Creatures Great and Small Festival showcases eleven animal welfare organizations

Contributed by Chris Langhorne

Dogs and cats. Horses and donkeys. Rabbits, pigs and goats. Even iguanas and snakes. All these creatures share the misfortune of being at risk of abuse, neglect, and abandonment. But, in central Virginia, we have at least one animal rescue group focused on making things better for each of those animals. And eleven of those organizations are coming to the Scottsville Pavilion on Sept. 10 to spread the word and rally support.

“When we first thought of doing this Creatures Great and Small Festival, our main goal was to give central Virginia animal rescue groups a place and time to really outreach to people,” explained Alexander Stone, lead event volunteer for the James River Good Works Group. And the idea struck a chord with animal welfare groups, which quickly signed on to fill up all of the pavilion’s exhibit bays.

Many groups, many creatures

Palmyra’s Caring for Creatures Animal Sanctuary will be bringing a few of the 250-plus dogs and cats that the group shelters. Scottsville’s Finally Home Animal Haven will be highlighting their donkey rescues. Charlottesville’s Colby’s Crew Rescue will be showing off some of their miniature horses. Farm animal welfare group Hooves and Claws will be displaying baby goats and pigs. Bunny Lu Adoptions will be bringing bunnies. And there will be kittens, puppies and horses from five other groups – as well as a special meet-and-greet appearance by ball python Kratos, goodwill ambassador for Richmond’s Central Virginia Reptile Rescue.

The groups are not bringing their animals to the Creatures Great and Small Festival just for show. Without exception, the ultimate goal of every one of the exhibiting groups is to find forever homes for their charges. The festival gives them a good chance to get more of their animals adopted.

To help that happen, there will be ample opportunities for festival goers to interact with animals suitable and available for either fostering or adoption. Several of the groups will be featuring petting pens as part of their exhibits. Some will sport selfie picture-with-a-creature stations. Festival goers will even have a chance to kiss a baby donkey at the Madison County Humane Society’s booth or pet Kratos, a tame ball python.

Kids and animals a natural festive combo

Children will have a lot more to do at the festival aside from meeting Kratos. “We wanted to actively engage kids and give them a reason to bring their own pets to the festival,” said Lizz Koedam, the festival’s kid’s activities lead volunteer. As a result, a festival program of kids’ activities includes a pet-and-owner matching costume contest and a best pet trick competition. Kids without pets will be able to enter a cutest stuffed toy contest. Everyone entering the contests will walk away with a prize.

While the kids’ program is underway at the rear of the pavilion, fundraising activities will be happening at the pavilion’s front end.

A festival fund and raffle to help exhibitors

“Not even two minutes after we came up with the idea for the festival as an outreach event, we realized we could leverage it to raise money to help the exhibiting groups,” said Stone. “And so we’ve set up a Festival Exhibitors Assistance Fund from which every exhibiting group will receive a donation check at the close of the festival,” he explained.

Money for the fund is coming from festival program ad revenues, percent-of-sales donations from barbecue, funnel cake and specialty coffees festival vendors, and from two festival raffles.

With $5 tickets for each, both raffles’ winning tickets will be drawn at 3:30 p.m. The two prizes for the general raffle will be local merchant gift certificates worth $200 and $50. The pet owner’s raffle’s two prizes will be local pet care service gift certificates worth $250 and $100.

“We have no idea how big the fund will get by 3:30 p.m. but whatever the amount is it has got to help the exhibiting groups,” says Kathy Arbuthnott, another James River Good Works Group director. “And we’ll be ready to write each group a check when the festival closes at 4 p.m.,” she said.

A Best of Festival exhibit contest

As it turns out, the amount of each group’s check is going to be determined by the festival goers.

The exhibiting groups will be competing to see which are the best three exhibits at the festival. That decision will be made by the festival’s attendees by way of written ballots for their favorite three exhibits. And those votes will determine the size of each group’s donation check.

Every festival participating group will receive a minimum of five percent of the Festival Exhibitors Assistance Fund. The top three scoring groups will receive 30 percent, 20 percent and 10 percent of the fund respectively. “We wanted to motivate the groups to do their best on their exhibits, and we think this Best-of-Festival competition will do that,” said Kathy Arbuthnott.
An annual Creatures Great and Small Festival?

Queried on plans for future festivals, third James River Good Works Group Director Stephanie Hogan sounded cautiously optimistic. “We’re hopeful of a good result on Sept. 10,” she said. “But since this is all about the groups, it’s going to be up to them whether we do this again next year,” she continued. Stone added “I expect that, if at least three quarters of the exhibitors tell us that they’re willing to come to Scottsville again next year, I’ll be at the Scottsville Town Office Monday morning reserving a pavilion date for the 2024 Creatures Great and Small Festival,” he said.

There is no admission fee to the festival and pets are welcome. More details are available at htpps:// or

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