The 42nd annual Beautiful Bulldog Contest took place on Sunday, April 18. The contest is just one of many beloved Drake traditions that occur during the Drake Relays.
The competition is directed by Niki Smith.
“Two alumni started it. It started as a way for alumni to get involved that worked downtown,” Smith said. “It took place in what was then Nollen Plaza and is now Cowles Commons over lunch on a Monday, so they were hoping that alumni would take their lunch break and go see these bulldogs.”
It grew from there, Smith said, and eventually moved to the Knapp Center.
Due to COVID precautions, Smith said they will be hosting “a condensed version of the contest.”
“We usually have a rescue festival where we invite all of the area rescues to bring adoptable dogs, no matter if they’re bulldogs or whatever,” Smith said. “We can’t have those this year but typically that is something that happens. The contest itself involves usually 40 bulldogs, but this year we’re doing 20 bulldogs. There will be some judging before the contest that isn’t really open to the public, but then three o’clock is when the pageant starts and each dog walks the ‘pupway.’”
Kyle Tekautz, a junior majoring in Strategic Political Communications and Public Relations, has been heavily involved in the Beautiful Bulldog Contest. Currently, Tekautz works as the self-proclaimed “Grifftern” in the University Communications and Marketing Office, where he works directly with Griff II, helping to manage his social media.
“My first year, I helped set up a little bit,” Tekautz said. “There’s a blue carpet that goes on the stage so I helped set that up and just watched over dogs, made sure everything was going well. When I attended it my first year, I got to sit on the floor, so I got to get up and close and personal with those bulldogs and it was a great opportunity.”
Tekautz said that last year the contest was held on Facebook so he’s excited for the contest this year.
“My favorite part about the contest, obviously, are the dogs,” Tekautz said. “I’m a bulldog fanatic.”
Cat McAuliffe’s bulldog Dottie took part in the competition for the crown this year.
“I love bulldogs, so being surrounded by that many bulldogs, I can’t wait to see all of the contestants and seeing what everybody else comes up with for costumes, but just all of it. . . “ McAuliffe said. “Because last year it had to go virtual, I’m obviously looking forward to that whole part of it and actually getting to be there in person. I’m super excited and getting to show off my dog. I mean, who doesn’t love to do that and talk about their dog. Everybody thinks that their dog is the best obviously, I think Dottie is.”
Dottie is a nine year-old therapy dog who McAuliffe adopted when she was given up by her previous owner. McAuliffe said that she always loves being able to bring awareness to therapy animals and what they do out in the community, so she’s excited for Dottie to be put in the spotlight.
“She’s such a good girl and she’s so sweet and so special and I just can’t wait to have even more people find that out,” McCauliffe said.
In addition to the contests’ success as a platform for the bulldogs themselves, the contest has proven to be great for the university’s marketing efforts.
“My day job at Drake is running social media for the university in the marketing department so this is a huge marketing event for us and a huge social media event for us because people natively post about their dogs, their animals, their kids, flowers, food, feet, so it’s a way for us to infuse something people already post about,” Smith said.
The competition continues to grow, attracting people from all over to watch or compete with their bulldogs.
“It’s one of my favorite days because of just meeting the bulldogs and getting to play with them,” Smith said. “We try to limit the number of people that get to go on the floor so it’s unfortunate that not everybody gets that experience but people that sit in the stands or watch even in the livestream at home get to see the variety of bulldogs and the cute costumes that they come up with and it’s just a really unique way to show that. We love the phrase ‘Every bulldog is beautiful’ and that phrase is relevant to Drake University Bulldogs, to four legged and two legged alike.”