The Inaugural Bluegrass PugFest

April 26, 2022
Bluegrass PugFest 2022

Hey, y’all! Louisville is never short of fun events to attend, though I think this one takes the cake: the Inaugural Bluegrass PugFest! Yes, you read that correctly. An event dedicated to the dog breed we all know and love: the pug!

About the Bluegrass PugFest

The Mission of Bluegrass Pug Fest, Inc. is to organize and execute an annual event in celebration of the Pug dog breed, the proceeds of which will be used to ensure the future of the event and support participating 501(c)(3) Pug rescue organizations and Bluegrass Pug Fest, Inc. in their efforts to better the lives of surrendered, abandoned, sick, neglected, injured or abused Pug dogs by obtaining necessary medical treatment for them and assisting in their rescue and re-homing.

Event Details

May 14th and 15th, 2022

10am – 4pm

Kentucky Exposition Center, West Hall

937 Phillips Lane, Louisville, KY 40209

If you are interested in attending the event, click here for tickets. Want to volunteer at the PugFest? Apply here. Unable to attend the event, yet want to support the cause? Donate here.

To learn more about the Bluegrass PugFest, I had the opportunity to chat with Paul Gilles, President of the event and organization.

Paul Gilles Bluegrass PugFest
1. Please take a minute to introduce yourself. 

“Hello, my name is Paul Gilles, my “real” job is as a lead internal auditor for AT&T, I also teach business courses as an adjunct professor for Indiana Tech.  My spare time is consumed with travel, friends, gardening, learning new things, and Pugs – lots of my time revolves around Pugs – it’s really another full-time job!  I’ve been a part of a Pug rescue group for over 25 years. 

I rescued my first Pug when I was part of Kentuckiana Pug Rescue – of course I “failed” as a foster dad and adopted him!  Many years later, I was a co-founder of Bluegrass Pug Rescue.  I love Pugs and I especially love the reward that comes from receiving a sad and broken Pug into the rescue and getting it the care it needs, showering it with love, giving it a warm bed and good food, and sending a happy, healthy Pug out into a new loving forever home.”

2. For those unfamiliar with PugFest, tell us more. 

“Bluegrass PugFest is a celebration of the Pug breed as well as a fundraiser for all participating Pug Rescue groups.  This year we have Pug Rescue groups coming from Indiana, Texas, North Carolina, Kansas, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Vermont.  Bluegrass PugFest is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) organization with the sole purpose of hosting the annual PugFest and raising money to help Pug Rescues across the country.  While the event is focused on Pugs, all friendly breeds are welcome.  Guests will experience Pug contests (custard eating, Pug races, costume contest, talent contest, and more), nearly 100 vendor booths, educational sessions, a huge silent auction, entertainment, and almost 40,000 square feet of fun!”

3. When is PugFest? 

“PugFest is Saturday May 14th and Sunday May 15th from 10am – 4pm in the West Wing of the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville.”

4. This event used to be in Milwaukee; however, this year, it is now the Bluegrass PugFest. What brought the event to Kentucky? 

“I’ve had attended Milwaukee Pug Fest for many years and became good friends with Rick and Debbie, the founders of the event.  They started the event way back in 2005 as a small event to raise funds for a Pug Rescue in need.  Over the years it grew to be the largest event of its kind in North America (probably the world)!  Rick and Debbie are retiring in the South and couldn’t continue the tradition of the event in Milwaukee. 

When they approached me about the potential of moving the event to Louisville, I knew immediately that it was the right thing to do.  Louisville is within driving distance of so much of the population of the United States and so many Pug lovers live in the South.  We’re still just a relatively short drive for those who want to come that live in the Milwaukee area, but also closer to so many more Pug lovers.”

5. What’s something surprising that one can expect to experience at PugFest? 

“Pugs aren’t exactly an athletic breed!  So many folks are surprised to see the Pug Races on the schedule of events – it’s actually the most popular event!  We have actual starting gates that we load with the Pugs – we fling the doors open and out come the Pugs – at least the Pugs that can smell the treats waiting for them at the end of the artificial grass turf “track”!  It’s a riot to see the Pugs run every which direction and the crowd cheers on their favorites, at least one of which eventually makes it to the finish line!  Attendees are also amazed by our incredible silent auction items – we have well over 100 items this year and will have a silent auction each day of the event.”

6. What inspired a festival to be specifically about pugs? 

“The roots of the event are based around raising money for a Pug Rescue that needed to pay medical bills for a Pug they rescued.  So many people came to the parking lot of the YMCA that year, the organizers knew they had to have the event again.  Over the years the event moved from the Milwaukee YMCA parking lot to an indoor sports complex and eventually even stretched the walls of that facility with nearly 4,000 attendees and 2,000 dogs in attendance.”

7. What makes pugs the best dog breed? 

“Who doesn’t love a Pug?  Pugs are funny, sensitive, loyal, make crazy noises, slap you with a sloppy kiss any chance they get and the old age Latin expression “Multum in parvo” has become their motto. It means, “A lot in a little package.”  I think the “a lot in a little package” concept is the most endearing characteristic of a Pug – despite their small (yet plump) size, they think they’re a big dog.  Pugs also never meet a stranger – they love everybody.  It’s so rare to meet a grumpy Pug – they are always wiggling with excitement and looking for their next treat!”

8. Tell me about your pugs. 

“Over the years I’ve had so many rescue Pugs.  I usually fall in love with the seniors, so often their time with me is much shorter than I’d like it to be.  My first Pug was Ripley – I actually got Ripley when he was young – he lived to be 18 – that’s fairly old for a Pug.  My next Pug was Murphy, then Bugsy!  Later I adopted Charlie, Chella Marie, Henry #1, Roscoe (a Boston Terrier), Cash (a Boxer), and finally Henry #2.  All of my dogs have passed over the years with the exception of Henry #2 – he’s my current Pug. 

I also foster care for many Pugs every year – each of them have a special place in my heart, but if I listed them, we’d be into the multiple pages category for this answer!  Currently I am foster caring for a precious Pug named Tuck.  Tuck came to the rescue with heartworms that had damaged his heart significantly.  His heartworms are no more, but the damage they did left him fragile.  He’s a happy little Pug and we call him a “permanent foster” as he is so medically fragile.”

9. How can one buy tickets/support PugFest? 

“For just a few more days (until 4/30), discounted presale tickets are available on our website – www.bluegrasspugfest.org.  If you miss the presale tickets, tickets will be available at the door.  Adult one-day tickets are available at the door for $8 and Kids 2-12 are admitted for $4 – kids under 2 are free.  All friendly dogs are welcome to come to the event with their owners (must be on a fixed-length leash less than 6′ at all times).”

Planning to experience the inaugural Bluegrass PugFest? Share your adventures with #NotableKentucky + tag us!

Kentucky first, forever, and always.

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