History of McKinney Krewe of Barkus parade
By McKinney Krewe of Barkus
Feb 27, 2020
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McKinney, Texas -- Every dog has his day and in McKinney that special day is always the Sunday before Mardi Gras when the annual Krewe of Barkus dog parade is held.  The parade, patterned after the New Orleans Mardi Gras parade for dogs, is the brainchild of Louisiana transplant Blynda Christian. In the seventeen years of its existence, Christian has watched her concept grow from two dozen dogs and their owners to a family-friendly event that attracts thousands of people to downtown McKinney. 

"We always have the Barkus parade the Sunday before Mardi Gras,” the founder of the parade explains, "so the date changes but the day does not.  Mardi Gras is the last day before Lent and can be traced back to medieval Europe, but the festival in New Orleans goes back to the 1700’s.  Our McKinney event started in 2003.”

"Growing up in Louisiana, Mardi Gras is a big deal and great fun for me," Blynda says.  "I started the Barkus parade as a way for kids to learn about the culture in New Orleans, express themselves creatively, and bring families to the heart of McKinney – the Square.  It was truly a grassroots effort.  I dressed up Lady Godiva, my chocolate lab, in a tiara and beads and sent her photo out with a press release. Every local paper picked it up!  We planned the event on a Wednesday and had the parade on Sunday.  We had about 25 dogs and their owners show up and a small crowd….but the press was there and Barkus was born. Each year it has just gotten bigger and better - and there are more dogs watching from the sidelines than there are in the parade.  Crowds can be as many as 5,000 and we have 200 dogs in the parade - most with entourages. Last year it was so cold we had to move it inside a covered parking lot, but the show went on."

Blynda Christian

Pleasant weather has graced the event for most years, but for a few of the events, even frigid temperatures and snow flurries didn't deter the faithful fans of this very special day.  These aren't fair-weather friends. These are people who look forward all year to this celebration in honor of man's best friend.

"For the first couple of years, we were just trying to bring the idea of Mardi Gras to McKinney, so we didn't have 'themes' like they do in New Orleans," recalls Blynda. "Our theme was Mardi Gras: the colors of purple, gold, & green, the masks, and the beads.  With each year being more successful than the previous, we introduced the idea of an annual theme in 2007 and it’s been a wild ride ever since.”

2007’s theme was Barkus Goes To Hollywood, which showcased the movies, and a Great Dane dressed as Tom Cruise in Risky Business stole everybody’s hearts.  2008 brought The Rock & Roll Pawl of Fame, and dogs came dressed as rock stars.  Some even had their own “Security” teams.  2009’s theme was “Tailevision – Classic TV Gone To The Dogs”.  Blynda recalls, “My favorite that year was two Chihuahuas dressed as Lucy & Ethel in a cardboard box TV set, depicting the Chocolate Factory episode.  Our contestants are serious about having fun with the costumes!”

In 2010, Barkus fell on Valentine’s Day and the theme was Fairy Tales & Love Stories – Barkus Does Romance.  Happy Tales To You – Barkus Salutes Texas and the Wild, Wild West was the popular theme for 2011 and Texas pride was apparent everywhere.  Patriotism rang in 2012 with the theme “All American Barkus – A Salute to Presidents, Pioneers, & Pawtriots”.  Then, in 2013, things got a little silly with Barkus Gets Animated – From Comics to Cartoons, A Salute to the Characters that Tickle Our Funnybones.

Even a snow storm in 2014 couldn’t keep Barkus from Going Back In Time – Decked Out By Decade, which was a tribute to each decade from the 20’s to the present.  The parade was moved indoors at the eleventh hour and McKinney MPAC was filled to capacity.  In 2015, “Pooches & Paris – Barkus Salutes All Things French” may have been one of the favorites of spectators, partially because of the amount of thought, time, and energy contestants put into their costumes and floats.

“I continue to be blown away by the support for this McKinney tradition and the creativity of all who participate in it each year,” Blynda states. The theme for 2016 was Barkus Does Books – A Salute to Favorite Characters in Literature. Contestants brought favorite books that were donated to local charities. 2017's theme was “Barkus Goes Bad – A Salute to Our Favorite Villains” because every good story has a bad dog.  The entries were nothing short of hilarious.  The parade of 2018 took Barkus abroad, celebrating heritage, places visited, or dream vacations for the  "Bark-a-palooza Tour Around the World - Celebrating Countries and Cultures Across the Globe."

For the 2019 annual parade, pups paid tribute to a genre of television that captivated our culture.  The theme was "Canines Keeping it Real - A Barkus Salute to Reality TV".  This year, for our 18th parade on Sunday, February 23, the theme is "A Barkus Salute to Popular Music Icons: Puppies Go Pop!".  We are expecting our favorite characters to be on the Square in downtown McKinney for a howling good time!

Prizes are graciously donated by the downtown merchants and will be awarded for multiple categories including Best Dog & Owner Combo, Best Group, Best Float, and Best of Show.  For more information, contact McKinney Main Street at www.mckinneytexas.org or 972-547-2660 or visit www.artinstituteofmckinney.com  Krewe of Barkus Parade – McKinney, TX also has a popular Facebook page, Instagram account, and Twitter feed.