Alaqua Animal Refuge’s inaugural Animoré weekend was truly a festival to celebrate the love of animals. Showcasing two epic events — the 6th Annual 100 Point and Cult Wine Dinner and the first ever Barn Jam — the weekend took place October 18 and 19 in Freeport, Florida and raised over $1,100,000 to support Alaqua’s Capital Campaign, “Second Chances Start Here,” thanks to a dollar for dollar matching grant of the weekend’s net revenue from the Dugas Family Foundation.
Amongst tropical storm threats, heavy rain and wind, and a last-minute change of venue (due to weather), the 100 Point and Cult Wine Dinner was smashing, breaking previous fundraising records by almost double. A partner and friend of Alaqua, the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center graciously allowed Alaqua to host the wine dinner at their incredible facility, with their awe-inspiring mezzanine serving as the backdrop for the cocktail reception, live painting by artist Velia Lala, and silent auction.
As one of Alaqua’s signature events, the 100 Point and Cult Wine Dinner paired stellar wines with a unique 5-course dinner, expertly prepared and served to over 100 guests. Classrooms were transformed into an elegant dining room inspired by natural woods, fresh flowers, greenery, and pure serenity. Three of Nashville’s top singer/songwriters—Billy Dawson, Aaron Barker, and Jon Nite—also serenaded guests with an intimate, once-in-a lifetime performance, and shared individual stories about the meaning behind the songs they had written for top recording artists.
A special presentation was made at the end of the evening to Brittnie Dugas, the daughter of the late Foster Dugas. In honor of Foster, Alaqua Founder Laurie Hood presented Brittnie a road sign named “Dugas Way,” which will be the permanent address of the new Alaqua facility. “Foster visited me at the Refuge to learn more about what we were doing. He also asked me to take his rooster. He first believed in me, and in Alaqua, and I wanted to honor him and his legacy and the continued support of the Dugas Family Foundation. It warms my soul to have their name as a permanent part of our home,” said Hood.
To quote one supporter of Alaqua, “Saturday’s Inaugural Barn Jam was everything that is the essence of Alaqua – that is love, that is hope. What an inspiring evening.”
The goal of the Animoré weekend and particularly the Barn Jam was to create a community event combining music and fellowship in support of animal welfare. It did just that. Over 1,000 supporters entered the gates and enjoyed a most wonderful afternoon and evening of good music, food, beverages, and fellowship. Kids and adults alike enjoyed the vast offerings and amusements of the Barn Jam, including meeting Lizzie the Pig in her pink tutu!
The highlight of the Barn Jam was the talented performances by six incredible artists and bands! Fans showed up early to hear local favorites The Pickled Pickers and the Luke Langford Band, who set the tone for the entire evening.
Nashville singer/songwriters Billy Dawson, Aaron Barker and Jon Nite amazed the masses with their performances and stories behind the songs. Crowd favorites included “Love without End, Amen” and “Baby Blue” written for George Strait by Aaron Barker; “Church without Jesus” written and sung by Billy Dawson; “Knockin’ Boots” and “Strip it Down” written for Luke Bryan by Jon Nite, as well as “Break Up in the End” written for Cole Swindell also by Jon Nite.
Barn Jam headliner Eric Lindell brought his unforgettable roots-rocking sounds to the stage, and rocked the house down! The soulful, bluesy and funk-based grooves of Lindell and his band had the crowd singing and swaying until the very end wanting more.
Dawson, Nashville Industry Music Awards “Artist of the Year,” helped coordinate the initial efforts of the Barn Jam with Laurie Hood because of his love for Alaqua and the work that is done every day there. He worked alongside Hood and her team to ensure the success of the Barn Jam, and even cut a radio and TV commercial to help promote. Dawson, who brought his parents from New Mexico along with his wife to the event said, “I mean seriously…two nights of amazingness for an amazing cause. We had an awesome time.”
During the evening, guests were also invited to visit the new Alaqua Teepees to learn more about the expanded services and experiences that Alaqua will feature at their new home. The Teepees are a permanent part of the new facility, and will be used for a variety of events, seminars, birthday parties, and other educational initiatives.
“I have no words, only heartfelt and overflowing emotions about the success of this event. The people that came out and supported us just overwhelms me…our sponsors, our community, our volunteers, and our staff. We couldn’t have made this happen without all of them, and I must also thank my friend Demetria McNeese for serving as our chairman. I am still pinching myself,” said Laurie Hood, founder of Alaqua Animal Refuge. “I cannot describe what it feels like to actually see a dream come true, which was what this was.”
The Campaign for Alaqua is a $15 million initiative that serves as the foundation of Alaqua’s relocation and expansion from their current site of 10 acres to 100 acres. The Campaign is a tipping point for Alaqua’s future and will impact and advance our rescue, rehabilitation, and adoption services, and educational and community programs. It will provide critical funding for the construction of buildings and facilities to ensure long-term financial stability and growth, furthering Alaqua’s mission and belief that every abused, neglected, and homeless animal deserves a second chance.
Alaqua’s new facility will be a game-changer for their future, and will be the first of its kind in the United States helping Alaqua to transform the shape of animal shelters and sanctuaries around the globe. Their goal reflects the magnitude of this project, and events such as Animoré will help make it a reality. Alaqua’s new home be a gem for Walton County and Northwest Florida, and be a place for all to enjoy for generations to come.
Encapsulating the weekend is challenging. It was truly epic. Epic indeed.
To learn more about Alaqua and their capital campaign, visit www.Alaqua.org
About Alaqua Animal Refuge
Alaqua Animal Refuge is a no-kill animal shelter and sanctuary, located in the panhandle of Florida. As the Southeast’s premier no-kill 501(c)3 refuge and sanctuary, Alaqua believes that every abused, neglected and homeless animal deserves a second chance. Committed to providing protection, shelter and care to animals in need, this private, non-profit Refuge also offers a full-service adoption center, educational outreach, and community programs that extend far beyond their geographic location. Since its inception in 2007, Alaqua has become a recognized leader in animal rescue, welfare, cruelty prevention, and advocacy. Alaqua is currently in the midst of a relocation and expansion capital campaign to build a one-of-a-kind facility—the first in the United States—on 100 donated acres. The new facility and sanctuary will allow Alaqua to continue all of the important work that is done now, as well as be an educational and training center to empower others to help animals and recreate the model worldwide. To learn more, visit www.Alaqua.org