Cars were parked up and down the driveway of the Hidden Hills Farm and Vineyard on Sunday where people, many accompanied by dogs, perused stalls featuring everything from the vineyard’s newest wines to a raffle tent with dog-and pet-themed prizes.
Normally a private, by appointment wine-tasting venue, Hidden Hills threw open its doors Sunday to host a fundraising event for the Animal Welfare League of Frederick County, a no-kill cat and dog rescue organization based in Frederick.
Many of the dogs seemed right at home frolicking across the vineyard and farm’s expansive, hilltop yard set against the backdrop of the vineyard’s idyllic surrounding countryside, and the event co-chairs, Kristin Manos and Stephenie Nagle, of the animal welfare league, couldn’t have been happier with the turnout.
The fundraiser has been held in the past at other venues in the county, and usually brings in between $8,000 and $9,000 to the welfare league’s coffers, which is a big boon for the nonprofit, especially considering the scope of their work, Manos said.
“We rely solely on donations, grants and fundraisers like this to provide financial support for homeless cats and dogs and also to help people in the community whose pets may need financial assistance, which is primarily veterinary care,” Manos said. “... This is one of our larger fundraisers, we have about 30 vendors today and Hidden Hills is providing the wine for people to taste and purchase if they choose to. This is the first time we’ve had this event at Hidden Hills and they’ve opened up their home for us so we’re very grateful.”
Out on the grass, Nagle emceed a version of musical chairs where dogs and their humans walked around a set of hula hoops and the object of the game was to have your pet sit inside one of the rings each time the music stopped until only one dog was left.
After the game, the winners, Barnesville resident Belinda Rhoads and her Australian shepherd, Tracker, cooled down under the raffle tent and wagered a few tickets Rhoads had purchased toward various prizes.
“I saw the event on Facebook and I thought it’d be a good time; come out and bring the dogs out, enjoy the pretty countryside and try some good wine,” Rhoads said, adding that she never expected Tracker to help her win a competition. “He’s only 6 months old, he’s a 6-month-old puppy and today was the first time we’ve ever done anything like that but he sat every time he got to the hoop so there was no trick to it, he’s just a smart dog!”
The event also included performances by more seasoned dogs and their human partners from the Mid-Atlantic Disc Dogs Club in the form of a series of elaborate Frisbee-catching tricks set to upbeat music.
The fundraiser was also a great opportunity for the vineyard to showcase its wines and preview its upcoming tasting room, said Robin Sagoskin, the owner. The vineyard also houses a farm for horses after which the latest wines are named.
“The winery’s been open for two years and we’ve had the horse farm here for eight years and then we started to grow wine and we’ve gotten up to 20 acres, we have 20 acres of grapes here, so we’re building a tasting room where the horse farm is,” Sagoskin said. “It’s going to be really unique, it’ll be the only equestrian barn winery, it’s really exciting, and all of our wines are named after horses.”
In keeping with the theme of helping animals in need, one of the vendors present was the Days End Farm Horse Rescue, a volunteer organization based in nearby Woodbine, Maryland, that specializes in intervening, rescuing and rehabilitating malnourished or abused horses.
Caroline Robertson Herman, a development director for Days End, praised both the vineyard and the welfare league for holding Sunday’s event, saying Days End was always happy to be a part of efforts that allow the organization to partner up with other community groups.
“Today’s been a great day, the booth’s doing well, we’re getting the word out and we’re blessed to be a part of it,” Herman said. “Everybody else here is also trying to get a little bit of exposure, so it’s always nice to share and you know, have it be a collaborative effort.”