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Princess Leia, Lego named Pet N Pup parade royalty

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Sep 23, 2012 at 9:12 PM

Princess Leia and a Lego won the top prizes at Norwalk's annual Pet N Pup parade Saturday.

Good grief, Charlie Brown.

Elaina Roche, 7, and Cory Preston, 6, were crowned queen and king. As a prize, each child received a new bicycle.

(NOTE - To see photos of the event, click HERE.)

Roche was dressed as Princess Leia, of the original "Star Wars" trilogy. She was escorted by an Ewok portrayed by a Shih Tzu/Bichon mix named Phineas.

Preston joined his younger two siblings, 4-year-old Dana and 2-year-old Ian, and a mutt named Tippy -- all of whom dressed as colorful Legos.

Led by last year's royalty riding in a convertible and the Norwalk Middle School eighth-grade band performing the Truckers' fight song, the parade involved an array of pets and children, many dressed in themes such as sports teams, Disney characters and wedding parties.

In addition to cats and dogs, there were horses and even a tarantula.

"It was a good turnout," said Nikki Cross, Norwalk's recreation director. "They gave away about 40 prizes."

Cross estimated about 60 children participated in the parade. Excited for the opportunity to run the event for the first time, she said she expects to make changes next year, such as adding costume categories, to encourage the children to "get creative with costumes."

But the event wasn't without a bit of controversy.

Following the 15-minute parade that started at Main Street School and ended in front of the Norwalk Public Library, the participants gathered in front of the festival stage, where Cross announced the winners.

Initially, Cross called up Charlie Brown from a Peanuts ensemble that included girls dressed as Charlie, Sally and Woodstock, a beagle playing the part of Snoopy and wagon containing a dog house resembling Snoopy's.

But just as Lucy would pull the football away from Charlie Brown when he tried to kick it, the king title was yanked from the child when Cross and her helpers realized the pony-tailed Charlie was a girl.

So they called up all of the boys who participated, deliberated for a few moments and then selected Preston as king. He is a Maplehurst Elementary first-grader.

Participating in the parade was a last-minute decision for the Preston family.

"We decided last night to come," said the king's mother, Danielle Preston, referring to preparing the costumes Friday night.

When asked about her reaction to her son being named Pet N Pup parade king, she said, "It was very unexpected."

This year's queen, Elaina Roche, the daughter of Matt and Jodie Roche, of Norwalk, walked a dog owned by her uncle and aunt, Jamie and Jill Spildener, of Berea. Elaina Roche is a second-grader at Pleasant Elementary.

"(It was) a team effort to make the costume for the dog," Jill Spildener said about their dog, Phineas.

Incidentally, Roche's oldest sister, Madeline, won the Pet N Pup queen title 10 years ago when she was 3.

Most of the other parade participants also received prizes, including fishing poles, board games, art kits and flying discs. The Pet N Pup parade kicked off the day-long Autumn Leaves Festival.

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