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Each year, we ask the public to nominate people who have shown exemplary actions on behalf of our beloved animals. We look for the 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 three humans and one animal who have shown amazing work and are worthy of our applause and attention.

Let’s meet this year’s heroes:

JOANN GRIFFIN, founder, president and volunteer team director of Central Massachusetts Disaster Animal Response Team (CMDART), established the organization in January of 2003, and it became a nonprofit in February of 2007. This team is made up of more than 100 volunteers throughout the Worcester County region.

The mission of CMDART is to provide information, training, support, supplies and personnel to help plan, prepare and respond to aid animals affected by man-made or natural disasters such as fires, tornadoes, ice storms, hurricanes and even pandemics.

Griffin, a licensed social worker (LICSW) and critical incident responder, has community development experience, served with American Red Cross of Central Mass, and responded to national and local disasters. She has trained with The Humane Society United States (HSUS), American Humane, International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), Noah’s Wish, Red Rover and SMART. She is a former board member and shelter volunteer of Dog Orphans Humane Shelter.

Recently, she aided emergency animal sheltering for the Great Dane incident in NH. During the Merrimack Valley gas explosion, she readied volunteers and equipment but ultimately only needed to supply goods to some of the shelters in the area. She organized delivery of N95 masks, personal protection equipment the organization had in inventory to medical personnel, and got pet food to local food pantries during the Covid-19 pandemic. She makes sure CMDART attends the Pet Rock Festival yearly to promote personal emergency prevention education for pet owners ahead of disasters, and also hosts the popular agility course at the event.

Besides being the team lead and founder of this organization, she coordinates and works closely with local animal control officers and other local organizations to find placements or re-unite animals with their owners following an incident.

“JoAnn’s compassion for animals and their families is evident each and every time she puts on her CMDART shirt and begins working on whatever is necessary to help animals through an incident,” says Patriciann Porter Adams, who nominated Griffin along with the entire CMDART volunteer team. “Just listening to her talk about the organization makes one realize how much this dynamic woman cares about animals and educating the public on CMDART’s mission. This award is a testament to her dedication to animals and their families in Worcester County and beyond.”

ANJIE COATES is a true hero for the animals. As an ACO, she once helped rescue a beagle who had decided to chase after a porcupine and got himself caught in a culvert for two days. Without hesitation, but with savvy smarts, Coates tied a rope to her ankle and went in headfirst to rescue the dog. The story is a typical one for Coates, one of the “behind the scenes” unsung animal heroes who quietly devotes lots of time to the welfare of animals. Coates has numerous grooming certifications and is a certified pet first aid and CPR instructor, too. Not only does she keep pets looking good at her grooming salon, but she keeps them safe and makes them feel comfortable---she has even helped many pets overcome skin problems.

Carving out time to volunteer at Worcester Animal Rescue League, she grooms animals waiting for their fur-ever homes. In fact, a year ago, she met Cricket at WARL, and he stole her heart. Cricket had lost all his fur. Coates adopted him and applied her groomer skills to treat Cricket‘s skin issues. Rodeo, G and Allister welcomed him into the Coates family. After a lot of love and patience, Cricket is a happy, hairy little guy now. He has his own Facebook page documenting his journey.

MADDISON (aka “Maddi”) has been a therapy dog for 15 years, helping to comfort those facing life challenges from age or illness. Bringing Maddison to see her aunt, NANCY AMBROSE saw the healing touch this sweet chi dog could have on people and turned this visit into a lifelong mission: Maddison’s Mission.

“When we talk about someone having a lifelong mission, Maddi of Maddison’s Mission is the model of that,” says Gail Fairbanks, who leads animal advocacy group Burt’s Brigade and nominated Maddison (and Ambrose) for the award.

Maddison has worked as a therapy dog with the elderly and young adults challenged by critical illness. She is the primary therapy dog for Care One Nursing Home of Millbury, MA, which she visits every Monday, and Brookdale of Eddy’s Pond in Auburn, MA, where she goes every Friday.

“Maddi seems to have a sense as to who needs her the most and gravitates to the elderly patients that prefer to remain in their rooms,” continues Fairbanks. “Her happiness to be patted and cuddled is just what is needed to help ease their feelings of isolation. Maddie is always excited to see her nursing home and rehab friends and actively ensures that no resident or patient is forgotten during the holidays.”

Ambrose runs a yearly fundraiser to gift the nursing homes with individual presents, arts and crafts supplies and much needed Alzheimer’s support dolls. Some 250 stuffed toy

Chihuahuas were gifted to nursing home residents one Christmas Eve so that everyone had their very own Chihuahua cuddle when Maddi is not around. When Maddison is not engaging with her nursing home friends, “her thoughts of helping them are never far away.” Maddi also participates in yearly fundraising walks for the Alzheimer’s Association and her cancer survivor friends of Bark For Life. Although Covid sidelined Maddison from visiting her friends this past year, Maddison has now returned to her mission with the same excitement she started with more than a decade ago.

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(Grafton, MA - July 19, 2021) -- Pet Rock Fest and Entertainment Sponsor T-Mobile are pleased to announce that platinum recording artist and “The Voice” finalist Billy Gilman headlines this year’s musical lineup at the annual Pet Rock Festival.

Gilman burst onto the national stage in 2000 with the release of his hit single “One Voice” and his debut album certified double platinum in the United States. He also holds the distinction of being included in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the youngest singer to ever reach number one on the Billboard Top Country Album charts.

“We couldn’t be happier that Gilman was able and willing to headline our festival this year,” says Pet Rock Fest Founding Partner Charlene Arsenault. “We were looking for a well-known artist whose music is appealing to all ages, but is particularly popular with the younger generation right now. He fits the bill to a T.”

At 28, Gilman has sold five million albums worldwide and garnered awards and nods from the Academy of Country Music, Billboard Magazine, the American Music Association and the Country Music Association.

“It took me a good while to figure out exactly who I was, musically speaking,” he said in a statement. “As a little kid, sometimes I was just told what to sing. But now I have enjoyed coming into my own and discovering what it really is that I want to sing. And I think that my fans will be pleasantly surprised with what they hear.”

Gilman became an instant fan favorite as the weeks went by on The Voice, his soaring vocals and amazing song choices earning him a spot in the finale of Season 11. Coach Adam Levine of Maroon 5 remarked, “You can emote so well. You can draw people in so easily.”

Jeannie Hebert, Pet Rock Fest founding partner, adds, “We are so thrilled to be able to present Pet Rock Fest in person this year! Billy Gilman is a major talent and will attract his followers from the Voice to support our efforts to help animals in need, which is what the festival is all about.”

The 23rd annual Pet Rock Festival gallops its way back to Wyman-Gordon, 244 Worcester St., in North Grafton on Sunday, Sept. 12, from noon to 5 p.m.

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

The event ha all of our popular attractions and more, including: K9 demos; an agility course hosted by CMDART; the Pups In The Air disc dog team; live music; the Rescue Groups and Shelters Pet Parade; kids activities, cat photo contest; book signings, annual Pet Rock Hero award; speakers; amateur dog contest; vegetarian food court; animal mascots, doggie massages, demonstrations, free and low-cost microchipping and rabies shots from VCA; a doggie water park; photos of your pets; animal-friendly vendors; and, most importantly, hundreds of nonprofit groups devoted to a huge range of animal welfare causes.

Supporting acts for Gilman include the Rafters and Ric Porter and the Roadhouse Gypsies, with more to be announced.

“T-Mobile is honored and excited to be the Entertainment Sponsor for the Pet Rock Festival, and thrilled to be announcing headlining act Billy Gilman,” said Amanda Kinney, regional marketing manager, T-Mobile. “At T-Mobile, we strive to support our communities and highlight organizations and businesses that are out there making the world a better place. The Pet Rock Festival gives so many groups the opportunity to share their mission and we are so happy to be a part of it all!”

Local nonprofit VegFest continues to partner with Pet Rock Fest to host its food court, packed with offerings from amazing vegan restaurants and food vendors. Originally called VegWorcester, VegFest hosts New England Vegfest, a free annual festival that celebrates animal-friendly, environmentally sustainable, and healthy lifestyles. This nonprofit dedicated to animal lovers was an easy fit to complement the mission of the Pet Rock Festival.

Anyone interested in volunteering for, performing at, or taking part in the festival in any way (including vendors and sponsors) should contact

For updates on the plans for the day, groups signed up to attend, and other official or not so official news, visit or check us out on Facebook at and on Twitter @Petrockfestival.

About T-Mobile

T-Mobile U.S. Inc. (NASDAQ: TMUS) is America’s supercharged Un-carrier, delivering an advanced 4G LTE and transformative nationwide 5G network that will offer reliable connectivity for all. T-Mobile’s customers benefit from its unmatched combination of value and quality, unwavering obsession with offering them the best possible service experience and undisputable drive for disruption that creates competition and innovation in wireless and beyond. Based in Bellevue, Wash., T-Mobile provides services through its subsidiaries and operates its flagship brands, T-Mobile, Metro by T-Mobile and Sprint. For more information please visit:

Celebrating more than 22 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.

If you’d like more information, visit

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Pet Rock Fest is welcoming (and encouraging) nominations for its annual hero awards for Pet Rock 2021.

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 2021 Animal Hero Award with a presentation at Pet Rock Fest 2021 on Sunday, Sept.12, at Wyman-Gordon in Grafton.

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 with "2021 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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