And they’re off.
Fans of sprinting sausage dogs were in for a treat last weekend as Ridgefield Oktoberfest played host to the annual wiener dog races Sept. 14.
About a dozen dogs took off down the grass on a designated race track at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex (RORC), some with more conviction than others. The races have been a staple of Oktoberfest, now in its fifth year and second at the RORC.
Taking the grand prize was Brownie, a 7-year-old that has been racing for years. Though Brownie didn’t say much following his wins, his owner Ashley Melo said their key to success was a “fresh squeaker” to get Brownie’s attention so he would barrel down the track.
“Some dogs are food motivated, some are toy motivated,” Melo remarked, with Brownie being in the latter camp.
Melo, a Ridgefield native, said the races were a draw for her in part because of her German ancestry and competitive nature. She mentioned she had to make arrangements at work in order to attend the event.
Coordinating the races was Sandy Schill, a Ridgefielder who was instrumental in bringing Oktoberfest to the city. Though now she has stepped back from more hands-on involvement in running the day’s festivities as Ridgefield Main Street, an organization that supports downtown businesses, has stepped up, she still organizes the dog races.
There were fewer dogs this year compared to last, which Schill reasoned was likely due to an unfavorable forecast. No rain came during the races, however, leading to a well-attended and dry spectacle of dachshund aerodynamics.
Schill said when Ridgefield Oktoberfest was starting she wanted to have a strong focus on the festival’s German roots outside of just beer, though several local brewers had offerings in the “biergarten.” Having dashing dachshunds fit that focus and was more appealing than seeing other German dog breeds race, given the comical nature of a long dog with small legs moving as fast as it could down the track.
Schill’s favorite part of the races was the audience response. She mentioned how one former Ridgefield resident told her that although they’re out of the city now, they will come back every year just to watch the dogs sprint.
“It’s really a pleasure (to see) all the people who show up to watch it,” she said.