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Pooches Lead the Big Parade

Dogs are invited for the ‘Paws on Parade’ at this year’s Springfield Days parade.

Amid other more colorful events like the Cardboard Boat Regatta and the Miss Springfield pageant, a mass of marching mutts might get lost in the crowd during the annual Springfield Days celebration in early June.

But with more than 50 dogs expected to participate in the annual event, the "Paws on Parade" celebration is becoming a ritual in its own right for those who take part.

This year will be the fifth annual "Paws on Parade" event, as part of the Springfield Days parade. Pooches and their owners are encouraged to march at the head of the parade, which takes place Saturday, June 4, beginning at 10 a.m., at the Springfield Swim and Racquet Club on Highland Street.

"I had noticed that as we walked the parade route, all the families with their kids and their dogs lined up," said Linda Waller, senior staff aide in Supervisor Dana Kauffman's (D-Lee) office. "I'm a dog person and it looked to me like those dogs wanted to be part of the parade." Waller has three dogs, Sparky, Lily and Max, all of whom have participated in the parade.

This year's Springfield Days takes place June 2-5, with events ranging from the Braddock Nights and Kingstowne Nights concert series to a flea market, and the infamous dog parade.

The first year of the event, 15 dogs joined the usual floats and marchers in the parade. In 2002, in honor of the events of Sept. 11, the parade had a "patriotic pooches" theme, and dogs wore red, white and blue.

Jeanette Davias participates in many dog events and said she has enjoyed the low-key atmosphere of the dog parade.

"For us, it’s kind of a no-frills thing. When you’ve got a bunch of dogs, you have to pack a bunch of stuff for them. But it’s basically us, the dogs, the bandannas, and that’s it. It’s a nice fun thing to do."

EACH DOG that participates receives a treat and a prize. Dog owners must follow certain guidelines during the parade, such as "Don’t allow your dog to visit yards" and "Don’t allow your dog to work out its alpha issues with other dogs."

"I think it helps to give it the best of a small-town parade experience," said Waller. "People respond to dogs."

This year’s Springfield Days will also feature a new event on Saturday at Lake Accotink Park. Instead of its usual carnival at Springfield Plaza and fireworks display, the park is sponsoring a "Heritage Day" to celebrate the history of Springfield and its parkland.

"So many people who live in the Springfield, Burke, and Annandale area have no clue how interesting the history of the area and Accotink Park is," said Tawny Hammond, manager of the park.

The event coincides with a "Witness to History" project the park completed recently, and a historic marker dedicated last June, as well as the 45th anniversary of Lake Accotink.

The all-day event will feature events representing several different eras in history, including Native American dancing by the Tayac Territory Singers and dancers from the Piscataway Nation. Shirley ‘Little Dove’ Custalow-McGowan will present a living history of the Powhatan people, which will include a longhouse and demonstration on canoe making, and demonstrations on flint knapping, cooking and basket weaving. In addition, Gus J. Person, historian from Fort Belvoir will talk about the history of the installation, the Fairfax Station Railroad Museum will have an exhibit on railroads, and several Civil War reenactors will give rifle firing and drilling exhibitions.

Hammond said she hopes the Heritage Day, in combination with the many other events of the two-day Springfield Days celebration, will help to showcase the diverse segments and histories of the Springfield community.

"I think Springfield Days, since we don’t have a community Fourth of July celebration … it really kind of fulfills that community festival function. It celebrates the diverse elements of the community, for a different kind of festival."