Lions, Dragons, and Proposals, Oh My!

Tails were wagging in every direction during a dog costume contest at Voice of America Park.


Cara Raiford, Visuals



King Eddie was walking down the gravel path, his short legs striding proudly in support of the crown on his head. A bee was buzzing around, but it was not looking to pollinate. A spider was crawling all over the park, his eyes scanning the event. These creatures caught everyone’s attention but not for pollination or royalty. Or even web-slinging. They were acting as Man’s Best Friends.

At Voice of America Park (VOA), dogs of all shapes and sizes can be seen adorned in costumes of many kinds. Activities and treats for the four-legged friends were stationed just outside the entrance of Wiggly Field Dog Park. Dogs excitedly bark at each other as everyone waits for the costume competition to begin.

On Saturday, October 15, the annual “Howl” event took place from 4-7 pm at VOA, while a costume contest occurred at 5:30.

“The goal of the event is to provide family-friendly events with [the families] four-legged friends and to be out here and enjoy the dog park.” Becky Vanderool, the Senior Manager of Park Connections, told Spark. “The event is a Halloween-themed, dog-centric event with vendors, dog activities, and such.”



Dogs–and some owners–dressed to impress three judges for five different categories, including the cutest costume, the scariest costume, the most original costume, the best duo costume, and the judge’s choice.

The winners for the cutest costume were Mr. and Mrs. Paws, who made a visit a few months earlier than usual. Mrs. Paws, also known as Aurora, is believed to be a five-year-old beagle-smooth collie mix and Mr. Paws, also known as Old Dan, is a nine-year-old Redtick hound. Owners Holly and Michael Brown explained why they participated in the event.

“I participate every year. The dog I normally use, I had to retire because he was getting cranky,” Mrs. Brown told Spark about the enjoyment of the event. “We like to do [the contest]. It’s about seeing all the cute costumes, and [the dogs] can socialize.”

The winner for the scariest costume certainly was a fright. The winner was a six-year-old Boston terrier named Ava the Zombie. While the costume won scariest, there was no fear left once one realized that she was not planning to eat anyone’s brain during the competition. Her owner, Kristina Gordon, felt joyed that the effort she put into Ava paid off. “I love going to dog events, and I just love dressing her up!” Gordon told Spark. “I’m excited! I’m happy. I put a little effort into the costume, keeping it on her and keeping it intact.”

The winner for most original was definitely not your average costume, being a piece of art that was hand-crocheted in a month. The three-year-old Maltipoo, Mai, wore a piece made by her owner, Ashley Nottingham. She gave Spark a bit of a backstory behind the costume.

“I decided to get back into crochet because when my grandma died, she had knitting needles and crochet hooks. I picked up crochet, and I sucked at it. Then I got [Mai], and I actually started to do better,” Nottingham told Spark. “I do this now so she can come out, see all these other puppies, have fun, and hopefully win.”

The best duo winners were easy to spot as they stood out in the crowd. Four-year-old Chiweenie, Colsie, and her owner, Mary Colgate, planned on going home being a Weiner with a hotdog stand costume.

“Well, Colsie, she doesn’t know she’s a dog, so she’s like my best friend,” Colgate told Spark. “It’s kinda cool that we won [best] duo together because we do everything together.”
The judge’s choice winners were to die for. Elaine Gatewood brought her two dogs, Thor and Asil, dressed as two buggies pulling a wagon with a skeleton lying in it. Asil is a five-year-old Anatolian, while Thor is a four-year-old Anatolian Lab mix. When asked why she participated, Gatewood reminisced on her past defeat in a past costume contest.

“Three years ago, I entered the costume contest with one of my other dogs dressed as a dragon, and we lost to a slew of puppies in a ‘Pawty Wagon,’ which was a remote control police car.” Gatewood told Spark.“I got highly offended,” she joked, “and every year since I have gone all out.

​​The event was held by Metroparks and sponsored by Earthwise Pets, who provided rewards for the costume contest winners. The rewards consisted of buckets of treats and goodies. Before and after the contest, everyone could participate in activities like Paw Painting, Braided Rope Toy Making, and Hide and Seek Healthy Treats. In addition, Angelic Bakery, pumpkin pup cups, and goodie bags were also provided for the dogs while a food truck was stationed at the front of the event.

Snacks and activities were not all the event had, however. Multiple animal-related vendors showed up at the event as well. Animal Friends Humane Society showed up with their adoption truck and dressed up a few adoptable dogs to participate in the costume contest. They advocated to just about every person at the event to adopt or volunteer for them. Care Center Animal Blood Bank encouraged dog owners to sign up their pets to become canine blood donors.

A little further down the path, Leo and London, a dog bandana and t-shirt vendor, was stationed across from Paws and Remember, a company concerned with grief support and memorialization for pet owners. After the costume contest concluded, Paws and Remember owner Adam Stall, who was running the stand with his girlfriend, Tracy Wolford, took her into the center of the path, got down on one knee, and asked her the life-changing question with a paw-print diamond ring. No need to worry– she said yes.

“This is the park and the event that we first met at last year,” Stall told Spark. “She’s a vet tech, who works with all kinds of animals. She’s with all kinds of rescues. Her house is filled with rescues, as is mine.”

After all the excitement, the event came to an end, but one activity was still left. The park inflated a screen and projected the movie 101 Dalmatians for all families to watch, ending the night for dogs, with dogs. It was, well, spot on.