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Dudleyfest makes a triumphant return

By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff

How often can you say that you attended a cow’s birthday? Most people can go through life saying the thought has never crossed their mind.

Those who know Unity Farm Sanctuary, however, know that a cow’s birthday can be a highly celebrated event. To that end, Dudley the Highland bull celebrated his sixth birthday on Saturday, June 12, with a plethora of visitors present.

Last year’s Dudleyfest was held in virtual format, with guests watching from different social media platforms. With COVID-19 restrictions lifted, Unity Farm Sanctuary could celebrate with the regular open house format. 

After parking, guests made their way up to the farm where they were welcome to explore, socialize, and celebrate Dudley. There were food vendors and music for those who wanted to take a break on the lawn, while others visited some of their favorite residents. Visitors discussed the animals with volunteers while young guests fed the critters lettuce and carrots.

The day brought out the best of the sanctuary’s residents. Fellow cows Audrey, Elliot, and Pal enjoyed treats being fed to them by visitors. Just a few pens a way, Bob the cow enjoyed some head rubs from volunteers, while pen-mate Wallace enjoyed noshing on some hay. Donkeys Adele and Star seemed to be more quiet than usual, not performing their usual "singing" for visitors. “I swear one of them just fell asleep standing up,” chuckled an attentive volunteer. Even Sunny the pony, one of the more timid residents, seemed to enjoy people watching during the celebration. 

Dudley looked pleased as visitors gave him back scratches and fed him lettuce. “Happy sixth birthday,” said one kid as Dudley happily munched on some gifted lettuce. David Wirbal, Dudley’s rescuer, stood by and taught visitors all about the beloved Highland bull. It’s thanks to Wirbal that Dudley is here today. Knowing that Dudley faced slaughter, Wirbal raised money and bought him, then helped find his now-permanent home at Unity Farm Sanctuary.

“He’s still the same animal I fell in love with six years ago. He’s just so friendly, so patient, so kind. He’s got such a great character,” says Wirbal. 

The day also helped raise awareness about veganism and promoting a better coexistence with animals. Wirbal recalled how one question helped do just that. “Just asking a question. I asked the farmer if I could buy [Dudley] rather than him going to production. Just by asking that one question and being lucky enough that he said yes, look what it’s turned into! If I decided not to ask that question, he’s not even here anymore,” Wirbal explained. “[That's] the impact you can have by asking a question and getting involved a bit.”

The only thing missing was a party hat for the birthday boy. Despite its absence, the horned birthday bull seemed to enjoy his day as much as visitors did. Whether they were interacting with the animal residents, learning about the sanctuary, or just enjoying the party, everyone can say that Dudleyfest was a great success this year.

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