At West Chicago's Blooming Fest, flowers are usually the star of the show.
But there's a furry, wiggly friend itching to sneak a piece of the spotlight. At an event where nature lovers and pet lovers are often one and the same, the West Chicago Park District decided to let man's best friend in on some fun with the first "My Pet Rocks" dog contest.
"We've noticed an increase of people bringing their dogs to the event," said Krista Coltrin, marketing assistant for the city. "It's a pet-friendly community here, and it's a welcoming environment. We have a variety of pet vendors that cater to pet owners."
The Blooming Fest runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday in downtown West Chicago.
The fest has blossomed throughout the years -- growing from the initial seed the West Chicago Garden Club planted in 2000 with its first plant sale -- to now, with almost 75 vendors who spread throughout downtown with activities such as an entertainment stage, children's activities, a car show and other cultural arts-related events.
The popularity led organizers to add two extra hours to the fest this year. Activities will wrap up at 5 p.m.
New this year is the "My Pet Rocks" dog show at 3 p.m. on Main Street that will be judged by local celebrities.
Dogs will be judged in a variety of categories: largest dog, longest tail, smallest dog, shortest tail, dog with the biggest ears, dog with the most spots, cutest dog, most unusual, best owner/pet look-alike and best dressed.
"It's just meant to be a good time and meant to be fun," said Glory Spies, the park district's marketing and communications director. "It's really a way for the park district to showcase something that's a really great asset to one of our parks -- Wiggly Field Dog Park."
The permit-only dog park is in Reed-Keppler Park.
The West Chicago Garden Club's plant sale takes place on Galena Street and will include about 2,500 plant varieties.
Many of perennials are grown and split from the club members' gardens. Most of the annuals for sale were donated to the club. The benefit of having little overhead cost is that the club can sell plants at a very discounted price.
Offerings include vegetables, plants, shrubs and trees. Hostas range in price from $2 to $6. The most expensive items -- such as bushes -- cost $18, said Tom Fessler, a member of the West Chicago Garden Club.
"Most of our plants are $4, some larger are $5," Fessler said. "We have little plugs that people could buy for a dime a piece -- little starter plants that people can pick out what they want and put them in a little bag."
The plant sale's reasonable prices draws people from all over.
"They line up prior to the event starting in the morning," Coltrin said. "It's a whole event in itself. These members work for several months prior to the event."
Local groups will perform throughout the morning on an entertainment stage located on Main Street. In the afternoon, Gallery 200 highlights its Local Music Night with several performers including: Cassandra Vohs-Demann, West Park, TriTone Sax Trio, Ellus Belus, The Wacky Keys and Into the Real.
Other Main Street activities include crafts and arts booths, food, museum and park district children's activities and a banner art display.
Many of the arts and crafts for sale also take on a garden theme -- from steppingstones and statues to bird houses and garden-themed paintings.
Meet May's featured artist -- watercolorist Kristine Plum -- at Gallery 200. A water color demonstration by Artist Buddy Plumlee takes place from noon to 2 p.m. Throughout the day, people are encouraged to create and complete interactive art at a TASK party at Gallery 200.
A pancake breakfast is from 8 a.m. to noon at the American Legion Post 300 with Boy Scout Troop 33.
The Chicago Corvette Club Wheels Exhibit and children's activities are on Freemont Street. A Rites of Passage Exhibit examining life's milestones goes on throughout the day in the City Museum exhibit.
There's no admission price to this event.
To register for the dog contest, do so in advance at we-goparks.org or the day of the event from 1 to 3 p.m. at the park district table.
For more information, visit westchicago.org or call (630) 293-2200.