The 13th annual Pet & Companion Fair is the biggest in years, as the event has thrived in the capable hands of Amy Johnson and Vanessa Wright, who became the new owners in 2011. The dynamic duo, both in their late 20s, have brought the once severely-ailing event into a new hay day, this year winning a Top Dog Award for 3rd best pet event in Portland — surpassed only by two events presented by large organizations.
For years attendees paid up to $10 admission at the Pet Fair, but starting last year, Johnson and Wright made the event free to get in. “We made the show free so we could give everyone a chance to attend without having to worry about cost, especially families,” says Johnson. The move was well received, and was just one of the many positive changes that continue making the event one of Portland’s best.
Once a homey happening that looked and felt much like a county fair, today the Pet Fair has the colorful, high-energy vibe — complete with high-tech touches — of a top-notch show. Visitors now enter the hall at the Expo Center to find banks of computers in which they can answer questions and enter to win prizes, then move on to explore an abundance of vendors demonstrating every kind of pet good and goody imaginable.
Low-cost vaccinations, free “Ask A Vet” consults, book signings by award-winning authors, free samples, and photo keepsakes and contests are all part of this year’s fun. For those considering a new addition, many rescues and shelters are on site with sweet adoptables. Other nonprofits this year include Deaf Dogs of Oregon, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Paws Assisting Veterans, the Shakey Paw Pet Foundation, S/Nipped and others.
Center Stage, which features entertainment, workshops and educational presentations, draws an appreciative crowd that at times reaches standing-room-only proportions, with attendees enjoying a fashion show, and learning from experts on pet health, safety, communication and more.
Also expanded this year is an art space called Beard’s Framing Pet Art Gallery, where local artists display fabulous paintings, drawings and photographs of pets. Swing by and cast your vote for the People’s Choice Award.
Well-behaved pets on-leash are welcome at the fair, and while admission is free, donations are encouraged and happily accepted for The Pongo Fund Pet Food Bank.
Johnson and Wright, both in their late 20s, graduated college in 2008 and found themselves job hunting in the midst of the recession. They each set aside science-based degrees to work at Pacific Exposition, a trade show decorating company where they are still employed. “It’s two full-time jobs,” says Wright. For her and Johnson, she says the pet fair has been a wonderful way to promote responsible pet ownership, get animals adopted, and bring the community together. They say, “It’s a place to shop, to adopt, have a good time, and make a difference in the life of a pet.”