To the casual observer, The Olympians 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 parades judges are handing out prizes, though, theres 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 thats pretty gender neutral and broad reaching, parade coordinator Karen McClennen said.
Jeanne Carrass 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 Olympias do-it-yourself spirit in the pint-size competitors. If Mommy and Daddy did everything for them, we really discount that, she said. Its a childrens 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 thats 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.
Were 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.