CHESTERTOWN - Hundreds of people from across the northeastern U.S. are now readying to participate in the annual Halloween Pug Parade & Party set for this weekend in the Town of Chester.
In recent years, pugs - those wrinkly-browed, chubby, fun-loving dogs with curly tails - have become a popular October attraction in Chester.
This year's edition of the festival represents a milestone, as it is the 10th anniversary of the event. What began in 2000 as a small one-day gathering of 21 pugs in fanciful costumes, has now grown into a weekend event, attracting more than 200 pugs and their owners not only from the region, but from across New York and neighboring states as well.
The pugs and their owners annually come from Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey to attend, said Kim Olden, who founded the event. Some pug owners have hailed from as far away as Florida and Montreal, she said.
"We never thought that it would grow so fast," she said.
The owner of two pugs, Olden said she can identify with how much fun the owners have creating costumes and then dressing their dogs in zany attire for the parade.
"We have even had families all dressed in the same theme," Olden said. "One year we had Santa and his elves, and the next year they came as a whole family of blue-faced smurfs - The creativity seems endless."
The event apparently goes beyond momentary fun and winning prizes, Olden said.
The owners establish a real camaraderie with each other and annually make new friends, she said. Some attendees even plan for months in advance, often e-mailing each other, she said.
"This event brings pug owners together in a way that allows them to share their spirit," she said.
Since the festivities grew so dramatically, beginning in 2008 the sponsoring organization, the North Warren Chamber of Commerce hired an event planner - Pam Morin - to help organize it. Morin has been publicizing it as well as matching pug owners with animal-friendly lodging.
In many cases, these dogs are treated almost like children, she said, and their owners are as concerned for their pugs' comfort as they are for themselves. In response, area lodgings welcome the animals and make special accommodations for them.
Participants and spectators will not only be witnesses to the colorful parade, but a variety of events over the weekend including several social events, Chamber president Greg Beckler said. Also, there will be vendors of crafts, T-shirts and baked goods, as well as food and beverages. Raffle drawings are also planned for a set of Adirondack chairs and a kayak. Tickets can be purchased at the Chamber building at Dynamite Hill, or at various sites during the weekend. The drawing will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at the conclusion of the parade. For details, call 494-2722 or 696-7184 or e-mail the Chamber at: firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.northwarren.com.
The weekend's events start off Friday with a pumpkin carving, decoration and dessert contest. Entries should be brought to the Chester Municipal Center auditorium from noon to 4 p.m., and contest judging and award presentation is to occur at 5 p.m. Also on Friday, from 7 to 9 p.m., a Pug Rescue Benefit Ball is planned. The event, to benefit Green Mountain Pug Rescue, features music, a fashion show that features pugs and their owners, and desserts. Entrance donations are $10 per person.
On Saturday, a display of the winning entries from the contests will be on display from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the municipal auditorium. At 10 a.m., an race titled "Pumpkin Paddle: Silly Pumpkins" is to occur on the Mill Pond at Brant Lake. At noon, the "Mini-Paw Parade" is slated in a stroll down Main Street from the Pine St. intersection south to the municipal center. All pets are welcome. Canines are also invited to the 2 p.m. tour of Pottersville's Stone Bridge & Caves attraction, where all will be welcome with free admission. At 6 p.m. Saturday, local restaurants will be offering specials, Olden said, followed by the movie Hotel for Dogs to be screened at the Carol Theater. All seats are $2, and the proceeds will benefit the Pug Rescue mission. Those attending are urged to dress in warm attire.
On Sunday is the traditional Pug Party & Parade, with registration beginning at 11 a.m. at Dynamite Hill Recreation Area, and the parade with its judging officially beginning at 1 p.m. Amenities for spectators and participants include souvenir photos and an array of food concessions operated by local restaurants as well as the Chester-Horicon Youth Commission. Vendors will also offer crafts, jewelry and dog accessories. The weekend ends with a finale parade at 2 p.m.