Songbirds and unleashed dogs come together this weekend for Alaqua

Deborah Wheeler
Alaqua Animal Refuge founder Laurie Hood at last year's event.

Alaqua Animal Refuge founder Laurie Hood will be a busy lady this weekend with two different major fundraising events going on in South Walton on two different days.

On Friday night at 7:30 p.m., the folk music group Ladybird Sideshow will present a performance at Rosemary Beach Town Hall.

The Ladybird trio is an award-winning singer/songwriter group of women who individually perform their own unique songs while the other two sing backup harmonies. The group consists of Lisa Winn, Melissa McClelland, and Janine Stoll.

Not only singer/songwriters, though, the women are also avid animal lovers.

Winn has worked in animal shelters since high school. She sees first hand the desperate situations animals face everyday, has opened her home to animals in need and has been an advocate and champion of animal welfare.  McClelland is also an animal lover who has shared the stage with such names as Sarah Mclachlan and she and her husband comprise the duo Whitehorse. Stoll is a caretaker of several rescue cats.

Bound together not only by their music, the group, hailing from the Toronto area, co-founded the animal rescue group Ladybird Animal Sanctuary which they operate on 10 acres back home.

One of Ladybird Animal Sanctuary's board members was in South Walton on vacation in early 2012 and read an article in The Walton Sun about Alaqua Animal Refuge. The board member returned home and told the group about AAR. They contacted Hood and made plans to come down and check it out.

They came, met Hood, and were impressed enough with what Hood was doing and had accomplished that they want to mimic her setup back home.

The trio is currently taking a break from their touring schedule and staying in the area while receiving training from Hood on how to transform their rescue operation into a successful refuge much like AAR.

While here, the women want to give back and help Hood and AAR by giving a benefit concert, which will be Friday night at 7:30 p.m. at Rosemary Beach Town Hall. Beer and wine will be available for sale. Tickets are $20 at and will be available at the door. Hood said the concert is not sold out and she invites everyone to come out and hear these Canadian songbirds and help Alaqua at the same time. All proceeds benefit AAR.

“We look forward to learning from the best at Alaqua and sharing our music in return," said McClelland.

On Sunday, the public is invited to return to Rosemary Beach for fun in the sun at the second-annual Rosemary Beach Unleashed.

Join director Laurie Hood and Rosemary Beach Foundation Executive Director Malayne DeMars for this fun event to benefit Alaqua Animal Refuge.

Special invited guests this year will be all former adopters and their adoptees, who are asked to attend and pose for a group photo that will be used in promotionals for AAR.

The fun begins at 1 p.m. at St. Augustine Park with a full carnival-type atmosphere that will include pedicures for humans and animals on site, a pet fashion show, holiday photos in Santa's sleigh with the Grinch and Santa's elf, music by 30A Radio, performances by 30A Dancewave and Gigi's Fab Kids, agility demonstrations, and a talent competition for animals. Dogs can also compete in the categories: children's handling, most talent, best trick, and best fashion.

There will also be a holiday market and pets available for adoption on site.

Beer, wine and food from Cowgirl Kitchen, DogManDu, and South Walton High School bake sale will be available for purchase.

"We hope to make this an annual community festival to be enjoyed by all animal lovers," said Hood.

For more information email AAR at, or call 880-6399.

Or, email, or phone 850-231-7382.