LAKEVIEW — About 15,000 people descended on Lakeview to drink beer and listen to music at Mayfest — dubbed the city's "first bash of the summer" — but a pet costume contest judged by the wife of a Chicago Blackhawk stole the show.
"How can you not like to see a bunch of dogs in costume?" noted Amanda Bickell, wife of Chicago Blackhawk Bryan Bickell — who later in the day helped his team win the first game of the NHL conference finals.
While bands including Too White Crew, Wedding Banned and Hairbangers Ball played, one of the biggest draws for the weekend was the Chicago Pet Pageant and Expo, organizers said.
"It's widely popular as crazy as it sounds," said Michelle Krase, Vice President of Star Events, which organized the festival. "It's really fun. ... My kids grew up judging the contest and I've seen pets grow up in the contest."
Amanda Bickell, who with her husband founded the Bickell Foundation dedicated to creating awareness about the plight of Pit Bulls, helped name Best Overall Dog, Pet/Owner Look-a-like contest, Coolest Trick and Best Costume at Mayfest.
While Bickell admitted she was a bit biased toward Pit Bulls, she was meet up with others passionate about dogs.
"I love it. I love doing things in the community and its nice to talk to everyone, all these pet and dog lovers just like me," said Bickell. "Not only is it a great opportunity to talk about our organization, but it's great to watch."
Melody was one of those dogs in costume, donning a butterfly costume as her owner, Larry Deeward, paraded her around stage. But the contest isn't really about winning for Deeward even though the 14-year-old Yorkshire Terrier took home 1st prize — a gift bag filled with over $500 in treats and pet goods.
"We can't foster them otherwise we'd end up with over 20 dogs so we do everything we can," said Deeward, 67, of Saginaw, Michigan, who returned the $100 gift card from the prize basket to Higgins Animal Clinic and told them to use the money towards a local dog in need instead.
Deeward and his wife Diane have traveled all over with their three pets who all competed in the contest, including Nickie, who garnered her own round of "ahhs" when he paraded around stage in his cowboy outfit.
"Any place we hear about having a pet rescue or an animal shelter fundraiser we go to support it," Diane said. "Our kids are all grown up now so we have these babies now."