ELKHART — Elkhart ArtWalk let the dogs out.
At least they did Wednesday evening for this month’s ArtWalk under the theme Dog Daze, which had organizers hoping dogs would drag their owners to see art and downtown stores that they might not otherwise.
More than 20 stores, restaurants, galleries and vendors stayed open or moved to Main Street to host the furry friends and their humans during the 5-8 p.m. event.
Liz Schenk, program manager of the Elkhart Arts Alliance, which organized the ArtWalk, said Dog Daze is not just an ArtWalk that happens to allow dogs. Businesses and artists embraced the theme, allowing dogs inside stores, setting up treats and water bowls, creating special pet deals and having artists exploring the pet theme.
“Last year we had about a dozen dogs, and this year it’s just exploded. I mean, there are dogs all over the place,” said Schenk.
She said there’s a big interest in pet portraits, offered at Juxtapose by Joshua Cramer. At ADEC, visitors could stop by for all-natural pet biscuits and puppuccinos. By the Chamber of Commerce, Auntie B’s Homemade Dog Treats made it difficult for some to walk past without begging.
For those so inclined, a booth with pugs was set up outside Twisted String, offering kisses for $1. The proceeds, Schenk said, go to helping dogs in need.
“People are really getting onboard about it and excited, so we’ll definitely do it again,” she said. “It’s fun the community really (is) getting into it.”
One of the dog owners on Main Street this Wednesday was Zoe Lang with her dog Coni.
“I’m into art, and also you can bring your dog in – and she needed some exercise. She’s getting older,” said Lang “She needs to socialize more, so I brought her out.”
Coni didn’t just go in any old collar either. Being more of an artsy dog, she dressed up for with a hat, pig tails and a scarf.
“She has some different scarves that she can pick out,” said Lang. “The hat we don’t really do that much.”
Also at the ArtWalk was Gail Eastman and Peanut, who took advantage of the dog theme to take a different walk than their usual stroll through McNaughton Park.
“Everybody has been very friendly, and I got some neat ideas to have our picture taken before he gets too old,” he said.
Peanut was rescued nine years ago, said Eastman, who was worried that the large dog wouldn’t fit in her car.
“But he did, and he’s been the best dog I’ve ever had,” she said.
Going to a place with lots of dogs and people is no problem for Peanut, a great Pyrenees who prefers meeting people on the street and loves children, said Eastman.
Still, not everything was perfect on Peanut’s ArtWalk. Despite walking right by Auntie B’s Homemade Dog Treats, he didn’t get a taste.
“He wanted to,” Eastman said, laughing.
Auntie B, whose real name is Billie Eubanks, started her business only a few months ago, bringing her homemade goods to farmers markets and craft shows. Having a dog-themed ArtWalk now was great timing for her.
“It’s a perfect opportunity to see some dogs out on Main Street and hopefully give them some treats,” she said.
Her treats are made fresh every week with human-grade food and no artificial flavors or preservatives, said Eubanks, who wants to present an alternative to treats that she said can sit on store shelves for months.
The next Elkhart ArtWalk will be on Sept. 11, with the theme Remembrance.
Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter at @ReadRasmus