The Sooke Fall Fair Pet Parade will be celebrating it’s 50th anniversary this year on Sept. 9, under the fall fair theme, “All Creatures Great and Small.”
Sooke woman, Pauline Atterbury, started the pet parade in 1962 in order to include all children in Sooke Fall Fair festivities. At the time, children under the age of 12 did not qualify for the fair’s junior section.
According to her daughter Liana Maloney, Atterbury grew up in a modest household, which led her to become empathic to families and people who didn’t have means.
“She wanted something accessible to all kids so no child would be excluded. She made it so it would be absolutely free,” Maloney said. The no registration fee tradition has continued until this day.
Since Atterbury passed away over a decade ago, her family and different members of the community have continued the pet parade in her memory.
“It’s been in the family and we’ve been keeping it going, and we really like to do that,” Maloney said. “It was my mom’s thing every year, the fall fair and the pet parade.”
Over the years, the pet parade, which is the first of its kind on Vancouver Island, has evolved along with the rest of Sooke. Maloney recalled in the parade’s early days, the event saw an abundance of fancied horses, cows and goats that were ushered down the event’s original course on Sooke Road by a fire truck.
Now, the parade, which will circles around the Sooke Community Hall, sees some livestock-like pets, but mostly an assortment of smaller breed dogs, reptiles, and other household critters.
Entrants have also aged with the parade, with those who participated as children now attending with their children and grandchildren.
“A lot of people say Sooke spirit is changing and the heart of Sooke isn’t what it used to be… but once a year everything stays the same,” she said. “The thing that never changes is the kids… they have that smile on their faces when they win anything for their pet.”
The parade has a total of 21 categories for children including sections like; best dressed pet, original costume, pet with longest ears and smallest pet.
The event tends to see some of Sooke’s most creative animal lovers and peculiar pets.
Maloney said some of the ingenious and witty entries she’s seen include a pet flea for smallest pet, a teddy bear hamster driving around in a toy car and a young girl dressed up in a paper mache egg, holding a chicken, begging the perennial question: ‘What came first, the chicken or the egg?’
“We get all kinds of really interesting and fun things.”
Last year the parade had 61 families participate in multiple categories and about 10 adults in the adult section, which was instituted two years ago.
Different prizes are awarded for the several categories including cash prizes, ribbons and 50th anniversary rosettes.
Registration will occur on the day, and last minute participants can join in right up to the moment of the parade at 1 p.m.
The Sooke Fall Fair takes place Sept. 8 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. and on Sept. 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Sooke Community Hall and in the upper hall at the Legion on Sheilds Road.