On Saturday, April 7, Hotel San Jose and Jo’s Hot Coffee will host their 13th Annual Easter Pet Parade, in which pets will be dressed in drag theme in honor of local cross-dressing homeless icon Leslie Cochran, who died in March, to benefit Austin Pets Alive!.
Tina Rose, stage manager for the parade and owner of three dogs, one cat and one hamster, has participated in the parade every year. Rose said she has seen the event grow exponentially over the last 12 years.
“It started out real neighborhood-y; just folks from around Jo’s Coffee,” Rose said. “Then South Congress grew to be super hipster, and as long as it doesn’t rain, lots of people have been showing up even if it’s just to show support.”
Rose said that every year, the parade is a memorial with South Austin-style that benefits a local animal charity. This year, all proceeds will go towards Austin Pets Alive!, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and providing the resources, education and programs needed to eliminate the killing of companion animals.
In addition, Cochran will be remembered at the parade as one of Austin’s greatest citizens, a memorable figure both for the homeless in Austin, and for the entire city.
Rose noted that Cochran could occasionally be spotted around Jo’s Coffee, and that he was always a great conversationalist.
“He was one of those great Austin people, one of those ‘Keep Austin Weird’ guys,” Rose said. “He was sometimes controversial, but it’s always sad whenever you lose someone that’s been part of the fabric [of Austin].”
Pet owners are encouraged to dress their pets up in drag attire in Cochran’s memory.
“We usually see everything from Easter baskets to Tina Turner look-alikes,” Rose said of past parades. “People have even entered their chickens in the contest.”
The costume judging will begin at the conclusion of the parade, and judges will determine which of the pets have the most charisma and are most uniquely dressed.
“I’m interested to see the extremes of costumes we’ll get this year,” said Kristina Jakstas, outreach coordinator for Austin Pets Alive!. “The drag theme is funny because lots of times you can’t even tell at first glance if a dog is male or female. I’m anticipating a lot of tutus.”
The parade will begin at noon at the corner of Congress Avenue and Annie Street and end at Jo’s Coffee on 1300 South Congress Ave.. However, not all locals are enthusiastic about dressing up their pet.
“I personally would not dress up my dogs and parade them around for people to see, but I would still possibly attend because of the vendors,” said education sophomore Brooke Novy. “I do like that you can bring your dogs to the event and not dress them up. Austin is a very dog-friendly place.”
Austin Pets Alive! will have pets ready for adoption at the conclusion of the parade.
“It’s our job to provide resources and eventually homes for pets,” Jakstas said. “It’s really cool to see pets that were once at-risk find good, loving homes.”
Austin Pets Alive will be offering pets for adoption on Saturday. To qualify, potential new pet owners must undergo an interview process and a background check.
“It’s a really good cause; it’s true to how Austin really is,” Jakstas said. “It brings the people of Austin together and we’re helping to save the lives of animals.”
The event also features booths by local animal rescue and pet-related organizations, as well as a bounce castle and the Easter bunny for children. The event coordinators encourage all animal lovers to attend, even if they don’t own a pet.
“You just need to bring your love of animals to have a good time,” Jakstas said. “It’s a very weird Austin event, but that’s what makes it so fitting.”