Twenty-five years ago, two Brooklyn pet owners decided to dress up their dogs as a fun Halloween activity. The activity quickly grew into a judged event, and now more than two decades later, the Great PUPkin Dog Costume Contest draws dozens of dapper dogs who vie for first place and hundreds of humans who cheer them on.
This year’s event on Saturday, October 28, is expected to welcome nearly 100 dogs sporting both topical and timeless costumes that make judging the event a challenging feat. While the competition has grown and evolved over the years, one thing hasn’t changed: It’s a dog-gone good time.
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During the event hosted by Fort Greene Park Users and Pets Society (PUPS), dogs (and their human companions) parade across a stage showing off their outfits, soaking up the cheers and applause from onlookers. Some of the most memorable past looks have included a working player piano, a Lady Gaga meat dress, a Kusama-inspired design, a three-legged Ikea table for a tripawd, and an elaborate “The Princess and The Pea” outfit that won first place last year.
“The engineering that some of these people do is really incredible,” Alana Davis, PUPkin event coordinator, tells Time Out.
Davis is no stranger to elaborate designs. In 2021, she worked with her cousins and sisters to create a hot dog vendor costume for her dog, Howie, a Chiweenie who uses a wheelchair. His Sabrett costume, complete with a tin foil cart, an umbrella, plastic hot dogs, ketchup, mustard and Coke cans won first place. With a regal glance, Howie posed for fan photos.
Some dogs seem to relish their moment in the spotlight, strutting their stuff across the stage like they know the first-place gift bag might include treats.
It’s important to note, Davis said, that, “We never have people that are forcing their dogs into costume.”
Some entrants even coordinate costumes with their dog to make a group look. In “The Princess and The Pea” costume, for example, the dog dressed as the princess perched atop a stack of mattresses, while its owner dressed as a pea wedged beneath.
It takes months for some competitors to complete their contest-worthy looks, though others pull together costumes on the fly. Contest registration is sold out for 2023, but check back here for next year if you can’t get in on the fun this year.
The top seven contestants will be featured on stage, then the judges will award ribbons for first, second and third place. Plus, this year’s winner will get to be the next Time Out New York cover star!
Those who want to watch, however, need to do nothing more than show up and grab a seat. The event starts at noon on Saturday, October 28, but people start claiming their seats by 10am. The stage is set up at the bottom of the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument stairs, so viewers tend to gather on the steps for a great view.
In addition to the cute costumes, expect banter from emcees Dan Fox and Torey Starhl and music. The event’s run by volunteers from Fort Greene PUPS, a nonprofit that helps to preserve off-leash areas of the park, offers a hand with lawn maintenance and purchases water bowls and poop bag dispensers for the park. Registration fees for the Great PUPkin Contest help PUPS continue its work.
As the contest is set to celebrate 25 years in Brooklyn, Davis offered thanks to Kath Hansen and Amy Hecht who founded the event with some friends decades ago. What started as a small get-together has transformed into a beloved neighborhood celebration.
“The creativity that goes into the work and the immense smiles that are put on people’s faces — it’s just a happy event,” Davis says.