The reigning World's Ugliest Dog died in March, leaving the title up for grabs in Friday's 24th annual competition at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma.
Last year's World's Ugliest Dog winner, Yoda, a 1.8-pound mutt from the Central Valley city of Hanford, died in her sleep at the age of 15, according to contest organizers.
"This last year has been amazing, it allowed Yoda to be the star I always knew she was," said owner Terry Schumacher. "The whole world thought she was a blessing and one of a kind. I knew this from the moment when I realized, 'Yes it was a dog!'" said Schumacher, who had initially thought Yoda was a rat when her daughter first found her in a field.
"I really encourage people to enter the contest because of the attention it brings to rescue dogs like Yoda," Schumacher said.
Contestants will take part in a red carpet walk at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Sonoma-Marin Fair, with the World's Ugliest Dog Contest and Rescue Dog Parade to follow at 6 p.m.
The winner will take home $1,000 in prize money and a trophy. If Yoda had made it to today's event, she would have been pitted against the finalists in the Ring of Champions round featuring previous years' winners.
Contestant photos and descriptions can be viewed and ugly dog lovers can cast their votes at www.sonoma-marinfair.org.
Contest admission is included in the cost of admission to the fair, which runs through Sunday. For more information, call (707) 283-3247.
Watch the video below to see a report after Yoda was crowned the World's Ugliest Dog last year.
View more videos at: http://nbcbayarea.com.