Pet Parade judges: Apply the theme in a creative way

Contributing writerAugust 15, 2013 


Sydney Wagner (left), and Meghan Callender carry their dogs Teddy and Mups up Fifth Avenue during the 83rd annual Pet Parade last summer.

TONY OVERMAN — The Olympian Buy Photo


    What: The Olympian’s 84th annual parade for kids and their pets takes to the streets of downtown Olympia. This year’s theme is “Fairy Tails.”

    When: Marchers begin lining up at 8 a.m. Saturday; judging begins at 8:30 a.m.; and the parade starts at 10 a.m.

    Where: Costume competition is at Heritage Park. Parade ends at Sylvester Park with free ice cream and goodie bags.

    Admission: Free. Donations of unopened cans and bags of pet food for Thurston County Animal Services are accepted.

    Rules: The parade is open to children 16 and younger. No motorized or battery-operated vehicles are allowed, except those assisting disabled persons. Animals must be under control at all times. Participants are asked to bring water for pets and to pick up after them. No commercial entries or politicking are allowed.

    Categories for judging: Pets, wheels, impersonations, big dogs, little dogs and floats

    More information: 360-754-5462 or ­

    Also: Pets includes all kinds of animals. “There’s apparently a misconception out there that Pet Parade does not welcome horses, and that’s not true,” parade coordinator Karen McClennen said. “We encourage all pets.”

To the casual observer, The Olympian’s annual Pet Parade is all about cute.

With cute animals and kids decked out in cute costumes, how could it not be a hit?

When the parade’s judges are handing out prizes, though, there’s a lot more than mere appearances on their minds.

“My husband and I came up with our own criteria,” said Jeanne Carras of Olympia, who has been judging the parade with her husband, Greg, for about 14 years and judging the grand prize category for the past 7 or so.

First, she said, entries need to follow the theme, which this year is “Fairy Tails.” “We try to get something that’s pretty gender neutral and broad reaching,” parade coordinator Karen McClennen said.

Jeanne Carras’s favorite example: A group of boys who dressed as old-time paperboys for a past “Back to the Future”-themed parade.

“They had old Olympian paperboy bags and they had taken a 1940s Olympian newspaper, photocopied it, rolled them up and stuffed their bags with them, and they were riding their bicycles,” she said. “They followed the theme exactly.”

Her favorite detail: “It was a Pet Parade issue with coverage of the parade on the front.”

The Carrases also look for Olympia’s do-it-yourself spirit in the pint-size competitors. “If Mommy and Daddy did everything for them, we really discount that,” she said. “It’s a children’s parade.”

She remembers a girl who built an elaborate medieval-themed float all by herself and a boy with an encyclopedic of knowledge of dinosaurs. “When we are talking with the kids, we want to see how engaged they are,” she said.

Only once those criteria have been satisfied do the Carrases ask themselves the question that’s on most parade watchers’ minds: “How cute are they?”

The judges also have to worry about how the winners fit the categories. The Carrases still laugh about the ninja with a ninja dog they chose for the Best Boy prize a few years back.

“We’re getting all the information, and we asked the name,” she said. “It was Casey or something like that.

“Then she took off her mask. It was a girl!”

Fortunately, the parade awards a Best Child prize, too, so the Carrases gave the young ninja that instead.

“We were able to salvage ourselves, even though our boy was a girl,” she said. “If you had a picture of our faces when she took off her mask, that would be priceless. Our jaws dropped.”

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