By Ann Powers
For the TODAY
While the rest of the country contemplates the upcoming November midterm elections, Oregon Coast constituents are turning their attention to a more immediate vote — which four-legged friend will become the next Mayor of Muttzanita?
On Saturday, Sept. 8, the current mayor, a black Labrador named Tweed, will pass the mayoral baton to her successor during the dog festival’s 10th year in Manzanita.
The annual fundraiser is packed with fun activities including a Chuck-It Contest, Musical “Sit” (think musical chairs for dogs), an animal costume contest, talent competition, vendors, experts, demonstrations, silent auction, pet massage, gourmet dog biscuits, an adoption area and a pet parade grand marshalled by the newly elected mayor.
“Muttzanita brings the community and visitors together to celebrate dogs,” said Meghan Ruona, event organizer and owner of Four Paws on the Beach. “We love our dogs and it is fun to get together and share our fascination with these beautiful creatures.”
The celebration of all things canine runs from 10 am to 3 pm. Ruona said this year’s event is structured as a block party and kicks off at 1st Street and Laneda Avenue, next to the Manzanita Visitors Center. Contests and activities will take place in both downtown Manzanita and on the beach.
“We have prizes for first, second and third place in each event,” Ruona said. “There will be a short ceremony before the parade to announce the new mayor and allow the previous mayor to congratulate the new winner. The new mayor will then lead the parade from 2nd Street down to the beach.”
And like any honorable election, there are rules. Organizers said candidates must be a resident of the tri-city area (Manzanita, Nehalem and Wheeler), but voting is open to anyone.
Voting closes at 5 pm on Friday, Sept. 7. Ballot boxes can be found in Manzanita at Four Paws on the Beach, 144 Laneda Avenue, and at the town’s Visitors Center, 31 Laneda Avenue. In case of a tie, the two furry friends will serve as mayor and deputy mayor.
The festival welcomes well-behaved dogs and cats of all sizes and shapes who are at least six months old and are on a short leash, to attend the event. Muttzanita’s newest elected official will be sworn in at 10:15 am, prior to the parade, and then ride with their human in the lead car of the procession.
Julie Resnick and Teresa Taylor are Tweed’s humans and made that celebratory trek in 2017.
“(Tweed) has grayed a lot this past year,” Resnick said. “So, I don’t know if politics is for her.”
Tweed certainly comes with credentials fit for the office. She graduated from the Guide Dogs for the Blind program and acts as an ambassador for the organization. She is also the mascot for the Emergency Volunteer Corps of Nehalem Bay.
“Tweed is a very special little pup,” Resnick noted. “We just try to get involved and support local events.”
Muttzanita organizers said 100 percent of the festival’s proceeds will help fund medical expenses for the rescued animals at Tillamook County Animal Aid.
“Since we do see a lot of abandoned animals, they are often in very poor shape making our veterinary costs rise,” said Natasha Lackey, the group’s director of operations. “The opportunity to be part of the Muttzanita is something we are truly grateful for and we will be allowed to keep helping these dogs.”
Established in July of 2017, Tillamook County Animal Aid is an eight-kennel facility at the Port of Tillamook Bay. It was created specifically to aid law enforcement in handling lost, stray, neglected or abused canines.
The shelter is a converted garage and was constructed by the Tillamook County inmate work crew. About a dozen volunteers put up a fenced area that serves as an enclosed outdoor run for the dogs housed there.
“Some dogs are innocent victims of their owner’s crimes like drug raids, driving under the influence and other types of arrests,” Lackey said. “So, it’s clear there is a real need for a forward-thinking crew to help these animals either locate their families and reunite, or find a new beginning with well-vetted adoptive families.”
Muttzanita Cards can be purchased for $15 in advance or on the day of the festival, allowing pets and their guardians access to all events throughout the day.
Officials added that out-of-town guests can book rooms at any of the area’s many pet-friendly inns, hotels, B&Bs or homes available for rent.
For more information about Muttzanita, to purchase tickets, find lodging, make a donation or to see a list and photos of this year’s canine candidates, go to www.muttzanita.com.