CHESTERTOWN - Hundreds of people from across the northeastern U.S. are now readying to participate in the annual Halloween Pug Parade & Party set for this weekend in the Town of Chester.
In recent years, pugs - those wrinkly-browed, chubby, fun-loving dogs with curly tails - have become a popular October attraction in Chester.
This year's edition of the festival represents a milestone, as it is the 10th anniversary of the event. What began in 2000 as a small one-day gathering of 21 pugs in fanciful costumes, has now grown into a weekend event, attracting more than 200 pugs and their owners not only from the region, but from across New York and neighboring states as well.
The pugs and their owners annually come from Connecticut, Pennsylvania and New Jersey to attend, said Kim Olden, who founded the event. Some pug owners have hailed from as far away as Florida and Montreal, she said.
"We never thought that it would grow so fast," she said.
The owner of two pugs, Olden said she can identify with how much fun the owners have creating costumes and then dressing their dogs in zany attire for the parade.
"We have even had families all dressed in the same theme," Olden said. "One year we had Santa and his elves, and the next year they came as a whole family of blue-faced smurfs - The creativity seems endless."
The event apparently goes beyond momentary fun and winning prizes, Olden said.
The owners establish a real camaraderie with each other and annually make new friends, she said. Some attendees even plan for months in advance, often e-mailing each other, she said.
"This event brings pug owners together in a way that allows them to share their spirit," she said.
Since the festivities grew so dramatically, beginning in 2008 the sponsoring organization, the North Warren Chamber of Commerce hired an event planner - Pam Morin - to help organize it. Morin has been publicizing it as well as matching pug owners with animal-friendly lodging.