At Old Town Parade, St. Patrick's Day Goes To The Dogs
Old Town Alexandria's Annual Celebration Full of Costumed Canines
Last weekend the sounds of bag pipes, drums, and festive Irish music filled the air in downtown Alexandria. And then there was the sound of barking, baying and general bedlum. The annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Old Town has gone to the dogs, and that’s not a bad thing. Prior to the start of the annual procession down King Street, many of Alexandria’s finest four-legged friends gathered at Market Square for the pre-parade Dog Show, and it was canine craziness.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Old Town St. Patrick’s Day Parade, it is a beloved Alexandria tradition. For thirty years the parade has been bringing folks from near and far into the heart of Old Town for a day of celebration highlighted by a giant parade full of bag pipers, marching bands and beer toting fans. Each attendee and participant proudly claims their Irish identity, if only for the day. A city known for its “dog friendliness”, it’s no surprise that even the pups don their finest green for the day’s celebration. Of course, there are plenty of “real” Irish folks and “real” Irish breeds as well. Then there’s everyone else, human and canine, who join the ranks of the Shamrock nation for the day. Heck, it’s become such a party that even the horses get dressed up! (Where else could you find a horse wearing doodle boppers?)
I paid particular attention to the Dog Show this year where I saw quite the assortment of lads and lasses milling about. Hosted by Master of Ceremonies John Harter, and judged by the Honorable Daniel O’Flaherty, the dog show only encouraged eccentricity with its prizes ranging from “Best Irish Costume” to “Dog and Owner with Most Similar Hair.” (I was quite surprised to see that my pick, Tyson and his parents, were overlooked for this much-coveted award) My favorites in the “Best Irish Costume” category were a pair of young Bassett Hounds named Lizzy and Molly. Dressed as a Four-legged Guiness and Harp Stouts, and sporting Derby caps, the two girls waddled along perhaps looking for spots as spokes-doggies for the popular Irish beverages. At the least they should’ve earned a doggy beer. Murphy, a stately gent with a graying muzzle also earned a cold one in my book for his obvious patience with his two human sisters as they pointed out his green beads and neckware. Besides, sharing a name with one of Alexandria’s most famous Irish bars and most popular St. Patrick’s destinations should’ve earned him a front row seat for the post-parade fun there. The highlight of the dog show for me was a plump older lab named Abby whose tail faithfully waved back and forth throughout the contest. She was a subtle old girl, but her graying face, waddling gait and sweet lab smile won me over. While her costume may have been understated, the sign around her neck was not: “Please pick me. I’ve been trying for 13 years.” And so while her costume underwhelmed the judges, her persistence won her special recognition and a hearty round of applause from the appreciative crowd.
From big Duke the Great Mastiff to the many tiny Chihuahuas being toted about by their owners, the pups seemed quite pleased be the center of attention at this big party. While I’m afraid my timid pup would be overwhelmed by the affair, many of these canines were clearly hamming it up like George the Chihuahua-Leprechaun. A few, like Bailey the Bulldog, were clearly tuckered out by the commotion and others were simply content to stake out a spot on the parade route to watch the procession.
Ironically, the “real” Irish breeds wore very little in the way of costumes – I suppose with their pedigree it’s not necessary to prove anything. From the Innis Irish Jacks bouncing along to the majestic Irish Wolfhounds and the Irish Setters, the day’s celebration clearly belonged to the dogs. What better way to get ready to celebrate St. Patrick’s with your dog than to raise a glass (and a bowl) to all things Irish.