When the Si Se Puede Foundation took over staging the Chihuahua races and pageant at Chandler’s annual Cinco de Mayo Celebration, president and CEO Alberto Esparza quickly learned how seriously dog owners take the competitions.
Esparza found that some of the Chihuahuas racers were trained year-round. Pageant entrants — a king and queen Chihuahua are crowned — were dressed in expensive dog clothes and costumes, and some had painted nails.
This was a community dog show on steroids.
“We have some dogs that come in from other states. One year, we had dogs from Chicago and New York,” said Esparza, whose nonprofit organization is in its third year of operating the Chihuahua events. “The people who enter their dogs have a big love for them. You
see that right away.”
This year’s races on Saturday are limited to 150 dogs, and Esparza said capacity is expected to be reached. The races start at 2 p.m. and the pageant at 4 p.m. at the Chandler Public Library courtyard, 100 E. Commonwealth St.
However, the serious dog owners took a back seat in 2010; both the queen Chihuahua and first-place race winner live a normal dog’s life. The champion racer was Cherry, whose only formal training consisted of everyday running in the backyard, said owner Mayra Jordan of Phoenix.
Jordan said Cherry will return on Saturday to attempt to defend her title.
“We didn’t train her,” Jordan said. “She just loves to run.”
Jordan said having her husband, Jose, stand at the finish line was the key “strategy” for Cherry.
“She loves him,” said Jordan. “I think she just wanted to get to the finish line to see him.”
There will be a new winner in the queen category; owner Linda Moon of Chandler is not able to attend on Saturday. Moon’s dog, Princess, did not fare well in last year’s race, running about halfway before returning to the starting line. However, she was a hit at the pageant thanks in part to a makeshift dress.
“We were looking online and went to dog boutique stores to find an outfit, but they were so expensive,” Moon said. “I can’t spend $40 or $50 on a dog dress.
“I hardly spend that much for me or my daughter.”
Moon’s solution: A visit to a local Build-A-Bear Workshop to buy a pink dress. A few alterations later, the wardrobe designed for a doll was fit for a dog.
“We took a crown and jewelry from my daughter’s dolls and used that,” Moon said. “Other dogs had some of the cutest outfits and were groomed meticulously. I figured there was no way we would win.”
Esparza said that while the dogs are the stars of the show, the diversity of the owners and attendees is what makes the Cinco de Mayo activities most special.
“Seeing the dogs run and how fast they are is neat,” Esparza said. “But the biggest thing is seeing a diverse group of people come together. We have a wide range of people from different backgrounds and cultures that come together to celebrate the community. That’s probably the highlight for me.”
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