Soulard Pet Parade & Wiener Dog Derby
St. Louis' Four-Legged Mardi Gras Fun
Man's Best Friendv at the St. Louis Barkus Pet Parade
Regardless of the temperature, St. Louis’ warmest Mardi Gras events are undoubtedly the annual Barkus Pet Parade and Wiener Dog Derby, held each year in Soulard about 10 days before Fat Tuesday.
Hundreds, if not thousands, of dogs and their owners dress up each year and parade through St. Louis’ historic Soulard neighborhood to show off their Mardi Gras spirit and to prime the well for the Mardi Gras reverie of the next few weeks.
In addition to the dogs and owners who actually walk in the parade, thousands of spectators turn out, regardless of the weather, to support their friends (furry and otherwise), and to proudly showcase their own pets.
At the conclusion of the parade, dozens of dachshunds compete in a series short races to see which wiener dog will be crowned the fastest of three divisions.
Soulard Pet Parade
Around mid-morning on the day of Soulard’s Pet Parade, crowds begin to gather along 9th street near Lafayette Ave. in Soulard. Many come without their pets, just to witness the parade of man’s best friend, but the vast majority of spectators bring their dogs as well.
At around 1p.m., several thousand official registered entrants and their costumed dogs take part in the Soulard Pet Parade begin to walk from deep in the Soulard neighborhood to the parade’s endpoint near the park at S. 9th Street and Lafayette Ave, just outside the Soulard Farmer’s Market.
Just as most of the dogs are dressed in various shades or green, purple and gold costumes to celebrate Mardi Gras, many of the two-legged parade revelers are themselves dressed in Mardi Gras costumes. It’s a gigantic street party in which everyone believes their dog is the best dog ever, and, in this environment, nobody is wrong abut that. All of the participants seem to be having fun, and squabbles between dogs seem to be surprisingly few and far between.
The order of the day is unbridled fun with four-legged creatures. Most everybody wants to have their picture taken with the cutest, biggest, and craziest costumed mutts. It’s an event that couldn’t only be topped in one way, and Soulard manages to pull that off with style as well.
Wiener Dog Derby
At the end of the Barkus Pet Parade many in the crowd pour in to the stands surrounding a tiny racetrack erected in the park just outside the Soulard Farmer’s Market.
Once the stands are filled, as is the case in Daytona, Indianapolis, LeMans (or any other major racing event) the music is cranked, and the crowd whips itself into a pre-race frenzy. Competitors strut around the track.
Gear is checked and rechecked to insure that these highly trained creatures of speed will be ready when the gate goes up on their race. At these speeds, if any detail is not attended to, an accident on the track is inevitable, and the results could be messy.
Once all of the contestants have been signed in and matched up, the fun really begins. Over the next two hours dozens of dachshunds, from the tiny little cocktail wieners in the puppy division to the giant, waddling Ballpark Franks compete to be named Mardi Gras’ fastest dog down the stretch.
And, no, it’s not cruel. The dogs love the attention. Many of them stop and greet their admirers halfway down the track, taking up to five minutes to complete the 100ft. course. Some never leave the starting gate. And for their efforts (or lack thereof) they are cheered and adored as much as any speed demon sprinting the course.
In the end, it’s a hilarious and enjoyable way to end a day that’s gone, gleefully, to the dogs. On the day of the pet parade and wiener dog derby, St. Louis’ Mardi Gras in Soulard is as nice a way to spend time with family and friends as one could imagine.
To view a gallery of photos from the 2010 Soulard Pet Parade & Wiener Dog Derby, Click Here.
More St. Louis Feature Stories
Mardi Gras in Soulard - A Brief History of the Soulard Neighborhood in St. Louis
Cajun Cook-Off - St. Louis' Cajun & Creole Antidote to Old Man Winter
Taste of Soulard - Soulard Shows Off Its Best Cajun & Creole Eats