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Parade kicks off fair with howling good time

(ran East edition)

The Westminster Dog Show it wasn't. But it was still a tribute to canines - Pasco County style.

The theme of the parade and the fair this year is Dog Gone Fun. Several floats carried out the theme with stuffed and live dogs as they made their way down Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and to Pasco Middle School.

One small dog even marched in the parade.

The Dade City FFA chapters had a float with girls dancing to Who Let the Dogs Out while boys played cards inside a cage on the float.

Politicians and beauty queens rode in convertibles, and of course there were beads, beads and more beads thrown to spectators, along with candy and gum.

Alex Salazar, 2, was happy to wear a few around his neck. One group of marchers tossed small red balls to the crowd. After Alex's mother gave one to him, he attempted to throw it back out to the group. His brown eyes twinkled as he grinned and waved to people in the parade.

After the hourlong parade, Heather Farkus said she loved the babies who were seated on the hoods of cars and trucks publicizing a recent baby pageant.

"They were cute. I liked their dresses," Farkus said.

The New River 4-H Club had members wearing long dog ears as they carried stuffed dogs, while some of the members of Calvary Assembly of God Church created a large papier-mache dog float with a wagging tail.

The Outback 4-H members were dressed like Dalmatians, and the Love to Learn 4-H Club members had a doggy puppet show on their float.

Ten school bands from all over Pasco County marched and played in what seemed like a battle of the bands.

Nicole Salazar of Dade City declared the Land O'Lakes High band the best.

"They were really good, they were straight and I liked the song they played," she said.

Not only did band members play Ain't No Mountain High Enough for the judges, but they also danced as they played.

Other school bands that participated included Pasco High, Weightman Middle, Wesley Chapel High, Pine View Middle and Stewart Middle schools.

It was perfect parade weather, a nearly cloudless sky, with a slight breeze keeping temperatures comfortable after a freeze passed through the area the previous week.

Melody Johnson, Pasco County's Teacher of the Year, rode on a float decorated in red, white and blue, while Genea Black, Miss Kwanzaa, was accompanied by her court on a float decorated by the African American Heritage Society. And, of course, the Egypt Shriners entertained in their little tin lizzies.

Amanda Dykes thought Uncle Sam riding in his trick car was the best part of the parade.

"He was cute and funny," she said.

The official parade judges declared the Calvary Assembly of God float the best, while the Southwest 4-H Club with its Dog Gone Fun float won the award for best depicted theme.

The Land O'Lakes High School Gator Band won best marching unit; and Pasco Middle School, honorable mention. The Ladies of Oriental Shrine took home the prize for the best civic adult unit, while the Outback 4-H Club won for the youth.

The best commercial unit was Wilson's Tractor Supply. The Best Equestrian Unit went to the Technicolor Horse Farm, and the best individual western rig was the Zephyrhills FFA.