(T-G Photo by Mary Reeves) [Order this photo]
As it should be. The inaugural celebration of Bell Buckle's "Mutts in May" was not about the best-bred dogs, but about the fastest, longest, smallest, biggest, ugliest, cutest, and the ones who resembled their owners the most.
The turnout was good, according to alderwoman Annie Rooney, who also serves on the Chamber of Commerce board. Rooney and Tennessee Poet Laureate Maggi Vaughn came up with the idea to replace the Motorcycle Day usually held this weekend in May.
Not that the change in plans affected the motorcycle riders. There were several in attendance -- with their "Mutts in May" contestants swagged out in leather jackets and Rastafarian dreadlocks, riding behind their owners on big, growling Harleys. Not a bad look for chihuahuas....
Some people came even from West Tennessee, not just for the dogs or to escape the river, but to meet the judges. Local poets and authors Vaughn, Kory Wells and Shirley Hall served as judges for the various contests, and they were joined by the former poet laureate of the state of New Hampshire, Marie Harris.
"Lauren drove all the way from Jackson, Tenn., just to talk about poetry," Vaughn said. Lauren Kelly, a teen poet herself, had been thrilled to find out where the state poet laureate lived and when her mother, Kathleen, decided to call and schedule a visit, Vaughn said, "Why not now?"
Originally, Vaughn hoped to have several of the poets laureate on hand to judge the dog competitions. She has, over the years, befriended many poets who have held that high honor across the states and they try to visit each other frequently. This year, however, family matters and health issues interfered, but she was lucky enough to have Marie make the trip. Marie's husband even chipped in as the unofficial photographer for the event.
Harris said every state has its own rule on the tenure of a poet laureate. Some, such as Tennessee, make it a lifelong position while others serve terms, such as her own of five years.
"The only thing that seems to be the surest in every state is it doesn't bring in any money," laughed Harris. "But it does a lot to promote poetry in our states and no one does that better than Maggi."
Even when that promotion means judging dogs in the first Mutts in May celebration in Bell Buckle.