RAVENNA -- Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary is preparing to ring in summertime with a Summer Solstice kick off party June 21.
Happy Trails Farm Animal Sanctuary rescues, rehabilitates and re-homes criminally abused, neglected and abandoned farm animals. It partners with rescues, humane officials and farms both in Ohio and across the United States to help rescue animals in need and find them them new homes.
The event is a first for the farm, in the hopes of spreading the word about the organization and have fun while doing so, said Fred Lefton, volunteer manager for the farm.
The party also serves as a fundraiser, as Lefton said the farm has some important improvements going on, including replacing the floor of the horse arena and replacing "Big Blue" -- the farm's recently deceased dump truck. The truck is paramount to farm work as it was used every single day at the sanctuary.
"The arena floor is made of dirt, but the dirt needs replaced," Lefton said. "The dirt is too fine and creates too much dust. It's not good for the animals or the people. We also want to add some ventilation to the arena."
Lefton said the Summer Solstice Party is designed to welcome the official start of the summer, adding those who attend can expect a fun evening with a sunset toast and sweet treats from 7 to 9:30p.m. Several activities are lined up for this evening including raffle tickets for sale for great prizes, a best sunset photo contest, plus some surprises to be revealed that evening.
Tickets cost $25 per person or $45 per couple. This event is for adults age 21 and older. There is no set dress code for the event but boots or some sort of durable, comfortable footwear is recommended. Space is limited and tickets may not be available at the door. To purchase tickets, see www.happytrailsfarm.org.
The Summer Solstice Party is not the agency's only summertime event. The farm gives tours every weekend, usually led by Ilona Urban, who is both a volunteer and a part-time staff member. Urban introduces guests to the farm animals and tells their stories, including the 100 roosters the sanctuary took in from a cockfighting ring, or how Wilby the pig was so overweight he could barely walk when he came in. Wilby often greets guests at the fence when visitors begin their walk through the farm.
Annette Bragg founded the farm 17 years ago, and retired in 2016. Laurie Jackson, a six-year veteran dispatcher for the city of Akron and a nine-year member of the Summit County Mounted Unit, is now the manager.
Jackson owned and managed Moxie Stables in Mogadore for 8 years before leaving it in the hands of her long-time business partner. After becoming aware of Happy Trails, Jackson became a supporter, volunteer, member of the rescue team, emergency foster home and adoptive parent.
The farm now has 12 staff members, seven full-time and five part-time, and 22 active volunteers. Where once there was just a house there is now a 14-acre farm with a horse stable, an arena, rooster condos, and several barns that hold pigs, cows, other animals and equipment.
Pot belly pigs are housed in "Piggerton Estates." Urban explained pot belly pigs are a tropical animal, so heat lamps are kept in the barn, and the pigs who live in stalls may be hard to see at first because they burrow under piles of hay. Urban dug Queenie out to say hello, while explaining to a family of three, visiting the farm May 13 that pot belly pigs actually make good pets.
"They are clean, odorless and smart," Urban said. "They can be housebroken but they can also tear up a house if you aren't careful."
She said people adopt often them as babies thinking they are "teacup" pigs but when they grow to their normal size pot belly pigs can weigh anywhere between 80-200 pounds, people discard them and they end up needed rescued. She added there are many pigs who need homes.
"No one needs to be breeding pigs," she added.
Tours are small groups of no more than six and Urban said boots are strongly recommended.
Happy Trails is a non-profit rescue, receives no government funding and relies on donations. There a number of ways to help including monetary donations, donating items from the farm's wish list, volunteering, adopting, sponsoring or fostering animals.
For more information about the organization, event tickets or the animals in its care visit www.happytrailsfarm.org.
Briana Barker: 330-541-9432