CHESAPEAKE CITY — You know Christmas has come to town when Mrs. Claus marches down Bohemia Avenue.

On Saturday, the Clauses headed to Chesapeake City from the North Pole for Mrs. Claus to lead a procession of people and pets decked out in holiday sweaters and costumes. Santa was close behind in his sleigh.

The pet parade was welcomed with light snow flurries on Saturday, but that didn’t deter people from making the traditional march from Chesapeake City Elementary School to Pell Gardens.

For Karol Amrstrong, dressed as Mrs. Claus, it’s the annual signal that the holiday season has officially begun in town. Mrs. Claus had her poodle-mix companion, Sparky, dressed in a holiday sweater.

“Usually, the parade leads into the Christmas Bazaar but that was moved to the week before Thanksgiving,” Armstrong said.

“I’ve been leading the parade for five years and it’s a lot of fun.”

Owners and pets are encouraged to be creative in a costume contest, where prizes are given out to those with the best theme, best dressed and matching outfits. Most of the outfits were holiday-themed because the holiday season starts early, with the tree-lighting ceremony on Dec. 1. Other festivities will also return this year, like the annual candlelight tour of historic homes.

Cecil County Animal Services came out with “ugly sweaters,” complete with pictures of holiday sweaters taped to the vehicle. Venus, an enthusiastic shelter dog with a purple vest, happily sniffed children that lined the streets during the parade walk.

“We love this event because we want to support the community like they support us,” said CCAC volunteer Kelly Fields.

“It’s also great because sometimes we see some of the animals that stayed in the shelter — they’re sometimes unrecognizable compared to when we met them.”

Families came out and bundled in blankets and coats to watch the animals walk by. Julie Moore of Colora came with her grandchildren Ethan and Ryan Orr.

It was a first time event for the family.

“They love animals, and we just missed it last year,” Moore said. “It’s a great way to get ready for Christmas with all the holiday themed.”

At the end of the parade, people were encouraged to buy raffle tickets to benefit CCAS and Lola’s Landing Animal Rescue in Rising Sun.

Another option was to donate at the Smooch the Pooch booth, where you could either get a kiss from a rescue pup or give one.

Although the parade usually brings dogs, this year featured unusual pets like Henry and Georgie, two alpacas owned by Alex Swain.

“It started as a joke, and it was about having a goat for a pet. Finally, my husband took me to a farm and we ended up leaving with alpacas instead,” she said.

Mulberry, a black cat, also made her debut in the parade with owners Katelynn Tomas and Eric McBride. Mulberry and Tomas matched as bobby sockers, with the feline was wearing a sweater and a tutu.

“It’s been my dream to match with my cat and I saw her outfit at Petco a few weeks ago, and I found a poodle skirt and it all matched wonderfully,” Tomas said.

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