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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Great Lakes Pet Expo celebrates 15th year

In 2018, an estimated 14,000 people visited the expo. This year they hope to attract even more pet lovers. Photo courtesy of Beth Enneking

With second semester underway and campus settling back into a routine, students may already miss their furry friends from home.

Luckily, students can get their pet fix this Saturday at the 15th annual Great Lakes Pet Expo. Held at the Wisconsin Exposition Center, the event will open its doors from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The expo began in 2004 as a small event, said exposition director Beth Enneking. She said it has now grown into an event housing more than 220 exhibitors and entertainment events, 500 adoptable animals and upwards of 14,000 visitors. Enneking said she believes its growth has been so great because visitors can be confident in their support of businesses and adoption groups that have in mind the best interests of pets.

Enneking is also the executive director of Alliances of Wisconsin Animal Rehoming Efforts, which sponsors the expo. Enneking said AWARE began 16 years ago as a way to combine efforts and improve communication between rescue organizations and shelters.

Enneking said AWARE began with just five or six leaders. Despite its small size, the group rescues around 13,000 to 14,000 local animals a year.

“We’re not the largest, but we’re mighty,” Enneking said.

Enneking said the Great Lakes Pet Expo started as a platform to communicate efforts like AWARE to the public. Through these efforts, Enneking said she hopes to get more animals into good homes. 

While direct adoption is not available on the day of the expo, Enneking said she encourages visitors to research and contact vendors about the available animals ahead of time. Visitors will be able to meet the animals they are interested in taking home and speak with the vendors about the adoption process.

In addition to shopping for things like pet food, accessories, and grooming supplies, and meeting adoptable animals, visitors can stop at one of the four entertainment stages. Judi Fischer, trainer and entertainment director, said the different stages are meant to offer a variety of acts that will appeal to  a diverse audience.

Fischer said she tries to figure out what visitors want to see, covering topics such as competitions, education and activities that visitors can do with their pets at home. One popular event, she said, is the agility competition between dogs and firefighters from the South Milwaukee Fire Department, held on the main stage at 1:25 with Chief Joe Knitter.

Amy Geraghty, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said she was intrigued by the agility show. While Geraghty is content with her pet turtle, she said she would still like to walk around and see the animals without looking to adopt. Geraghty also said she likes that the expo was sponsored by an organization like AWARE.

Fischer said she focuses on education because it is essential to the adoption of pets. Homeless animals are not bad animals. They are simply in need of a second chance, Fischer said. She added that the entertainment and expo as a whole is meant to give the public the resources to incorporate new animals into their homes.

“We educate (the public) to help them understand why animals do what they do so we can accept them, which is what we need to do with each other,” Fischer said.

Adult tickets are $7, with a reduced fee of $5 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Children under 12 and veterans may attend for free. For visitors who want to beat the crowds and be first to the vendors, VIP tickets can be bought for $15 for adults and $3 for kids. VIP ticket holders can arrive beginning at 9 a.m.

Tickets can be purchased at the door or on the Great Lakes Pet Expo website.

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