Despite its name, the 81-year-old Pet Parade is really more about kids than pets.
Kim Holm of Olympia, who grew up with the parade, dressed up for the parade starting in 1974 at the age of 5 and watched her older brothers competing even before that.
“I secretly did it all through junior high,” she said. “It was a really a nerdy thing to do at that age, but I did it, anyway.
“My last time, I made this giant box into an Asteroids arcade game. That way, no one could tell it was me, but I could still be in the pet parade.”
Although they had pets, Kim – who was then Kim Ennis – and siblings Matt, Quinn and Stephanie never took the animals on parade. Instead, they usually decorated their bikes. When she was about 7 or 8, Ennis dressed as a witch with a cauldron of dry ice and won first prize for best decorated bike.
Between 500 and 700 children – and several hundred pets – participate in the parade each year, said Mike Oakland, an organizer and The Olympian’s opinion editor. The dog categories are the most popular.
One of the participants this year will be Kim Holm’s son, Max, 6. “This will be his first year,” she said.
She didn’t know how he’d dress for the occasion, but said, “I’m sure it will incorporate either his new kitten or one of his two pugs.
“We were always a last-minute family,” she added. “We were literally up till 3 in the morning the night before putting this together. Every year. We’d get a couple hours of sleep and rush down to the park.”
If the family’s preparation hasn’t changed much over the years, neither has the parade itself.
“Keeping Pet Parade simple – a focus on kids and their pets – has been a key factor in its longevity,” said Oakland, who has helped with just about every one since he started working at the newspaper 39 years ago. “We get calls in January from families who plan family reunions around Pet Parade, and are hearing stories of three and four generations of people who have participated.”
Holm, though, observed one change. “Back then, parents didn’t walk in the parade. They just dropped us kids off, and we’d meet them later in the day.
“When Max was born, we went down to watch the parade. I hadn’t seen it since I’d stopped being in it. I was amazed that there were a bunch of parents walking down the street, and then I realized, ‘Oh, yeah, it isn’t 1970 anymore.’ ”