The Pet Gala That Almost Didn’t Happen Has Its Biggest Year with 15,000 in Attendance

From a suited-up Karl Lagerfeld Pomeranian, a French bulldog alien, and the rat czar to several Barbies, the dogs were all dressed to impress, putting their best paw forward as they shimmied or rolled along the parade route Oct. 21 at the annual Tompkins Square Park Halloween Dog Parade.

| 25 Oct 2023 | 06:45

The parade that almost wasn’t had its biggest year yet, with the event’s organizers estimating about 15,000 people in attendance and 600 pooches in costume strutting across Avenue B and 13 St. up to the entrance of Tompkins Square Park to participate in this year’s festivities. Despite the drizzle, enthusiastic pet parents, decked-up dogs, and spectators came in from all over the tri-state area.

The annual paw parade, a favorite amongst the paw-rents community, was nearly canceled earlier this year due to permits and funding issues. To ensure enough space and police arrangements were made for this year, Joseph Borduin, the “Lead Pooper Scooper” and organizer, who has been organizing the event since 2019, began planning the 2023 event months ahead but ran into issues with city agencies. Due to the lack of big budgets, Borduin, as the lead organizer for a volunteer-run event, felt he had no choice but to cancel this year’s event.

He announced the cancellation online on tspdogrun, the official Instagram account of Tompkins Square Park Dog Run, sparking immense backlash on social media until Councilmember Carolina Rivera and Get Joy, a small Connecticut-based dog food brand, stepped in to make this event happen!

Councilmember Rivera coordinated with different city agencies and reduced the total costs from almost $50,000 to $5,000. Afterward, Get Joy, a small Connecticut-based dog food and wellness brand, doubled the joy by offering to sponsor the parade and cover all costs associated with the event.

“We first saw the cancellation news on @showmenoodz post and, like the rest of the canine community in New York City, we were dismayed! This parade is an NYC institution that has been going on for thirty-plus years, and we couldn’t believe it wasn’t going to happen,” said Tom Arrix, the founder of Get Joy, in an email interview.

For the first time since its inception, this year, the parade had a city-approved official parade route, which meant that pups and their parents–in full costume–could walk or, in some cases, ride down the “Pet Gala’s” red carpet before heading to the park for the main competition.

As with every year, the competition was stiff; from Broadway and Barbie to the beloved NYC bodega-inspired costumes, pooches were dressed in all types of innovative creations. Some owners had spent months thinking of their theme and designing the costume, with several even hiring professional designers for the event.

Six hundred participants were given wristbands so their canines could compete in the costume contest, with judges selecting 40 to showcase on the main stage. After the showcase, the judges narrowed the selection to six participants, with audience applause, deciding the showstopper.

Snagging the crown this year was Winnie the Pookah, a Pomeranian. The Upper West Side pup wore a red sweatshirt and sat in a fake pot of honey, and he was accompanied by his owners, Sam Carpenter and Michelle Leone, who matched their pet as Tigger and Piglet. The second to take best in the show was Willy Wonka, a French bulldog, followed by Mimi the Bichon, who dressed as a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon.