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NEWS

News!

Each year, Pet Rock Fest organizers reach out to the public to request nominations for people (or animals) who have shown exemplary actions on behalf of our beloved animals. We look for heroes who work tirelessly to protect the welfare of animals or someone who has performed an act of pure kindness to save or protect an animal.

Heroes come in all forms, and this year, Pet Rock Fest honors two humans who have shown amazing work and are worthy of our applause and attention.

Let’s meet this year’s heroes:


CATHY FITZGERALD


“Cathy has always been the most compassionate person I’ve ever known toward all living creatures,” Fitzgerald’s sister Lynn Reed explains. “She has rescued, more times than I can count, birds with broken wings, or orphaned bunnies, and even bugs. She looks at all life in the same way; they deserve to live as much as humans. She’s made numerous trips to Tufts Wildlife Clinic with those broken-winged or fracture-limbed who she feels were put in her path for saving.”


Fitzgerald, who is also a retired professional photographer from Shrewsbury, is a household name to Pet Rock Fest, too. She’s supported the nonprofit and cause for many years, particularly with her many cat photo contest entries (her beloved cat Oscar Jarrard grabbed the trophy several times).


Fitzgerald also parlays her commitment to animals into action by volunteering for Missing Dogs Massachusetts, an amazing nonprofit dedicated to searching and finding missing pets throughout the state, and has helped track and find lost pups in Worcester and Shrewsbury.


“She recently led a family to find their beloved lost pooch, Daisy, in the Burncoat area of Worcester,” says Reed. “The family she recently helped entailed keeping in contact with the family (usually a few times a day), giving them advice, hanging fliers, and physically searching for the pups.”


Putting her pro photography skills to use for animal welfare, Fitzgerald also volunteers for the Brown Dog Coalition, capturing these orphaned dogs’ “best side” to help get them into forever homes. She also visits the dogs who are waiting for homes at the shelter and donates food and other goods regularly to the Worcester Animal Rescue League.


Fitzgerald has had many rescued cats in the past and currently shares her pad with a rescue mixed-breed dog named Bo.


“She is a true voice for the voiceless,” adds Reed. “She rescues the mistreated, saves the injured, and loves the abandoned with all her heart. And she does so quietly, without the need for accolades or awards or recognition, but I think she deserves those.”



JOHN AND KATHY HALAMKA, UNITY FARM


It was once said by the Dalai Lama in The Art of Happiness, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.” Living a true compassion towards all creatures we share this planet with is a trait most have forgotten and some may never truly understand.


As Unity Farm’s Board President and Executive Director, John and Kathy Halamka exemplify this very compassion toward all of those who share this world with them. Whether a volunteer, staff, or an animal in need of a brighter future, all who have the honor of knowing these two gracious people are infectiously taken away by their kindness. John and Kathy make an exceptional effort to provide safe and loving lifelong homes for farm animals while offering unique educational programs to promote kindness and connection within their community.


Established in December 2016, Unity Farm Sanctuary became a haven for animal rescues that includes goats, alpacas, sheep, cows, ponies, horses, pigs, and feathered friends of numerous varieties. Hand in hand with the dedication of their affectionate volunteers and staff, they seek positive change for animals and people alike. This is achieved with their incredible efforts to network among other national animal sanctuaries seeking permanent homes, provide educational programs to teach compassionate care for all ages, and work toward a positive future without the impact of animal-based industries.


“Although their rescuing efforts started years before,” says Jennifer D’Angelo, humane education director for Unity Farm, “in 2016 John and Kathy established Unity

Farm Sanctuary; which is currently home to more than 300 formerly-farmed animals, with many

others who have called Unity their home since that time, whether it be for goats, sheep, llamas,

alpacas, horses, ponies, cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, geese, guinea fowl, turkeys and an

occasional guinea pig or parakeet (in addition to the dogs, cats, and birds who grace their home).”


Tyler Wehr, Unity Farm board member and volunteer, adds: “Kathy and John have influenced my life in a way I never thought was possible. Since starting to volunteer in 2018, they both have encouraged me to believe that it is achievable to change our course in this world. Volunteering and becoming a board member at Unity Farm Sanctuary is leading me further away from my animal agricultural past and pointing me closer to inspiring many others about my very own journey of compassion on all levels. The connection to each animal under their care, opens an endless discussion about how we all have an obligation to create a better home for all living beings.”


As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Unity Farm Sanctuary has become an escape for visitors within the New England community and beyond by continuing to expand programs with the goal of making a meaningful difference in the lives of animals and people in the world around us. Tours, classroom visits, pen pal programs and featured “Learn with Us” topics are just a few of the diverse educational opportunities for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities can be involved in. Unity Farm Sanctuary prides itself on providing countless resources to live more sustainably, transition to a plant-based lifestyle or become involved in changemaker initiatives such as LEAP (Leaders for Ethics, Animals and the Planet).


“John and Kathy dedicate their lives to creating a safe haven for every individual,” says D’Angelo, “where suffering and loneliness are alleviated, medical care and enrichment are provided and a deep focus is placed on sharing the stories of these amazing non-human ambassadors to generate understanding and compassion for farmed animals and help build a kinder planet. John and Kathy are a beacon of light for their community and have created an inclusive space where team members, volunteers and visitors from all walks of life can come together to care for non-human animals, learn about sustainability, how to pursue a life free of exploitation and cruelty and make a positive impact with each and every connection they make.”


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Pet Rock Fest is welcoming nominations for its annual hero awards for Pet Rock 2023.

Let us know about someone or who has worked tirelessly for the protection and welfare of animals, or someone who has performed an act of pure kindness to save or protect animals. There are all kinds, and each year, Pet Rock Fest acknowledges these wonderful people with a Pet Rock Hero Award.


If you would like to nominate an animal who has performed a heroic act this past year, let us know about that, too.


We'll choose two people heroes and one animal hero each to be awarded the Pet Rock Fest 2023 Animal Hero Award with a presentation at Pet Rock Fest 2023 on Sunday, Sept.10, at SAC Park in Shrewsbury, MA.


Past recipients have included police officers, rescue group leaders and fire departments, as well as individuals who simply took it upon themselves to follow through with an act of kindness to help an animal, or many animals.

Send your nominations to petrockfest@gmail.com with "2023 Hero Nomination" in the subject heading. Please include a description as to why this person (or animal) should be named at Pet Rock Fest Hero.



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While it is disappointing that Pet Rock Fest, Inc., is forced to take a pause from holding its annual festival, the nonprofit announces an online auction in its place, kicking off with a Facebook Live event and continuing on its Facebook page for two weeks.


With a kickoff Facebook Live event at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 11, on the official Pet Rock Festival Facebook page, this auction, which features items ranging in restaurant gift cards to pet products, will continue for two weeks following the kickoff.


Go HERE to take part in the auction!


Pet Rock Fest, which donates 100% of its proceeds to well-researched animal welfare organizations throughout New England, invites fans and participants to keep an eye on the auction selections on our FB page, posting the bidding on each of those items in the comments section under the photo. Winning bidders then email organizers with information, and can provide the donation by clicking the donate button on our website, or using Venmo (or sending a check). The item will then be on its way to the winner!


Fear not, loyal puppies, kittens and ducklings. Pet Rock Fest will announce plans for an event in lieu of the festival this year, but will also make its triumphant return with the traditional Pet Rock Festival on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023 (yes, next year!), at our new home: the Hudson-Concord Elks Lodge, 99 Park St., Hudson, MA.


“Unfortunately, holding the festival at Wyman-Gordon, where it has been held the last four years (except for 2020, when Pet Rock Fest was held virtually), isn’t an option anymore,” explains Charlene Arsenault, founding partner. “We were hoping to hold the event there for another year. It wasn’t in the cards, and as much as we tried, we couldn’t find an appropriate alternative for 2022. But we’re already planning for next year! In fact, the festival organizers and volunteers are using the opportunity to revamp the event into something even grander and more momentous.”


Jeannie Hebert, founding partner, adds: “Supporting animals is our passion, and for more than 20 years Pet Rock Fest has allowed us to raise funds to assist organizations who share that passion with us. It was a difficult decision to make, but unfortunately, this year we find the festival to be as homeless—just like some of the animals we help. In 2023, we will be back with a new and better location to grow Pet Rock Fest to offer more support to the organizations that work so hard for the animals.”


Pet Rock Fest continues to put the spotlight on the animal welfare organizations of New England that work hard to promote kindness to animals.


Located conveniently off of Route 495, the new venue centrally located in Hudson is easily accessible from points east, west, north, and south, and better accommodates our allies and fans in MetroWest Boston. Also, the location boasts an expansive, grassy, fenced-in event area, a covered pavilion, areas shaded by trees, and hundreds of parking spaces at the adjacent high school building. It is ideal for both people and animals.


In fact, there is plenty of space, and beyond, for all of Pet Rock Festival’s popular attractions-and more-including: K9 demos; an agility course; the disc dog team; live music; the Rescue Groups and Shelters Pet Parade; kids activities, cat photo contest; book signings, annual Pet Rock Hero awards; speakers; amateur dog contest; vegetarian food court; animal mascots, doggie massages, demonstrations, free and low-cost microchipping and rabies shots; a doggie water park; photos of your pets; animal-friendly vendors; and, most importantly, hundreds of nonprofit groups devoted to welfare causes related to all animals.


“It’s certainly disappointing to skip a year,” continues Arsenault, “but it will give us a chance to strengthen and expand upon what is already an amazing, signature event that has had a remarkable impact on the animal welfare community."


Stay tuned for updates on alternate Pet Rock Fest-sponsored fundraisers, as well as the return of the Pet Rock Festival in 2023.


Anyone interested in volunteering for, performing at, or taking part in the 2023 festival in any way (including vendors and sponsors), or in joining the volunteer team, should contact petrockfest@gmail.com. Please do not hesitate. We’re very eager to grow our team and participants.


Did you miss the link to the auction? Here IT IS again!


For updates on the plans for the day, groups signed up to attend, and other official or not-so-official news, visit petrockfest.org or check us out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/petrockfest and on Twitter @Petrockfestival.


Celebrating more than 23 years, Pet Rock Fest is the largest event of its kind in the Northeast, an annual festival that promotes kindness to animals and responsible pet ownership. Pet Rock Fest, held in September each year, is a family festival that features guest speakers, vegetarian food, live music, games, events, a raffle, vendors, and hundreds of area animal welfare organizations. Pet Rock is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. Donations are tax-deductible.


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