Josh and Marci Miller coordinate the annual Wags and Bags Festival at Ahwatukee Park. He’s hold a leash on Preston, a Husky mix with special needs they adopted. She’s holding on to Fret, a Lab/Rottweiler mix that is one of their foster pups.
Special to AFN

A signature cocktail, pro cornhole tournament and loads of fun and games are in store this Saturday when the third annual Wags and Bags Festival comes to Ahwatukee Park.

The festival – noon to 7 p.m. at the site of the Ahwatukee Swim & Tennis Center, 4700 E. Warner Road – is a labor of love for Ahwatukee couple Josh and Marci Miller to benefit Valley Dogs Rescue.

That nonprofit was formed “to rescue dogs that have been abandoned, neglected or otherwise placed in harm’s way; to provide temporary housing for adoptable dogs, and to promote and encourage the responsible care of pets, especially spaying or neutering, micro-chipping and vaccination of dogs and puppies,” according to its website.

“We became fosters for Valley Dogs Rescue in 2009,” said Marci. “Over the years we’ve seen the amazing work the volunteers do in very challenging situations. We love that Valley Dogs Rescue is an all-volunteer organization, with no facilities or paid employees. We feel good in knowing every dollar we raise goes directly toward helping at-risk animals.”

Marci also said she and her husband “wanted to create an interactive event the whole community could be a part of.”

“We loved the social aspects of bags, or cornhole,” she said. “The title Wags and Bags Festival came to us at a happy hour brainstorming session three years ago. The event has really taken off.”

And while the Millers take the lead in coordinating it, Marcie said, “We have a dedicated group of amazing friends that really do the heavy lifting that make the event possible.”

And this year, they added another ally with Arizona Fireplaces, which opted to take the role of top donor.

“It gave us the boost we needed to ramp up our marketing,” Marcie said. “We quickly sold all of sponsorship opportunities. In fact, we have added a few to meet the demand. We are truly grateful for every donation we get.”

One word of caution to women who plan to attend: “The bags” aren’t purse, but a reference to the bean bags that are part of the event’s cornhole tournament.

There are two levels to the contest this year, and two-member teams can sign up either as pros or non-pros.

The $50 signup fee for a non-pro two-member team qualifies to win some handsome prizes. The $80 for the pro-team tandem gets contestants competing for a 75/25 cash split with the pot consisting of $30 from each pro-team entry fee. Teams can register at

Admission to the fest is $5.

In addition to purchases of Pedal Haus beer, fresh cocktails featuring Tito’s Homemade Vodka and goodies from Florencia Pizza Bistro, there also will be food trucks, lawn games and music.

“Not everyone plays cornhole,” she added. “Some people just like to take in the atmosphere and support a great cause. We think the festive vibe and beautiful venue make it a can’t-miss event.”

The Millers put a lot of time and energy into the event.

“It takes a lot of work to put on an event this big,” Marcie said, adding she’s expecting hundreds to attend. “We start the planning and marketing six months prior to the event.”

Valley Dogs Rescue fosters rather than shelters abandoned and rescued dogs, and so it has no brick-and-mortar location.

“We believe the most effective and successful way to match families and pets is to foster them in our own homes,” it says on its website. “Fostering dogs allows us to train the dogs to have good doggie manners and allows us to learn about the dog’s personality and character.

“Ultimately, fostering our rescue animals allows us to give potential adopters complete information on the pet’s behavior and how well he/she will fit with a family and lifestyle,” it says.

The group runs weekly adoption events at the PetSmart at 20th Street and Camelback Road, Phoenix. People can check for times at or email

“Our public outreach involves providing resources to owners looking to re-home their dog due to financial hardships,” it notes. “This includes providing information on low-cost spay/neuters, posting their dog on our website, microchipping and encouraging them to come to our adoption events all the while staying in their original home.”

The group prides itself in the fact that “every penny received from donations goes directly back into the organization to pay for veterinary care and medicine bills.” Physical items are also accepted and are tax deductible.

“Over the years, we’ve seen the amazing work the volunteers do in very challenging situations. We love that Valley Dogs Rescue is an all-volunteer organization, with no facilities or paid employees.”

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