Looking back: Rochester pet parades

Rochester Post | Published September 23, 2021


ROCHESTER — Visitors of Rochester’s Main Street have varied in shape, size, and sometimes, even species.

The popularity of pet parades in the 1920s-1940s brought animals of all kinds to downtown Rochester. During these events, local children marched their animals through the streets of Rochester to compete for a selection of prizes and titles, such as smallest pet or best looking. While dogs and cats were the most common entries, geese, turtles, bumblebees and frogs were also shown off with pride.

One of Rochester’s largest pet parades took place on July 25, 1945. Sponsored by the Rochester Lions Club, this pet and doll parade was advertised as the summer’s “very best children’s party,” with $65 in prizes, an ice cream feast, and a free movie at the Hills Theater. Arnold Marahrens, of Rochester Gears Works, led the parade on horseback, accompanied by a Lions Club float, pictured. The Rochester City Band joined in on the festivities, bringing along the music and their pets. Following the parade, the judging contest on Walnut Boulevard overwhelmed the sidewalks and lawns, with more than 1,000 attendees gathering around.

According to the local Rochester Era newspaper, the parade was a hit: “One couldn’t tell whether it was the hot weather, or the natural pets in the parade, but certainly no one ever saw finer cooperation from animals, fish, fowl, insects, reptiles, etc.”

To discover more local history, visit the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm’s website at www.rochesterhills.org/musarchives.

— Samantha Lawrence, museum archivist at the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm