The first annual Barktoberfest is coming to the Depot Civic and Cultural Center on Saturday, with family- and pet-friendly activities from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. followed by a traditional Oktoberfest celebration with beer and bands from 5 p.m. to midnight.
    Proceeds from the event will benefit the PAWS project at the Ron Jackson State Juvenile Corrections Center in Brownwood.
    The day will begin at 10 a.m. with food and vendors on the Depot grounds. Festival organizer Leona Cleveland said there would be food trucks, crafts and wares for sale, a silent auction and a Beer Gardens area opening at 1 p.m. Inside the Depot building, there will be a “Cake Wars” competition beginning at 10 a.m. A “Strut Your Mutt” pageant will be held at 3 p.m., with prizes going to dogs for best trick, best costume, best of show and more. At 4 p.m. the festival will hold a Bloody Mary competition.
    The Last Dance Band takes the stage at 4 p.m. as well, as the festival transitions into the traditional Oktoberfest portion of the day. At 5 p.m. the Depot gates will close and tickets will be necessary to attend after that point.
    The festival concert lineup includes the Bush Holloway Band, Bleu Edmondson, Callahan Divide and Prophets and Outlaws.
    Cleveland said she had volunteered with the Corinne T. Smith Animal Center in the past, and now helped with the PAWS program at the Ron Jackson corrections center. She said the PAWS program was an important project that helped the shelter place animals while also improving the lives of disadvantaged youth.
    “What happens is the dogs are selected by the dorm supervisor” at the corrections center, Cleveland explained, “and they are taken and put into the unit with a qualified youth. In order for the youth to get into this program, they have to have a very good record with their studies, and done their programs … The dog goes in there, and they stay with the youth for 12 weeks, and in that 12 weeks the child is 100 percent responsible for the dog. They do all the grooming, walking, training and feeding of the dog.”
    Cleveland said the program had been a big success, with over 150 dogs and 100 children involved so far. She said the dogs often gave the kids their first taste of unconditional love, and that they taught the kids valuable skills like responsibility and scheduling.
    After the program, many of the newly-trained dogs are in better shape for adoption or even to go on and become service animals.
    “It’s a win-win-win,” Cleveland said.
    Regarding the festival, Cleveland expressed gratitude for everyone who had helped her organize the event in its first year.
    “We’re looking forward to it becoming an annual event, and something the community can be proud of,” Cleveland said.
    General admission tickets to the evening portion of Oktoberfest are $20 and can be purchased at the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce, AgMart, Depot Liquor, radio stations KOXE and KBWD and online at www.sqaureup.com/store/barktoberfest.