Both Rosso and Rudd strongly recommend inviting “important people” to judge. Rosso has invited politicians, local council members, Parks Department employees, best-selling authors of dog memoirs and members of the community board. Plus, bringing on VIPs is a great way to gain attention for and local support of your cause, whether that be a new dog run or a new animal shelter. “And of course, invite the press to be judges,” Rosso says. “We’ve had editors from both Vogue and Time.”
Rudd agrees that is it wise to invite celebrity judges (such as beauty queens, of which California has no shortage). But if you can’t find celebrities in your town, don’t worry, he says. People come for the dogs. Rudd agrees that journalists make great judges. “The more press you can get, the better.” Rudd advises getting the local paper involved from the get-go. Let them know as early as you can that you are planning this event, and then, as plans solidify, keep them up to date. “Photographs are key,” Rudd says. “Print photos from the previous year if you have them.” People who have never seen a dog dressed up as Lucille Ball are going to want to see such a spectacle, once they see a picture. “YouTube,” he says, “is an excellent advertising tool.”
As a former contest judge, and as a rabid spectator at dog parades, I’d have to say that a good Master of Ceremonies is also key. At Tompkins, they hire drag queens and resident performance artists. “They’ll do a better job than any celebrity host you can find,” Rosso says, “and can be counted on to plow through the day if it turns cold or rainy.”
Speaking of rain, Rosso strongly recommends planning a rain date. The Tompkins event is always scheduled on the Saturday before Halloween, with a rain date of Sunday. (Inevitably it rains.) Rudd didn’t mention rain dates – he lives in SoCal, after all—but he does recommend having some sort of “safety plan.” At Haute Dog, Rudd keeps a vet on call for any pet-related emergencies (heat stroke or a costumed dog fight).
The final words of advice from both coordinators were to have fun. And how could you not? Everyone loves a parade, and everyone really loves a dog parade. These events make thousands of people smile. And that’s priceless.
If you find you don’t have time to organize an event for this Halloween, there’s always an Easter Parade. Or a Dog Prom. Rosso organized one of those too, but that’s another story.