Annual Bark in the Park fundraiser set for April

Erin Toland Special to The Tuscaloosa News
Fourteen-month-old Franklin Smelley pets Zeus during the annual Bark in the Park at Sokol Park Saturday, April 21, 2018. [Staff file photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

Here's some news that will get tails wagging. The sixth annual Bark in the Park will be held from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m April 13 at the Will May Dog Park.

The fundraiser, organized by the Tuscaloosa Association of Realtors, helps maintain and improve the dog park.

The event will be free to attend and will feature live music, two K-9 dog demonstrations, food trucks, pet-related vendors, a children’s area with face painting and games, a dog wash, a photo booth, a pet parade and more. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets to watch the demonstrations and listen to the live music, said Shay Lawson, chief executive officer for the Tuscaloosa Association of Realtors.

Dogs will be available for adoption from organizations like the Tuscaloosa Metro Animal Shelter, the Humane Society of West Alabama and the Canine Compassion Fund.

Swag bags will be available for the first 500 people. While the Tuscaloosa Association of Realtors is donating tennis balls and other items, the group is still collecting items for the swag bags. In the past, these have included dog treats and dog toys like Frisbees as well as many other useful pet items, Lawson said.

Bark in the Park T-shirts will be for sale, and donation jars will be set up around the event. All proceeds will benefit the Will May Dog Park in Sokol Park. Funds will be used for the park's upkeep and to make upgrades. Last year’s event attracted more than 3,000 people and raised $16,760, Lawson said. She added that since its inception, Bark in the Park has raised more than $50,000 and is projected to raise $20,000 this year, Lawson said.

Donations made directly to the park, through this event, and through the Will May Foundation have funded all the park's amenities such as new pavilions, water stations, pet waste stations, training equipment and even fertilizer, said Becky Booker, public relations manager for Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority.

In 2013, the city of Tuscaloosa established a section of Sokol Park as the Will May Memorial Dog Park, which is Tuscaloosa’s first official dog park. The following year, the first annual Bark in the Park took place and has become a tradition for people and their furry friends.

Located in Munny Sokol Park, the dog park offers local dogs an area to stretch their legs in a leash-free, safe environment. It was PARA’s most-requested amenity and is now one of its most highly utilized parks, Booker said.

“Our users really take ownership of the park,” Booker said. “They want everything to be in top shape, so we really work hard to keep it in good shape for the dogs.”

Any vendors or nonprofit animal groups/rescues that are interested in participating in Bark in the Park can contact Shannon Butson via email at or via phone at 205-861-1216. 

The park is named after Will May, a 13-year-old son, nephew and grandson of veterinarians, an animal lover and avid runner, who was accidentally killed on a hunting trip in January 2013.

What: Fundraiser to maintain upkeep for Will May Dog Park

When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. April 13

Where: Will May Dog Park in Sokol Park, 5901 Watermelon Road

Admission: Free, but donations will be accepted

More information: or search for Tuscaloosa Bark in the Park on Facebook

Bark in the Park