In the 1940s and 1950s there was a pet parade hosted annually by the Lion’s Club for students eighth grade and younger and their pets. It seemed as if any and all pets were welcome to the parade with the exception of 1956 when horses were barred from being entered. It makes one wonder what happened the previous year that excluded horses.
The first mention of pets being involved in a parade actually took place in 1937. The 65th Anniversary Parade had a pet section where any child or adult could enter their pet. Prizes were given to the winners of this section of the parade which took place June 10th. It appeared any manner of pet was allowed to enter as “specimens of livestock and poultry” were specifically mentioned in the announcement. Nothing else was mentioned of a pet parade again until 1947 when the Lion’s Club hosted the Boys’-Girls’ Pet & Bicycle Parade on June 4th. The parade started at 2:30 sharp and all contestants received free ice cream. Prizes were awarded for the biggest, smallest, best dressed, ugliest, and prettiest pets. Awards were also given for the most original and best decorated bikes, trikes, and scooters. Interested entrants were warned to have dogs on leashes so as to not attack cats, and cats were to be restrained from eating birds. Winner of smallest pet was DeVaughn Demicelli with his bee. No word on if the bee also had a costume!
The parade was an annual event although the dates were not consistent. In 1952, the parade was held in October and was led by the high school band that year. The chances to win prizes also increased with the addition of prizes for best representation of a nursery rhyme – which had to include a pet. That category appears to have been fairly consistent as nursery rhyme representations appear in the photos for the 1949 pet parade. One girl appears on her bike with the nursery rhyme, “there was an old woman who lived in a shoe” on her bike basket and a box in the basket. What pet was in the box is unclear.
Goats were an accepted pet in the parade and in the photos of the 1951 parade, a goat appears with a bell. Another goat in 1952 apparently decided he didn’t want to follow the crowd. He was entered by Verdia Arnold and Lavenie Tatro but was decidedly not under their control. By the time the parade had ended, the goat was three blocks behind the crowd and was tying up traffic at the corners of 6th and Main Street. Motorists were less than pleased, but the crowd cheered for the obstinate goat. He apparently finally decided he had done his job and trotted down the street.
In 1956, the parade was led by the Colorado State Penitentiary Band under the leadership of Earl Gilbert. The prizes for that year were $1.50 for first, $1.00 for second, and $.50 for third place. There were three age groups (preschool, 1-3 grades, and 4-6 grade) and 7 divisions (best portrayal of a nursery rhyme, most unusual or comical pet, best decorated buggy, the ugliest pet, the best decorated wagon, the best dressed pet, and the best decorated bike or trike) in which to win. One of the unusual pets of the year was a monkey; his owner is never mentioned by name.
As for 1957, one unusual pet might beat out the monkey. A skunk was one of the entrants in the parade that year. Was it actually being kept as a pet? Despite that, 324 “youngsters” participated in the parade in 1957 which apparently went off without a hitch. No escaped skunks! A raccoon that was entered behaved just as well as the dogs according to the newspaper coverage of the event. While the winner’s names are listed, their pets are unfortunately not. It is unclear if either the skunk or raccoon won any prizes.
The information presented in this article is compiled using research conducted by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.