Bagelfest dog contest celebrates 30 years with organizer DeBuhr | Entertainment

MATTOON — The Bagel Bow Wow has been part of Bagelfest for almost as long as there has been a festival and Bernie DeBuhr has been part of the Bow Wow for almost as long as there has been a dog contest.

The Bow Wow celebrated 30 years with DeBuhr, whose family owns DeBuhr’s Feed & Seed in Mattoon, in the role of this event’s organizer as approximately 20 dogs and their owners gathered for the 2022 edition contest Wednesday evening at Peterson Park. The spectators at the Rotary Bend Shell applauded as DeBuhr and this milestone were introduced.

“It’s been a lot of fun. I just enjoy seeing people bring their dogs out,” DeBuhr said afterwards.

Community leaders started Bagelfest and its bagel breakfast in 1986 to celebrate the opening of the Lender’s Bagels plant in Mattoon. The festival subsequently started a variety of other bagel-themed activities, including the Bow Wow.

DeBuhr said the Bow Wow had already been in existence for a year when he was recruited in the early 1990s to serve as the organizer. The merchant said he is glad to play this role in a community where DeBuhr’s Feed & Seed has been in business for five generations.

“Mattoon has been good to us and our business over the years,” DeBuhr said. “This is one way I can give back.”

Matching princesses (copy)

Pictured, from the left, are Ann Faller, Heather Fitt and her daughter, Junior Miss Bagelfest Laney Fitt, carrying Pepper during the Bagel Bow Wow dog contest Wednesday evening at Peterson Park in Mattoon. Heather Fitt made the matching outfits for her daughter and Pepper, including the sash for the 3-month old Chihuahua and rat terrier mix. Pepper won the “Best Look-a-Like” prize at the contest.

DeBuhr said the Bagel Bow Wow was held at Peterson Park for the first time during his inaugural year as organizer. Bagelfest itself moved from downtown to the park several years later.

As the years have gone by, DeBuhr said he has been thankful to see Albin Animal Hospital, Clyde’s Animal Clinic, and others in the community regularly volunteer to serve as Bagel Bow Wow judges. He said the Mars Petcare factory has been a longtime supporter through its donation of large bags of dog food as prizes, plus dog snacks.

DeBuhr said one of his favorite parts of volunteering at the Bagel Bow Wow is seeing all the costumes that dog owners put together to compete for the “Best Bagel Dog” and owner-dog look-alike prizes.

“People love their pets. It’s fun to see what people can do with their creativity,” DeBuhr said.

Little Miss and friend (copy)

Little Miss Bagelfest Lucy Bagwell walks her 11-year-old golden retriever, Chloe, while competing in the Bagel Bow Wow contest Wednesday evening at Peterson Park in Mattoon. Chloe won the “Best Goode Ole Dog” prize at the contest.

Several of the entrants on Wednesday used costumes incorporating the 2022 festival’s Camp Bagelfest theme. Leona Liggett of Humboldt and her 12-year old Dachshund, Wyatt, both wore fishing outfits, including straw hats. Liggett said she has entered the contest on a near annual basis for many years because its fun and she enjoys seeing all the other dogs. Wyatt won the “Best Bagel Dog” prize. 

Pepper, a 3-month old Chihuahua and rat terrier mix, won the “”Best Look-a-Like” prize. Heather Fitt of Mattoon said she made the matching outfits for her daughter, Junior Miss Bagelfest Laney Fitt, and Pepper, including a little sash for the canine.

Little Miss Bagelfest Lucy Bagwell, also wearing a matching outfit with the same paw print design, also took part in the contest, in which her 11-year-old Golden Retriever, Chloewon the “Best Goode Ole Dog” prize.

Search dog (copy)

Carolyn Muessman of Charleston demonstrates the skills of her 6-year-old Dutch shepherd search dog, Ellis, during the Bagel Bow Wow dog contest Wednesday evening at Peterson Park in Mattoon. Ellis won the “Best Trick” prize at the contest.

Ellis, a 6-year-old Dutch Shepherd search dog, won the “Best Trick” prize while demonstrating his search skills on objects hidden around and on the vehicle of his owner, Carolyn Muessman of Charleston.

Muessman said Ellis is certified to conduct narcotics and search and rescue efforts, adding with a laugh that he is also good at finding her lost cellphone. Ellis’ owner, a first-time entrant in the Bagel Bow Wow, said she is glad he and the other dogs got to show off in front of so many children at the contest.

“This is a great family opportunity and that’s what it is all about,” Muessman said.

Contact Rob Stroud at (217) 238-6861. Follow him on Twitter: @TheRobStroud

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