July 4th at American Visionary Arts Museum

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Written By Thomas Smith

Yesterday, for July 4th, Amy and I took Jack and Max to Visionary Pets on Parade at the American Visionary Arts Museum.

The annual event, which has been taking place for 17 years, provides Baltimoreans with an opportunity to dress their pets up in silly outfits, march them around the block in a brief processional, and show them off in front of a crowd, with especially distinctive pets/owners receiving mostly facetious prizes like “Least Likely to Succeed as a Pet.”

Needless to say, hundreds of Baltimoreans obliged. Amy and I arrived for the event with Jack and Max, having made a token effort to dress in red and blue to match the dogs’ white “outfits.” Instantly, we discovered that the others around us were taking the event way more seriously. See, for example, this little Maltese, who wore an intricate Betsy Ross themed costume, complete with the signature bonnet.

The event was held in AVAM’s courtyard, which was decked out with dog-related materials, including Fifi, AVAM’s giant pink entry into Baltimore’s annual Kinetic Sculpture Race.

There was a sizable crowd, most of whom had brought dogs of their own. Some had even gone a bit farther outside the box; non-dog attendees included a Beta fish (her owner was dressed to match her, naturally), an iguana with two tails, and a hedgehog.

The event began with a parade around the block. Max took the opportunity to express his thoughts about Baltimore’s parking rates.

Then everyone got down to the serious business: the talent show. Each pet was assigned a number upon registration. For the talent show, an enthusiastic and indefatigable MC in overalls and flannel called each dog and owner up to the stage. The owner gave a little factoid about the dog, and had him or her perform a trick.

Westminster this was not. Tricks included such things as “he’s really good at peeing on the floor.” One guy apparently failed to get the memo about the nature of the event, and ran his perfectly-groomed Golden Retriever through a litany of actual tricks, including all the classics (sit, down, turn, speak, etc.) and a long trick where the dog located different plastic tools and placed them in a box. The crowd was unimpressed.

More popular were entries like “Dunkin Dog Donuts”, wherein a woman dressed her dogs as donuts and placed them in a large box (pictured above).

When it was Max and Jack’s turn, Max “prayed” for a treat (his prayers were answered).

After the talent show, there was a brief game of musical Sit/Stay, but Jack was too tired to show off his skills. The judges messed up on the final winner, but Jack and Max were too busy making new friends to express too much outrage.

Jack and Max meet a friend at AVAM

At the end of the event, the judges handed out prizes. Small, cute children dressed to match their dogs made a good showing in terms of awards. So, too, did people who incorporated visionary art into their entries.

Huge dog + small child = a winning combo

The event was a lot of fun, and extremely, extremely Baltimore. Jack and Max didn’t win anything, but they did get the “Quack Tastic” tropy, an award just for participating. Naturally we told them they had won first place…

Today, Amy and I are going to Pittsburgh to enjoy the rest of the holiday weekend. Sadly the dogs will not be joining us, but I’m sure we’ll find some dog-themed activities to do!

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