At the start of December, the Ulster Folk Museum held the first ever Santa Paws event over the course of a weekend. Over 150 dogs and their hoomans took the opportunity to meet Santa, with both days selling out in a matter of hours. Our very own Salty Dog, Milo, was among many VIDs (Very Important Dogs) to attend. Who could turn down the chance to get a photo with Santa?!
After a warm welcome at the ticket desk, we were handed our envelope of information including our doggy themed trail around the rural part of the museum. Milo was too excited to meet Santa though so our walk had to wait. We arrived at the winter wonderland in Kelly’s Coal Shed, with the beautiful old steam roller as the backdrop.
Greeted by Santa’s friendly helper, Milo dutifully took his place on Santa’s knee for the obligatory photo. I may have jumped into one too…Thankfully Milo was on the ‘nice list’, confirmed by his own little certificate. Santa gave him a goody bag too, with poop bags and natural treats. What more could a dog ask for! After a quick treat from Santa for being a good boy we were on our way again.
I spoke to Beth Frazer, Supervisor at the Ulster Folk Museum, and her dog Kodi about how the event came about.
We have always enjoyed welcoming visitors with dogs to the Ulster Folk Museum. A dog event is something that's been in my sights for a while. We started to gather dog visit numbers through ticketing around 4 years ago. Our visitors really appreciated their dogs being included on their ticket and it helped us understand how many dogs came on site.
Last year our ability to deliver on events in Visitor Services during a pandemic came into sharp focus and of course income from our events was impacted. We could not deliver on Santa visits for children and this is when I proposed Santa Paws, as social distancing with dogs was not an issue and would allow us to fill the gap. Unfortunately, due to government guidelines and lockdown, we couldn’t run the event in 2020 but we have been so excited to deliver Santa Paws at the Ulster Folk Museum in 2021. With an increase in lockdown dogs and puppies this was a 'pawfect' opportunity to tap into a trend, appeal to a new demographic, increase visitor interest and add to our Christmas programme.
Safely assured of his ‘nice list’ status, Milo and I embarked on the trail put together by Senior Curator at the Folk Museum, Victoria Millar. She explored the museum archives discovering photographs, stories and songs associated with the houses and their four legged residents. Stories such as ‘Donal’ the greyhound of Coshkib Hill Farm, who would regularly outsmart local gamekeepers!
We were welcomed in to a warm fire and some fruit loaf (that was just for me though, sorry Milo) by the different staff along the way and they were very knowledgeable about the history of the houses we visited.
After all of that walking through the countryside we had earned a cuppa in the tearooms, but not before a stroll past the donkeys for a quick hello! A hot cup of tea for me and a homemade pawpuccino from Santa’s helpers for Milo, which he gobbled up.
There was time for one last quick cuddle with Santa before heading home after a magical day.
A big thank you to all of the staff at the Folk Museum involved in the planning and delivery of this special event! Milo and I had a great time meeting the other good doggies and their hooman companions, especially seeing all of their Christmas outfits. Can’t wait for next year and fingers crossed Milo is still on the ‘nice list’!