Maine Wienerfest returns to Belfast to celebrate ‘little dogs who think big’

Not all the dachshunds were lap dogs, according to Susanne Hamilton of Montville, who brought her pet to the seventh annual Belfast Wienerfest in 2010. These wire-haired dachshunds were bred to be hunters and trackers. They and can run for miles in the woods to find wounded deer, she said.
Not all the dachshunds were lap dogs, according to Susanne Hamilton of Montville, who brought her pet to the seventh annual Belfast Wienerfest in 2010. These wire-haired dachshunds were bred to be hunters and trackers. They and can run for miles in the woods to find wounded deer, she said. Buy Photo
Posted Aug. 22, 2012, at 6:29 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 23, 2012, at 7:39 a.m.

BELFAST, Maine — Organizer Dale Kuhnert readily admits that this quirky city on Penobscot Bay is a natural host for the quirkiest of summer festivals. Maine Wienerfest 2012 celebrates those dogs that universally inspire a smile — dachshunds. Or, as Kuhnert describes them, “little dogs who think big.”

Last year, Kuhnert said, some 800 people attended the one-day event, which this year is scheduled for 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 9, rain or shine. The $2 admission fee (children under 10 and dogs are admitted for free) raises funds for the nonprofit group Friends of Belfast Parks, and more specifically, to help maintain the city’s dog park.

The event is held in Steamboat Landing Park along the city’s harbor, just south of the landing and accessible from Commercial and Front streets.

Now in its ninth year, the Maine Wienerfest typically draws hundreds of dachshund owners from around the state, Kuhnert said, and dogs in various versions: smooth-coated, long-haired, wire-haired, standard, minis and mixes.

The centerpiece of the event probably is the Grand Parade of Dachshunds, he said, in which owners dress up their dogs to resemble lobsters, skunks, bumblebees and all kinds of other creatures and things.

“People spend months building their costumes,” Kuhnert said, and participants often trade notes on how they created them.

Also part of the festivities are the Long Dog Derby races, in which “doxies” race each other — as best they can, he said, given their lack of interest in running in a straight line.

A new event is Earthdog demonstrations, showcasing the American Kennel Club’s competition that tests the dogs in the skills for which they were originally bred — pursuing badgers in their tunnels.

Remarkably, there are few fights among the canine participants, he said, probably because dachshunds are known to get along with each other. Other breeds of dogs are admitted to the event as well.

Many people bring picnic lunches to the event, and spread out blankets on the lawn of the waterfront park. Gourmet hot dogs and Maine-made ice cream will be sold at the park.

As might be surmised, Maine Wienerfest is a goofy, silly but wholesome festival that brings people to Belfast who otherwise might not visit, Kuhnert said. He also believes such events are appropriate uses of the city’s parks — as long as dog owners pick up after their pets.

Kuhnert said no one is permitted to sell dogs at the event.

For more information, visit friendsofbelfastparks.org.

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