out in a Star Wars inspired outfit, and a couple of Dachshunds made up to resemble Starbucks coffee cups (their owner, meanwhile, complimented them very well as a Starbucks barista).
Although the day was undoubtedly a great occasion in and off itself, it also marked the countdown to Dragon Con pop culture convention, an internationally renowned event that attracts thousands of cosplay fans to Atlanta every year. “Doggy Con kind of kicks off Dragon Con season downtown,” Paige Sullivan, marketing manager for Atlanta Downtown told the Detroit News. “I think that’s very unique to our city.”
And unique it certainly was, with a pet parade and a costume competition that allowed both humans and canines to compete for a lineup of donated prizes, including two much sought after two day passes to Dragon Con. Winner of the best dog and owner combination costume went to the aforementioned Darla and Megan, who’s been attending Dragon Con for 5 years and welcomed the opportunity to get proceedings off to an early start. “I love dressing up, obviously, so what better excuse?” she commented. Other winners on the day included a sweet little pup in a Yoda costume (complete with a very appropriate set of huge ears), and a too-cool-for-school pooch in a pair of flashy gold sunglasses.
The success of the event followed hot on the heels of this year’s Cat Con, one of the biggest events of the year for cat lovers and, according to USA Today, one of the Ten Best Emerging Festivals of 2019. With celebrities, exhibits, seminars and workshops, Cat Con is setting the bar high when it comes to pet festivals. This year’s event, which took place between June 29th and 30th at the Pasadena Convention Center, in Pasadena, CA, included a line up of must see talent, including Shelly Roche (“TinyKittens”), Cats of Instagram, Dr. Marty Becker(“America’s Veterinarian”), Aaron Benitez (“Aaron’s Animals”), The Purrrcast (Steven Ray Morris and Sara Iyer), Chris Poole (“Cole and Marmalade”), along with the celebtastic felines Sukiicat, BenBen, The Dark Lord, Pudge the Cat, and Sir Thomas Trueheart. Intended to inform, educate and thrill cat lovers from around the world, Cat Con is becoming one of the biggest draws around for brands looking to launch or test their products on a receptive audience. If that same audience wants to go home with a little extra addition to the family, they can, with the conference offering over 200 kittens for adoption.
The woman behind the success of Cat Con (and the inspiration for Doggy Con) is Susan Michals, a producer and journalist whose list of credits includes This is Orson Welles, The Woman Who Created Hollywood, and Cannes Film Festival 2015. After seeing the success of LA’s Cat Art Show in 2014, Michaels decided to expand the premise of the show and create a multi-platform convention dedicated to all things feline-fantastic. In its first year alone, the event attracted 12,500 attendees, all eager to participate in some fun activities with likeminded folk. The event has proved as huge a hit with celebrities as it has with us “norms”, regularly pulling in the likes of Ian Somerhalder, Clea DuVall, Jerry Ferrara, Seth Green, Simon Tofield (“Simon’s Cat” creator), Kat Von D, Nala Cat, Lil BUB, Cailie Rae, Drew Carey, Tricia Helfer, Mariel Hemingway, Tess Holliday, Jessica Lowndes, Julie Newmar (“Batman’s Catwoman”),and Tallulah Willis. A quick glance at the stats tells us all we need to know about how successful Michals’ creation has become- to date, Cat Con has attracted 60,000 attendees from 45 states, 621 cities, and 11 countries, found a new home for 504 needy cats, and raised $193,000 for cat-centric organizations like FixNation, and the Ian Somerhalder Foundation.
Although Doggy Con hasn’t been around for quite so long as Cat Con (2019 represents its third annual outing), judging by how well it went down with the residents of Atlanta, we wouldn’t be surprised if it doesn’t become just as much a hot ticket as its canine equivalent over the coming years. Last thoughts go to Ansley Whipple, Woodruff Park project manager, whose comment to the Associated Press “It’s everybody coming together for just pure cuteness and joy,” perfectly encapsulated the day’s proceedings. Roll on Doggy Con 2020…