Apalachicola’s Mardi Gras Parade will roll through the streets of downtown on Saturday, Feb. 23, celebrating the Mystic Krewe of Salty Barkers’ annual Mardi Gras Barkus event.

The festival of canines and their people, which began in 2009, opens at Riverfront Park at 11 a.m. with live music, food, beverages, arts, and craft vendors. The parade of costumed canines and their packs begins at the park at 1 p.m., circles downtown and ends up back at the park for more fun, music, and food.

This year’s theme is “Furry Tails Come True,” a celebration of the magic of fairy tails and fantasy characters of all kinds. Each year the human members of the Krewe sniff around for a theme that will encourage costume creativity for dogs and people.

“We are a real Mardi Gras krewe and it’s a real Mardi Gras parade,” said Caroline Ilardi, who founded the Krewe with her husband, Jeff. “We’ve just made it all about the dogs.”

The parade’s royal court comprises a king, queen, grand marshal, and this year, some surprise dignitaries. Each year, the Salty Barkers Krewe selects dogs from the locals as Queen and King—a choice that promotes their adoption. This year’s Grand Marshal is Andy Bass, a local resident who is often on the road traveling with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as an animal handler and driver, transporting animals to shelters in many other parts of the country where they have a better chance of being adopted.

Bass is also a field team leader and trainer for the Florida State Animal Response Coalition, assisting volunteer teams as they help with large scale natural and manmade animal disasters.

The Krewe is a nonprofit organization that has donated parade profits to several local animal rescue organizations including the Franklin County Humane Society and the Florida Wild Mammal Association.

“In the middle of having all the fun, we hope visitors realize that they’re doing so much good,” Ilardi said.

For more event information, visit saltybarkers.com or Apalachicola Mardi Gras Parade on Facebook.