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January 28, 2009 > History: Hayward's Pet Parade

History: Hayward's Pet Parade

By Diane Curry, Curator

What could be cuter than a parade of children with their pets slowly walking through the streets of downtown Hayward? From 1925 to the 1950s, the annual Pet Parade was a Hayward institution for all local children and their pets. Teachers directed the children and escorted them along the parade route packed with parents, siblings, friends, and the general public. In 1940 alone, 3,000 children participated in the event witnessed by some 15,000 spectators. The Hayward Lions Club and the Hayward Rotary sponsored this event which was started at the urging of Hayward Journal newspaper publisher J.J. Motzko. He became known as the "father" of the annual Pet Parade. At one time, Hayward's parade claimed to be "the largest event of [its] kind in the west."

When the event began in 1925 the parade featured children and their pets only. In later years costumes and parade floats were also added. Pets could belong to the child or be borrowed. They included dogs, cats, rabbits, chickens, goats, snakes, lizards, toads, spiders, goldfish, mules, donkeys, and ponies. Dolls also qualified as pets and were a lot less work for city maintenance crews on clean-up duty! While the animals covered a wide range, so did the way children transported their pets. Kids used leashes, cages, bowls, doll buggies, wagons and make-shift floats. Sometimes they just carried the pet too. The parade also included baton twirlers and marching bands.

Generally the Pet Parade began at Markham School located at the corner of B and Foothill (where the new movie theater is now located). Participants then walked down B Street, turned left onto Castro Boulevard (now Mission), made another left on D Street, ending their trek at Bret Harte School where awards were given out for a variety of categories, some changing each year. They included prizes for the smallest, cutest, largest, prettiest, and homeliest pets. When costumes became another ticket to join the parade, prize categories for those were developed as well. A costume could be worn by the child or pet or both and either could win for "most cleverly dressed." Some years, an entire school, class, Cub Scout pack, or Camp Fire Girls troop constructed a float to enter into the contest as well. Prizes for the floats included awards for theme, originality, and attractiveness. The event was capped by sweets and a movie at the Hayward Theater. There's no indication of what happened to the pets while the kids were watching the movie.

If you grew up in the area during that period, you no doubt have wonderful memories of this annual event. Hayward Area Historical Society member, Carol Davis, shared her recollections of the parade in a 2007 essay, writing, "I have many fond memories of growing up in Hayward but the best and most cherished memory of all is when my brother Dennis and I marched in the Pet Parade. He was about 3 years old and I was about 5 years old....Dennis and I dressed as cowboy and cowgirl and rode a tricycle pulling a wagon and cage with our dog 'Lucky' inside. The tricycle, wagon and cage were decorated with red, white and blue crepe paper. I don't remember if we won a prize or not but it didn't matter because we had a lot of fun!"

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