TAMPA — Bulldogs dressed like buccaneers and poodles dressed like pirates helped kick off the Gasparilla season Saturday afternoon.
About 70 dogs — and their humans — marched in the annual Barkarilla Pooch Parade along Seventh Avenue in Ybor City. In its fourth year, organizers said it was the largest pooch parade yet.
The parade and accompanying doggy costume contest and raffle drawing are organized by Ye Loyal Krewe of Samuel Bellamy. The proceeds go to Animal Based Charities, a Tampa nonprofit group that contributes to local pet rescues and hosts large-scale pet adoptions throughout the state.
In the past three years, Barkarilla has helped raise about $4,000 for the charity, said Sheila Ryan, captain of the Krewe of Samuel Bellamy. She’s an animal lover, she said, and the krewe wanted to give back to the group that hosts the largest adoption events in Florida.
“Any charity that successful deserves all the support it can get,” Ryan said.
After the parade, the pups headed to nearby A Dirty Shame pub, where baskets containing items such as water bowls and car seat covers were raffled off. Kadji the American Bulldog and Zoey the poodle were crowned the first king and queen of Barkarilla. Lucy, a chocolate-colored great dane, fetched the title of Best Pirate Pooch 2014.
“The crazier the costume the better,” Ryan said about the contest.
Pat Medina and her 6-year-old chihuahua, M&M, marched in the parade and posed for pictures after the costume contest. Her son, Rick, founded Animal Based Charities, and M&M is a rescue dog, so Barkarilla is an event that is close to her heart, she said.
“It brings in money for the rescue groups and, god, there’s never enough,” she said.
The crowd of humans and dogs at Barkarilla was extremely happy this year, Rick Medina said. It isn’t a huge fundraiser for his charity, but it does help raise awareness.
People — and their pooches — look forward to it every year.
“It’s silliness personified,” he said.