Ghouls, Goblins and Spooky Tails

Story and photos by Kacey Herlihy

Furry pirates, tail-wagging police officers, barking rabbis, howling ballerinas, 10-inch-tall clowns, hairy super heroes, the Dog from Ipanema. It sounds like the cast of one of MGM’s All Barkies Dogville Comedies of 80 years go. But it actually took place on Thursday, on West 55th Street between Eighth and Ninth avenues.

The Howlin’ Halloween Pet Parade and Costume Contest is just what it sounds like: pet owners gather, with their pets dressed up and ready to trick-or-treat. Among the original costumes were doggy bumblebees and bananas. More than 100 people watched the judging.

In past years, the parade portion of the event was prominent, with doggy treats supplied to the doormen on the block for distribution as the caravan marched by. This year, more than 40 dogs took part.

As participation grew over the years, the parade became unwieldy and the event is now more focused on the costume contest.

Started in 2001 by Stephanie Wallace, a local resident, the event has become a tradition in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood; after Wallace moved away, Mitch and Jen Jacobson took over the coordination in 2007. Working with the West 55th Street Block Association, they collect donations at the contest to support the association’s holiday lights, which are hung on the trees each year.

“People really look forward to this, people come out, they’re rubbing elbows in the street, they bring their kids, and I think I would miss it if it wasn’t there,” said Jen Jacobson.

Mitch Jacobson added: “That’s why we picked it up; we realized it wasn’t going to happen if we didn’t do it.”

The contest’s three judges evaluate each dog’s costume based on its creativity. Prizes are supplied by local pet-related businesses, including; Pet Market, on West 57th Street; and Spoiled Brats, on West 49th Street.

After all dogs were showcased, the judges had the tricky job of deciding upon the winners, and they picked Olive, a pug dressed as an olive martini. Second place was awarded to Mike and Jasper as the Olsen Twins.

The celebration “brings people together,” said Scott Johnson, who was participating for the first time.