Braving the sweltering summer heat and congregating amongst towering fields of flowering golden rod, music and animal lovers united at the hallowed Cheat Fest Grounds in Albright, West Virginia for the first ever Pups, Pints, n Pickin’ festival. Held by Friends of the Cheat (FOC) on August 27, the fest welcomed party animals of all types to celebrate man’s (and woman’s) best friend with canine-centric events, a craft beer garden and plenty of live music.
According to Amanda Pitzer, FOC Executive Director, the idea came about from office chatter. “Cheat Fest doesn’t allow dogs, and we get a lot of grief about it,” Pitzer said. “Because river people are also dog people, we knew we wanted to do a late summer event, and we thought a smaller event would be a good trial for allowing dogs.”
The fido-friendly festival was held as a fundraiser for FOC, the Cheat River’s watershed advocacy group that works to “restore, preserve and promote the outstanding natural qualities of the Cheat watershed.” FOC initiated a slew of new partnerships for the first-time event, including the Preston County Animal Shelter (PCAS), Mountainland Animal Hospital, Cheat Lake Animal Hospital, Dog Tags Training School, and the Old Hemlock Foundation.
PCAS sponsored an adoption tent, and while just one puppy found a new owner, Pitzer is hopeful that those who showed interest in other pups will return to bring them home. Dog Tags offered up tips at the Obedience 101 class, and Mountainland Animal Hospital had professional search & rescue trainers on hand to display their techniques and share their real-life rescue stories. Those with obedient pups were able to enter the best trick, look-alike and longest sit contests.
Pitzer says the dog experiment went well. “I thought it was great,” she said. “All of the owners were really respectful and reasonable, I didn’t hear of any issues, and I didn’t step in any poo, so that’s a win. It was cool to see all the breeds and how unique their personalities are.” Pitzer’s new pup, Pepper, was there to revel in the glory. At just nine months old and fresh out of the shelter, Pitzer said he fared very well and learned to play nicely with the other four-legged attendees.
FOC’s shindig offered Cheat Fest vibes to send the summer out in true Appalachian fashion. An eclectic lineup inspired people to move from noon to long past sundown. Humans and dogs were out cuttin’ the rug to the sounds of Donna the Buffalo, The Company Stores, Allen Davis, Blackwater Mojo, 18 Strings, Jake & Jesse Pitzer, and Paul Burger.
Mountain State Beverage sponsored the Klean Kanteen aluminum pint cups etched with the festival logo. Beer lovers were able to sample a bevy of brews offered by Screech Owl Brewing, Oskar Blues Brewery, and Bell’s Brewery, a newcomer to the West Virginia craft beer scene.
Although turnout was lower than expected due in part to the 90-degree heat, Pitzer said that, overall, the event was a success. “We definitely had new faces; people who had never been to Cheat Fest or didn’t know about FOC, so that’s why we do these events—to grow our community of support,” she said. “We had never done any activity with the animal shelter or with the activity sponsors, so it’s always good to network with entities in the community and support each other. We had some really good music and a really good time. Everybody enjoyed it and said they hoped we do it again.”
While it’s uncertain if Pups, Pints, and Pickin’ will see its second year in 2017, you can be sure that river rats and music lovers will be making the pilgrimage to the festival grounds in Albright for the 23rd annual Cheat Fest on May 6, 2017.