PUNTA GORDA — Kids got to pick out pumpkins, and dachshund owners got to bask in glory after watching their dogs race one another, at an “Oktoberfest” event Saturday at Fishermen’s Village.
The variety of activities, which also were to include Bavarian food and music, proved a winning combination, several participants said.
The “Pumpkin Patch,” a charity farmers market organized by the Parent Teacher Organization of East Elementary School, raised much-needed funds for school materials.
The wiener dog races, held by the Salty Paws gift shop at the village, raised funds for animal shelters.
And the combination gave kids and adults plenty of reasons to participate.
“It gets your school recognition out in the community,” said Lori Carr, principal at East. “We’re located far to the east, and a lot of people don’t know we’re out there.”
Several hundred people attended the event, which was one of about a half-dozen held each year by Fishermen’s Village, a resort and mall at 1200 W. Retta Esplanade.
The activities Saturday included a concert by the Sallie Jones Elementary School fourth- and fifth-grade chorus.
“It’s a great event for them because it’s a nonintimidating environment — and they can enjoy the wiener dog races afterward,” said Michelle Marshall, music teacher at Sallie Jones.
“It builds the kids’ esteem to get them in front of a crowd of unfamiliar faces,” she said.
However there were also plenty of familiar faces in the audience, which packed the village’s center court for the concert.
“They did good, they were in sync; it was unique,” said Dennis Andrews, whose daughter, 10-year-old Samantha Andrews, was a member of the chorus.
Lisa Giammo, president of the PTO at East Elementary, said she and another parent hand-picked the pumpkins and produce for the sale at Hunsader Farms in Bradenton. It was a labor of love.
“This year, it’s extremely important,” she said. “We lost a huge chunk of our budget.
“We’re a Title 1 school, so some families can’t afford supplies,” she added.
Giammo explained some proceeds are slated to be spent stocking teachers’ supply cabinets. Also, the PTO plans to purchase computer software this year to allow kids to practice reading on a computer at home. The computer will videotape the kids as they enunciate, which will give teachers clues about their struggles.
The school traditionally has purchased supplies for students whose families can’t afford them. However such purchases were cut from the school’s budget five years ago. Since then, the school has relied on PTO fundraising events, Carr said.
James Schwartz of North Port, who entered his dog Lady in the wiener race, said he was participating to represent a “wiener-dog family.” It all started after a relative got a dachshund named “Mr. Fritz.”
“We all fell in love with him,” he said. “Now my mom has dachshunds, my sister has dachshunds. All together we have nine. That’s a lot of dogs.”
Seeing both the dogs and pumpkins at the event apparently inspired Savannah Carlini, 10, to begin thinking about Halloween.
“I’m going to be a honeybee, and my dog is going to be a matching bumblebee,” she said.