Paws on Parade

AnnMarie McLaughlin | - September 8, 2008

You already know the best ideas are simple ones. What could be simpler than inviting the children of Santa Fe to parade through the streets with their pets? Desfile de los Niños or the Pet Parade is just that and its charm is alive and well. The spectacle can look nearly impromptu, with some entrants ambling along costume-less, casually holding their pooch's leash as if a friend has just said, "I know. Let's have a parade!" This is small town entertainment at its best. It's short, sweet and full of imagination.

There will be the usual school and civic groups who have put together themed entries, some with bands, but most participants are families and small clusters of friends and neighbors. The people are fun but the pets are the stars and while llamas and such are asked to watch from the barn for safety's sake, just about anything else goes. Goldfish bowls in wagons, ferrets (both on leashes and shoulders), parrots, iguanas, rabbits, chickens, snakes (often with "Adam" and "Eve" in tow) and cats-most of whom appear appropriately un-charmed by their participation-have all graced the parade route.

Then there are the dogs. Santa Fe is a dog town and if there's anything we like more than our dogs it's dressing them up and putting on a show. Hot dog dachshunds, mops parading as white terriers, German shepherds in robot costumes, Chihuahuas for every day of the week. In a Pet Parade photo album over the decades you'd be able to peg the year just by looking at how many Lilo and Stitch ensembles there were; how many ETs, Nemos and Ratatouilles. There's usually at least one Toto walking his Dorothy. Thank you, Hollywood.

Some dogs make a meal of their costumes. Others seem to love their outfits, trotting high on dainty paws. There are shy ones, hugging their people's shins and there are those who look like they just want to go home and take a nap.

There are also the special pets; the teddy bears clutched to chests, the baby chicks in every shade of pastel and all manner of enormously loved, variously stuffed toy animals. These are often even more elaborately costumed and festooned than the ones tangling their own leashes-a sort of channeling of Velveteen Rabbits and a tribute to each child's most beloved companion. There might be a whole hutch full of hay and stuffed bunnies or a wagon full of blue crepe paper and toy ducks. There's often a dad or two dressed up as his child's dog. It's like Halloween without ghouls. You've got to love that.

While the parade includes a number of prizes for originality, humor, best kid-friendly message and so on, the real fun is in the doing, in the imagination on parade and the excitement when someone's Jack Russell terrier takes off at full speed. The parade route starts at Palace Avenue and Paseo de Peralta and loops around Grant and Marcy. It's lined with water bowls for the furry friends and since it's become a safety issue to throw candy, buttons or other small give-aways, many parade entrants now hand them directly to the audience. One of the best parade rules dictates that adult participants must be accompanying a child. It keeps the event's focus on children with their enthusiasm and genuine delight. The rest of us are merely invited to peek through the curtain and scratch behind a few ears.

Event Information

Desfile de los Niños - The Santa Fe Pet Parade

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Registration (free) - 7 am at La Residencia, Palace Avenue and Paseo de Peralta

Parade - 9 am

Parade Route- West on Palace Avenue to Grant Avenue, looping back east on Marcy Street to Paseo de Peralta

Prize Categories

  • Best Historical
  • Best Hysterical
  • Most Original
  • Best Musical Award
  • Best child/pet look-alike
  • Best group
  • Best message to other kids
  • Best family entry
  • Best Fiesta Theme
  • Best Story Book Character
  • 2 Meritorious Awards

Other rules- No motorized carts, etc. except those for ADA use; no soliciting, campaigning or pamphleteering.