The pawfect origin story of Melbourne’s Dogapalooza music festival

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The pawfect origin story of Melbourne’s Dogapalooza music festival

Photo: Jenny Marvin
Words by Meg Crawford

Starting with a case of mistaken identity, serendipity played a serious hand in the foundation of Melbourne’s beloved pro-pooch music festival, Dogapalooza.

It kicked off with Abby Gee’s mum – Gee being Director of One Little Indian Enterprises, which co-organises Dogapalooza – being hit up with a subpoena relating to dog theft.

It turns out that Gee’s mother shares the same name as the founder of anti-puppy-farming advocates Oscar’s Law. Of course, she hadn’t nicked anything, but it did lead to Gee having a yarn with said founder, Debra Tranter.

In turn, that chat inspired Gee to develop an animal advocacy program, two of the first graduates of which (Cal Williams and Renae Eden) became the founders of Dogapalooza in Adelaide, the festival Gee was compelled to mirror in Victoria.

That Gee uses her music promo powers for the betterment of animals isn’t surprising. She was the kid rescuing worms off the pavement and making mud houses and moats for ants to save them from drowning when it rained.

“It was pretty hectic planning for a little kid,” she says.

While the festival is a buffet of delights for dog lovers – among other things, you can go nuts over premium vegan and vegetarian fare and dog bandanas – the underlying premise for Dogapalooza is that it raises funds to keep Oscar’s Law afloat.

Named after a neglected and abused stud pooch who was rescued and is now the poster pooch for the anti-puppy farming movement in Australia, Oscar’s Law lobbies for the national abolition of puppy farming and urges responsible pet ownership and dog adoption.

Dogapalooza also (albeit gently) educates punters about the continuing issue of puppy farming. For example, while pet stores in Victoria are barred from selling animals unless they come from a registered shelter or pound, and there’s a cap on the number of litters a dog can have, it’s almost impossible to outlaw puppy farming in practice while the demand for designer dogs exists and people can get dogs online. Plus, the title of “registered breeder” can mean squat.

“It doesn’t mean that your dog’s not a product of a puppy factory,” Gee explains. “The really clear thing is the fact that we can all get a dog whenever we want – where do you think they come from?”

Heavy concepts aside, Dogapalooza is pure fun ranging from the non-traditional dog-show (previous winners include a once-timid rescue chihuahua who’s blossomed) through to the off-leash area showing doggy movies and the killer music lineup.

While every festival takes a different musical tangent, this year heads down a soul and R&B path, with the first round of announcements including Melbourne-based artist Sophia Brown.

“Dogapalooza is about laying around on the lawn drinking and eating and hanging out with everybody’s dogs, so that fits in perfectly,” notes Gee.      

While other music festivals have faltered in terms of ticket sales in recent years, Dogapalooza repeatedly smashes it. For instance, the festival announcement was made only a few weeks ago before the music lineup dropped, but already half of the tickets have sold. It makes sense – the festival’s a rare treat, primarily because the shebang is dog-centric.

“You can’t get away from that part, but that’s also the part that makes the festival special for a heap of reasons,” says Gee. “The biggest one being the fact it’s so friendly because dogs don’t have social rules. Before anyone’s even got into the festival, everyone in the line already knows each other and their dogs.”

Gee leaves prospective attendees with this pro tip:

“Dogapalooza is the kind of event where you’re best to not to bring your dog if you’re mad about dogs. Leave your dog at home so you can love on everybody else’s dog with two free hands.”

Dogapalooza comes to Burnley Park, Richmond on Sunday November 10. For tickets and more information, head to Dogapalooza’s Facebook page. Use the promo code ‘OSCAR’ before the end of Wednesday October 9 to get a sweet discount.

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