To say that the Loreto Bay community is dog friendly would be an understatement, and that status was never made more clear than this past weekend when the first annual Baja Bark and Run was held by the Loreto Bay Volunteers. This event, which was a 1, 2 and 5 k walk/run, with or without canine accompaniment, has been in the planning for over a year and the time and effort that has gone into it was apparent as I approached the Golf Course Clubhouse Sunday morning, half an hour before the scheduled 11:00 am start.
The Clubhouse courtyard and the grassy area between the Clubhouse and the driving range had been taken over by over 50 Vendor booths for the occasion, most of them sheltered under shade tents, and the entire area surrounding the Clubhouse was populated with what appeared to be an equal number of dogs and their owners, most of whom were sporting numbered bibs indicating their participation in the races to come.
There had been a registration-breakfast for the almost 150 "runners" taking part at 10:00 am and the 5 km race was scheduled to start at 11:00 followed by the 2 and 1 km starts at 15 minute intervals. The course looped around Agua Viva (the second phase of Loreto Bay) following the front nine holes of the Golf Course in reverse of the normal direction of play and the different lengths of the race were marked by colored balloons. The first group off was the 5 k runners who first assembled on the first tee box and then were escorted across the Paseo for the start on the cart path adjacent to the ninth green by Maryanne, one of the key organizers of the event, subtly disguised in a full body dog costume!
Ironically, this "cross dressing" was a predominant theme for the day - mainly manifested by a largepercentage of the dogs dressed up in various costume pieces, but occasionally by their owners who adopted some "doggy bits" as their wardrobe accents for the occasion. Not being a dog owner myself, I should probably withhold comment, but I have to say I am conflicted between the alternatives of whether the dogs are unaware of their costumed appearance - or if they actually enjoy being dressed up! Regardless, it was apparent that everyone, including the dogs, were thoroughly enjoying the excitement of the activities.
The 2 k and 1 k events were started in turn, and I was struck by the large number of Mexican kids and their dogs that were taking part in the shorter distances. Participation by the Mexican community in the town of Loreto had been actively encouraged by the organizers, including collecting donations to offset the 300 peso ($23 US) registration fee so it would be open to all who wanted to participate. This integration of local Loretanos with the ex-pat community is an important aspect of more and more activities here in Loreto Bay, and I believe it is a healthy sign of the growing acceptance and harmony between the two communities.
After the participants for all the distances had been started, I made my way back to the Clubhouse area to find that there were at least at least twice as many non-competitors milling around the vendor's booths as the numbers of people actually taking part running in the events. In addition to the registration fees that were collected from the runner/walkers, part of the fundraising was from the rental of booth space for sponsors, businesses and other organizations looking for exposure and good-will. Businesses from both Loreto Bay and the town were offering their wares including snacks, and food carts, as well as fundraising and public relations booths for different organizations including the Amigos de Loreto umbrella organization that co-ordinates much of the charity efforts of this community.
Which is a good opportunity to point out that in addition to the fun and community-building aspects of this inaugural Baja Bark event, the underlying purpose of all of the many volunteer's time and efforts were to raise funds for the Loreto Bay Volunteers, who have become a very active group within our development and organize many activities and co-ordinate between Homeowners wanting to contribute support and the many worthwhile organizations in and around the town of Loreto who can benefit from that help. The Volunteer's focus their efforts in four main areas: Animals, Children, Environment and Community and the proceeds from this event alone will raise over 90,000 pesos ($7,000 US) and provide benefits in all of these areas.
When all of the "races" had been completed and the participants had returned to the Clubhouse area there were many presentations of recognition to the various permutations of finishers who then were able to draw a prize from the many contributions from booth sponsors as well as the business community at large in the town and Loreto Bay itself. The afternoon continued as the almost 500 estimated in attendance browsed among the different booths and sampled the food and drinks available, while enjoying the opportunity for person and dog to socialize together on another perfect day in Loreto Bay.
The timing of the Baja Bark probably marks the beginning of the end of another Season here in Loreto Bay, although our village is still buzzing with people and activity, and will continue to do so for the next month or two. But as winter residents begin to pack up their homes in preparation for returning to where they spend their summer months, this will likely be one of the last big events of its kind until the Fall. And given the charitable aspect, it is also a fitting way for the growing Loreto Bay community to bid "HASTA LUEGO" to their adopted winter home for the summer, leaving behind their generous support of many good works that the town of Loreto will benefit from now and in the future. Which brings a unique perspective to bringing together our community's love of "man's best friend" with their desire to give back to the people who share this beautiful place with us - yet another way we all benefit from "Living Loreto"!