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(WBIR) Hundreds of dogs, and their owners, got in the Mardi Gras spirit a little early this weekend in downtown Knoxville.

Mardi Growl 2014 kicked off with a costume parade through Old City and down Gay Street.

The festivities then continued throughout the afternoon in Market Square with vendor booths and family activities.

This was the 7th year for the event which supports the Young-Williams Animal Center. The group's CEO said its the biggest fundraiser of the year for them.

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"Not only do we receive funds for this, but more importantly it raises awareness around the key issues such as spay and neutering of animals and adoption and things of that nature," Jeff Ashin, Young-Williams CEO, said.

Ashin said they had between 350 and 400 dogs participate this year, that's more than double what they had in 2013 when lousy weather kept many away. Prizes were awarded for dogs including Best Vol Spirit, Pet/Owner Look-alike, Best Dog Couple, and Best Costume.

Today, dogs and their owners will hit the town for 2014 Mardi Growl Parade benefiting Young-Williams Animal Center. WBIR

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