2019 Pet Parade celebrates superheroes as The Olympian gives reins to Hands On Museum

The Pet Parade — the furry and feathered procession in which children and their pets take to downtown Olympia’s streets to show off their creativity and cuteness — happens Saturday morning.

Expect to see dogs, cats, rabbits and perhaps event llamas and horses in capes, masks and other heroic accoutrements chosen in keeping with this year’s theme, Superheroes.

This is the 90th year for the parade, which welcomes pets of all sizes and descriptions and offer prizes for the best-costumed kids and animals and the best-decorated floats, bikes and wagons.

It’s also the last year that The Olympian will be the primary sponsor for the event it’s been hosting since 1939, 10 years after it began as a 4-H Club event.

Animal lovers needn’t worry, though, because the parade isn’t going anywhere: The Hands On Children’s Museum will take it over beginning next year, with a new route near the museum.

“I am sad to see The Olympian’s sponsorship come to an end, for tradition’s sake, but it is time and handing it off will help it live on,” said Dusti Demarest, The Olympian’s executive editor. “And the Hands On Children’s Museum is absolutely the right organization to take the reins. … I look forward to seeing new energy pumped into a beloved community tradition that should live on for a long time.”

Demarest fondly recalls her now-grown children’s love for the parade, recalling one of the first times her son, Luke, participated as part of a group of kids his age.

“One of the other moms came up with the idea for us to go as ‘Baby Watch’ — rather than ‘Baywatch,’ ” she said. “We made lifeguard T-shirts for all the toddlers and wrangled them into a wagon with floaties, life preservers and such. It was fun and exhausting, as all Pet Parade experiences should be.”

Many of the Hands On Children’s Museum staffers have similar memories, said Amy Brockman, the museum’s senior development director, and there’s a lot of excitement among museum staff about taking on the parade.

“For a long, long time, the museum has wanted to do something like ‘Bring Your Pet to the Museum Day’ or something like that,” Brockman said. “Our executive director Patty Belmonte has seen very successful events of that kind at other children’s museums around the country, and that’s been in the back of her mind.”

So Belmonte and her staff welcomed the opportunity to make the Pet Parade their own.

“We have not planned in detail how the event will unfold,” Brockman said. “The route of the parade will definitely shift, and some of the details of the event will also shift, but we will certainly be honoring many of the old traditions.”

The Olympian will work with the museum on next year’s parade, said Karen McClennen of The Olympian, who’s been organizing the parade for 10 years.

“I love the event and interacting with the children,” she said, “and I’m excited that we are still going to be involved. We’re going to support the museum in taking it over and partner with them, but our role will be changing.

“I’m excited to see where the museum will take it,” she added. “It will be a breath of fresh air.”

Pet Parade

  • What: Pets and kids are at the center of the 90th annual parade, which features costumed children, dressed up animals, creative floats and decorated bikes.
  • When: Marchers begin lining up at 8 a.m. Saturday for costume judging, which begins at 8:30. The parade starts at 10 a.m.
  • Where: Costume judging and lining up is at Heritage Park, 330 Fifth Ave. SW, Olympia. Parade ends at Sylvester Park, 615 Washington St. SE, with free ice cream and goodie bags.
  • Tickets: Free; donations of unopened cans and bags of pet food for Concern for Animals will be collected.
  • Rules: The parade is open only to those 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: Large dogs, small dogs, other pets, impersonations, wheels and floats. Five grand prizes also will be awarded.
  • More information: 360-357-0745
  • Also: The parade is open to any kind of pet animal, including horses and llamas.