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Bluffton Village Festival attracts ugly dogs and beautiful people

Barbara Schiner and her 5-year-old English Bulldog Cosmo walk up to receive their first place award in the ugliest dog contest Saturday afternoon at the 33rd annual Bluffton Village Festival. "He's so ugly, he's cute," said Schiner.
Barbara Schiner and her 5-year-old English Bulldog Cosmo walk up to receive their first place award in the ugliest dog contest Saturday afternoon at the 33rd annual Bluffton Village Festival. "He's so ugly, he's cute," said Schiner. Sarah Welliver, The Island Packet

With a mix of new features and tradition, the 33rd annual Bluffton Village Festival entertained thousands on Saturday while answering an essential question: what is a chi-poo?

That would a half-poodle, half-chihuahua by the name of Diego, who won second place at the festival's Ugly Dog Contest, his first time in the competition.

With her face brightly painted, his seven-year-old owner, Jessica Wischerath, ran to her mother Jennifer on the porch of the Sprouts store after claiming a trophy hand-thrown by local potter Jacob Preston.

"I want to come again next year," she said.

The popular festival shut down Calhoun Street for most of Saturday as more than 150 vendors offered one-of-kind arts and crafts, treats and plenty of snacks.

Spoonfeeding her 1-year-old daughter Ava her first cherry sno-cone, Bluffton resident Erica Dismuke said this year's festival could be the biggest yet.

The annual event has grown in scale since the Bluffton Rotary Club began running it in 2009 as a means of raising money for local charities. The club added an After Hours Party with a $5 admission, this year featuring JoJo Squirrell and the Home Pickels and the Travis Powell Band, where beer and wine sales benefit local charities.

The Rotary Club has netted more than $20,000 since it took over and recently won first place over 80 other clubs in its district for creative fundraising.

This year's main beneficiary is Bluffton Self Help, which is raising money to move into a new building after outgrowing its former headquarters.

Board president Peter Bromley said the organization is half way to its $1 million goal and plans to purchase a building at 39 Sheridan Park on Bluffton Parkway this summer. The group plans to move in this fall.

Walking the festival on Saturday, Bromley was amazed by the crowds on the street and picnicking along the May River.

"The Rotary is a huge help to us and we are incredibly appreciative," he said.

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