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On an early June Saturday, the parade season in Santa Barbara is kicked off by The Big Dog Parade.

Dogs of all stripes come out of the woodwork to march down State Street, to the accompaniment of the laughter and applause of the crowd enjoying the cuteness, the slobber, and the silly costumes. About half of the participants are just folks showing off their dogs, and their creativity. The other half is organizations marching as a group; some of these are dedicated to a particular breed (for example, today the Western Grand Pyrenees Association was there), or to the use of dogs for a particular purpose, such as search and rescue or guide dogs for the blind. There are also a few local companies represented by all their dog-owning employees.

Many of the spectators lining the sidewalks bring their dogs to the event, also. There is amazingly little confrontation among all these dogs; they seem to be having a grand ol' time just like the people.

Of course, a parade needs a few marching bands. Today, they all seemed to be playing You ain't nothing but a hound dog. And the parade begins with several people dressed in Newfoundland suits, led by one playing the role of drum major.

After the parade, dogs and dog lovers party at Chase Palm Park along the beach for the afternoon, where the judges award the prizes for Best Costume, Most Talented, etc.

Name sound familiar? Yes, the Big Dog Parade is sponsored by Big Dog Sportswear (which is headquartered in Santa Barbara), and is actually a fundraiser for the Big Dog Foundation (their biggest of the year). Entry fees from all of the participants go directly to the foundation, which disburses them to three types of charities: ones which help dogs, ones which help children, and ones that use or train dogs to help people.

The tear jerker for 2003 was the boy walking his dog in the "Dogs for Cancer" (sorry, I don't remember the actual name) group, and wearing a sign on his chest that read "This dog got me through cancer!".

Of the Big Three parades we have here (Big Dog, Solstice, and Fiesta), I think the Big Dog Parade is definitely the happiest.

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