Photo Credit: Anne Yarbrough
Popcorn (left) and Bucky.
When it comes to Halloween, Athens seems to have it all: costumes, parties, kiddie entertainment, concerts—and that’s just the Wild Rumpus. Flicker Theater & Bar has its annual Halloween art show. Bear Hollow hosts its Boo at the Zoo. Heck, there’s even a vulture festival at the landfill (seriously). But what about a Halloween costumed dog parade? This year, the answer is yes!
Sunday, Oct. 16, Athens’ first costume dog parade, Boo-le-Bark on the Boulevard 2016, will wind through the historic Boulevard neighborhood and end at Jittery Joe’s Roasting Co. for post-parade fun. Family-friendly festivities will include music by Reverend Conner Tribble, the Holy Crepe food truck, a spooky fun pet photo booth by Anne Yarbrough Photography and a Poe-tober Edgar Allan Poe presentation with prizes for the best Poe-themed costumes. Chase Street Elementary students designed the official parade banner to help tie in with the parade’s goals to bring the community together, help an animal organization—this year it’s Athenspets.net—and have fun.
"I love dogs," says lead organizer Ann Sears. "I thought our neighborhood would be a good place for it. What better way to bring people together?"
Several Athenians, including Boulevard residents Jane and Bruce Travis, Mona and John Heinz, and Leslie Desimone, have been working on the parade with Sears and neighborhood association president Jerry Daniel since January. (Editor’s note: Author Marilyn Estes also serves on the committee.) Yarbrough reserved the parade date on her calendar last spring, sacrificing potential wedding photography work so she could volunteer her services. When Athena Jewelers heard about a parade snag, they donated time and skills to fix the problem. And Carson Plumbing and Jittery Joe’s Roasting Co. offered their locations for parade staging and the post-parade event.
“The fact that this event exists and I got to work as their [logo] designer explains why I live in Athens better than I ever could,” says Erin Lovett, a graphic artist, musician and dog lover.
The biggest issue the parade organizers face, however, is reminding the community that this isn’t the Wild Rumpus. There’s a big difference between a huge group of people getting together and a huge group of dogs getting together. That’s why only dogs that are pre-registered on the Boo-le-Bark website are allowed to walk in the parade—with all of the $15 registration fee going to Athenspets—and the limit is set at 125 dogs. Dog behaviorist and trainer Tricia Hall of Bone-A-Fide Dog Training was also brought on board to help make sure everyone plays nice.
“Although having fun is a top priority, safety for the dogs is No. 1,” says Hall, who helped create the list of rules the dog handlers had to read prior to registering. “We will be monitoring the parade to make sure dogs aren't getting stressed out or overwhelmed by the costumes, large crowd or other dogs.”
Part of that strategy will be breaking up the costumed canines into smaller groups to walk the parade route with plenty of room between dogs. Local personalities such as Athens-Clarke County Commissioner Melissa Link and Classic City Fringe Festival performers will help keep things moving while giving the parading pups some breathing room.
As for the animal organization benefitting from the fundraiser, Athenspets works closely with ACC Animal Control and local rescue groups to help care for pets and those who care for pets in the Athens community. Strictly through volunteers and donations, their daily projects include maintaining their website to help shelter pets find homes before they’re euthanized, reducing pet overpopulation, and covering veterinary costs for shelter animals. Sponsorship money from over 50 individuals and local businesses will not only cover expenses, but leftover cash will be added to the Athenspets kitty.
"We're a group of animal lovers, so we were very excited to contribute to such a wonderful cause," says stylist Lauren McCarthy of Model Citizen Salon. "We can't wait to see everyone in the community come out for this event, especially so we can pet everyone's pups!"
Additional information, including parade route and a list of rules for dog safety, can be found at barkonboulevard.com. The parade begins 3 p.m., rain or shine.