Mardi Growl, sponsored each year by Young-Williams Animal Center, and this year presented by the Old City Wine Bar, has come to serve as the unofficial kick-off for festival season, which is expanding to be approximately nine months long from the looks of it. Knoxville is so dog-friendly that it only seems fitting that our canine friends would get first billing. The annual event, timed just after Mardi Gras each year, is a happy day of fun for dog-lovers from the youngest among us to the oldest.
I’m not sure if this, its tenth-annual incarnation, was the biggest Mardi Growl ever, but it could have been. There were hundreds of dogs, though it did seem, to my group at least, to go by more quickly. We did feel there were more spectators and more spectators of the four-legged variety. It seemed lots of dog owners came downtown, not necessarily to join the parade, but to be a part of the dog-centered fun.
There were, as always, great costumes for the dogs. I saw gator-dogs, dogs in sheep’s clothing, ballerina dogs, dyed dogs, dogs with hats, super-hero dogs, dogs with fancy mardi gras capes and lots more. Some of my favorite sights for the day is always the people who have dressed for the occasion, some of whom would fit right in on the streets of New Orleans (or Mobile). The absolute best of the dressed are, always the beautiful children and there were lots of those this year.
Some of the dogs and owners competed in various contests, such as Best Vol Spirit, Best Dawg Pack, Pet/Owner Look-a-like, Most Unique Mixed Breed (Mutt), Best Costume and Best Naked Dog. I hope I captured some of the winners in the photos. The only one I’m pretty confident I can confirm is Rocco, the Great Pyrenees you see pictured here who won Best Costume. His owner explained to me that Rocco was dressed in drag, which is very Mardi Gras/Growl appropriate. No word on whether that is routine for Rocco or just something he does for special occasions.
The size of the crowd was most obvious on the square and on the first block south on Market Street where vendors lined the way and the crowds for an hour or more after the parade were so thick walking about was difficult. The vendors offered a wide range of pet-related items and services, as well as rabies vaccines and microchip implants. Adoptable dogs were available in abundance for the event, as you might expect. A number of rescue groups participated and brought their various breeds along for the parade and festival.
The parade shifted more in the direction of a festival this year with events running throughout the week. Lots of New Orleans style dishes and beverages were offered through the week at various businesses throughout downtown, many with Young-Williams as a beneficiary.
All-in-all, it was another good year for the pups. We did see a few that just didn’t have the stamina for such a long walk and it hurt a bit to see them being prodded along. Many, of course, avoided that problem by riding in a personal “float” or being carried by their owners. We also had a near-fiasco in our area when a certain two-year-old wreaking ball who goes by the name “Urban Boy,” decided it would be fun to throw the ball he caught back into the crowd of dogs. I hope nothing more than minor lacerations resulted from the bedlam which ensued.
As you might guess, these are just the teaser photos. I’ll have the full 100+ collection on the Inside of Knoxville Facebook Page a little later today, so check it out.