Lions and tigers and bears and, oh my — not to mention cats, clowns, devils, angels, dinosaurs, princesses, a pope, mermaids, train conductors, a monopoly set, Lady Gaga, halal guys, insects, Ghostbusters, various super heroes and the occasional demogorgon.
They were just a few of the 400 furry contestants looking for bragging rights (and a bag of prizes) at the 32nd Annual Tompkins Square Park Halloween Dog Festival on Oct. 22.
Joseph Borduin, in his third year as director/producer of the festival, has no idea how many people filled Tompkins Square Park last week.
“I was at the western entrance of the park directing people as they entered and people just kept coming at me from every direction!” he said.
One thing is for sure, the park was full to capacity as the six judges – three at each of the two stages – spent hours evaluating the consistently clever costumes, which included the likes of “Lady Dogo,” a chihuahua dressed in a meat dress and followed around by the “puparazzi.”
One of the judges, Maegan Hayward (owner, East Village Vintage Collective; co-owner, 3rd & B’zaar/Snacks Attack for Dogs) was “flattered to be asked to judge this year.”
“I have always loved the Halloween Dog Costume Contest,” she told us. “The creativity is endlessly mind blowing. From a Jesus Chihuahua to a full rendition of The Halal Guys (mini pup food truck and all) this year’s costumes didn’t disappoint. And of course the dogs are all amazing! It’s been wild to see the event grow and I was so happy to see it back in Tompkins Square Park again this year. Already looking forward to next year!”
Kevin Klepper, who has volunteered at the fest for over 30 years, simply summed up the day as “phenomenal!”
Past contestant Summer Strand took a turn as an emcee this year, dressed in her black widow best.
“I couldn’t possibly pick a favorite costume,” she gushed. “There’s just always so much creativity!”
Only occasionally did the dogs themselves comment, and a spectator noted that there was surprisingly little barking going on. Many of the pups seemed to be having a great time around the other party goers, but a number of them looked like they could use a little less attention.
While the fest is meant to be a fund-raiser for the Tompkins Park Dog Run (which is run by volunteers and financed from contributions, not by the city as is commonly assumed), they unfortunately lost money this year. People can still donate to the organization —and register a vote for Best In Show — at tompkinssquaredogrun.com/halloween.
Given the amount of attention necessary to run an event of this size, Borduin had to leave his five year old cockapoo, Biscuit, for the day but he hopes that things will be different next year. Among other things, he’s hoping that the festival will be a parade that allows everyone who wants to see the pups promenade along a street route rather than cramming them all into the park.
Although the event took a tremendous amount of time and energy, Borduin will be back next year.
“When I get on that stage and see all the smiles, it makes it all worthwhile,” he mused. “It just makes me want to do it again.”