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This past Sunday, I was fortunate to participate in the 21st Annual Pet Parade and Chili Cookoff, sponsored by the Laguna Beach Board of Realtors. Organizers for the event (including yours truly) showed up before 8 a.m. to help set up tables, establish booths for chili contestants, direct participants to their designated places and help haul in all the gear, food, decorations and equipment necessary to prepare the delicacies. It seemed like chaos.

For three hours, people scurried about like children at an Easter Egg hunt frantically decorating their booths, setting up their makeshift kitchens and erecting the stage for the pets to strut their stuff. It seemed unlikely that it could all come together in time for the pets and participants due to arrive at 11:00 a.m. But somehow it did.

And then, the pets came! Big, little, young and old. Furry, scaly (yes, there were lizards), feathery and leathery. What fun! I happened to have the best seat in the house, collecting money for the entrance fees, so I got to see them all. What a hoot. One was cuter than the next. Most Gorgeous Female? Check. Most Handsome Male? Absolutely. Happiest Rescue? Way to go, Chewbacca! The competition was fierce, but the day was bliss.

But let’s not forget the second part of this grand event (drumroll, please): The Chili Cookoff! Indeed, our esteemed Realtors, lenders, escrow providers, title insurers and other affiliates brought their best game. As the pots were stirred and the secret ingredients were added (was that bourbon you just poured in there?) the smells wafted through the venue. There were so many great concoctions, it was tough to pick a winner, but the prize went to Coldwell Banker, with the Sotheby’s HOM Group taking second and the Laguna Beach Affiliates in third.

The best news of all was that the event raised a record haul exceeding $23,000 that goes to benefit the Laguna Beach Animal Shelter, Pacific Marine Mammal Center, The Pet Rescue Center, The Blue Bell Foundation for Cats, and PUP (Protecting Unwanted Pets). Thank you to all who participated!

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