PROVINCETOWN — Paws strutted the runway at town hall on Saturday as the annual pet parade — a much-anticipated event of the Year Rounders Festival — got underway. But the real action took place before judging commenced, as competitors and their humans looked to press an advantage or shake off nerves.
Neptune, the golden retriever, arrived early with humans Bonnie and Beth Abelew, giving the crowd a preview of his custom-made Provincetown Monument hat. A rainbow skirt, a flouncy collar, and a few feathers completed his look. Neptune was intent on socializing with the other contestants. His competitive strategy may have been to exhaust his competitors with rowdy pre-game antics. A few of his smaller competitors found themselves flattened beneath his paws.
Returning contestant Lio, a five-year-old Portuguese water dog, exuded the cool confidence of a veteran, while his sister Joni, a one-year-old blond Labradoodle, was distracted by the onslaught of animal scents in the room. Both were led by humans Steve and Shari Stahl.
Provincetown resident David Sandell spent some time stroking Daffodil, a chicken carried by her owner, Tracy Vida. Sandell said this was his first time petting a fowl. Asked to describe the experience, Sandell said it was “healing.”
Skyla Vida, age eight, presented two mellow guinea pigs, Oreo and Dr. Pepper. All three seemed unfazed by the throng of admirers.
Chester, a toy poodle in a gold lamé puffer vest, captivated the crowd with his mane of auburn curls. In short order, fans approached to ask “her” name.
“People always think he’s a girl because he’s so pretty,” said Louise Briggs, Chester’s human.
A petite Maltese named Levi was too undone by the noisy melee to look anyone in the eye. He attempted to hide his face in the armpit of his owner. With some coaxing, however, he managed to rally as his human raised him above the crowd to a roar of approval.
The heat in town hall shot up by several degrees upon the arrival of Soairse (just say “SER-sha”), a Newfoundland who recently emigrated from Ireland, according to her human, Mike Cupoli. So impressive was she that whispering among the crowd suggested a potential upset over early favorite Neptune, despite Soairse’s lack of a costume.
Newcomb, a two-year-old goldendoodle sporting a red bandana, was led by his human, Nolan Zibrak, 13. Nolan was cool as a cucumber, but Newcomb was a jumble of nerves. Several in the crowd predicted a potential nonstarter as Newcomb appeared to fight a losing battle against the shakes.
As the Chicken Dance song filled the hall, the contestants and their handlers moved down a makeshift runway between the booths. A large throng of locals cheered on the contestants from the sidelines.
The parade held a few surprises. Newcomb pulled himself together for his moment in the spotlight, while potential spoiler Soairse became distracted by some objects on a table near the start of the runway and could not be persuaded to move.
After the contest judges spent a few moments discussing which pets best represented the spirit of Provincetown, a slate of winners was announced. Neptune was awarded the largest gift basket from Paws & Whiskers. He was thrilled with the sock monkey toy he found inside.
The judges surely noted that many humans opted to display their pets dressed only in leashes, just as you might meet them on a walk in Wellfleet or Yarmouth. Unless contestants up their costume games, Neptune seems poised to dominate this event for the foreseeable future.
Chester was also a winner. The stuffed tiger toy in Chester’s prize basket was nearly as big as the dog, but that didn’t stop him from tearing into it.
Newcomb received a gift basket but was unavailable for comment. And Daffodil won Best Chicken.
Runners-up took things in stride. “Lio didn’t mind that he was passed over for prizes,” said Sharon Stahl. His hopes for cookies from the nice humans had been fulfilled, she said.