Dressed-Up Dogs and Other Local Halloween Festivities

From a piñata to an ice cream truck, from Banksy to a Government “Mutt-down,” costume-clad pups filled Fort Greene Park on Saturday afternoon for the 15th annual Great PUPkin dog costume contest.

This year, two dogs dressed as “Sharknado” – the disaster movie released in July about a freak tornado that releases man-eating sharks into Los Angeles – took first and second place in the competition. Fort Greene residents Kelly Thompson and Jeff Merritt, whose French bulldogs won the top spots, said their costume was homemade. While the dogs were dressed as sharks, Thompson wore a tornado-shaped cocoon around her head and upper body.

“It was a weekend project,” Merritt said. “That was a tomato cage from our garden,” he added, referring to Thompson’s costume.

This marks the fifth year Merritt and Thompson have participated in the competition – and each year, they have dressed the dogs up as movie characters. Two years ago, they took home an honorable mention title for dressing the bulldogs as the twins from “Psycho.”

Matt Deen and Kristin Taylor, who took home an honorable mention for their Jack Russell mix’s Pope Francis ensemble – also known as “Pup Francis I, the people’s pup” – said they were excited to be part of the competition.

“We’re huge dog lovers, and it’s just a lot of fun being with other dog lovers and coming up with something creative and dressing up the dogs,” Taylor said.

The Great PUPkin showcased 119 dogs, a record for the competition, according to Elizabeth Kizzy Robinson, the emcee of the event and a long-time volunteer with the Fort Greene Park Users and Pets Society (PUPS), which sponsored the event.

Robinson said that although homemade costumes tend to gain favor in the contest, the judges don’t use any specific standards or guidelines in their decision-making.

“It’s not really a rubric,” she said. “Robert, who is our scorekeeper, he talks to the judges and takes down their thoughts on a scale from one to 100 and does a little math and they figure it out.”

Candice Weatherly, a long-time Fort Greene resident who dressed her English bulldog as a construction worker, said she is happy to see so many dog owners in Fort Greene, and that she was impressed with the record turn-out at this year’s competition.

“I’ve lived here for over 30 years,” she said. “I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s nice to see the neighborhood blossom.”

Dogs weren’t the only ones dressing up on Saturday in the park. Fort Greene Park Conservancy’s Halloween Festival, held at the same time as the Great PUPkin, drew many costume-clad children dressed as witches, Spiderman, princesses, pumpkins and police officers, to name a few. The children competed in sack races, painted pumpkins, observed a display of large insects and watched in awe as a performer spun around several hula hoops at once.

The Halloween fun isn’t over in the nabe. Come out on Thursday for the Society for Clinton Hill’s annual Halloween walk. All costumed trick-or-treaters up to age 12 are invited to meet in front of the Pratt-Clinton Hill community garden on the corner of DeKalb Avenue and Hall Street at 5:30 p.m. and trick-or-treat around the neighborhood together. Maps to the most generous homes will be provided, and food vendors will be available until the walk ends at 7 p.m. Parents must accompany their children.

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