First parade a huge success for the community
By Alicia Venter
Forest Park Barking Lot and We are Kew Gardens wished the community a “Happy Howl-o-ween,” partnering to host their annual Dog Parade and Costume Contest.
The parade on Saturday, Oct. 23 featured approximately 40 dogs, according to organizers Esta-Joy “EJ” Sydell and Anne Craig.
Some owners joined their dogs in costume as they marched from Forest Park Barking Lot to Austin Ale House at 82-70 Austin St. The winner this year was a beagle named “Bella” who dressed as Wonderwoman. The whole family of Bella’s was there, celebrating their dog’s victory. In second place was husky “Onyx” dressed as Harry Potter and third place went to “Moose,” a chocolate lab dressed as R2D2.
Honorable mentions included local dog “Cleo” dressed as a “Poop Factory” and Queens Khalifa, a bulldog dressed as a sunflower.
“I was really kind of impressed by them, because I thought there would be a lot of barking,” Sydell said. “The dogs were moving along like it was their day down the street.”
The dog park has held similar contests within the park for the past four years, but this year, Craig approached Sydell with the hope to bring the event more into the community.
Craig is part of the community organization We are Kew Gardens. The group is focused on building volunteer and community service opportunities for people in the neighborhood and creating events to engage the community.
“What began as a costume contest in the Barking Lot became a parade,” Craig said.
Beyond Craig and Sydell, two key organizers of the event included Viana Tran and Hannah Bridgham.
Sydell has been part of the dog park, which is a nonprofit organization, since it opened in 2015. She has served as its president since 2019 and serves on Community Board 9 on the Parks, Recreation and Environment Committee. Sydell works in the community to support dog parks and educate the community on responsible pet ownership.
Sydell’s love for the community shined through every time she spoke of the different businesses and organizations around the dog park. Austin Ale House has been overwhelmingly supportive of the park in its early years, and Sydell shared her deep appreciation for their help.
“Shoutout to the Austin Ale House. They’ve been nothing but really good to the dog park and the community as a whole for many years,” she said. She has held fundraisers at the restaurant, including Cocktails for Canines.
Among the attendees was Queens Borough President Donovan Richards. He enjoyed the event so much, Sydell and Craig shared, that he said he wanted to be a judge the following year.
“We are going to hold him to that,” Sydell said with a laugh.
“It was just really nice for Anne to bring this to me, so that we can combine forces and maybe draw some people in the community’s attention more to helping volunteer at the dog park, as well as just bringing some joy to the neighborhood,” Sydell said. “People really had great feedback and a great time. People who didn’t have dogs came out to watch. It was just a really fun, nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.”
Judges included Roberta “Bobbi” Giordano, owner of the no-kill shelter Bobbi and the Strays, Mark Morrill, the Democratic District Leader for Kew Gardens, and Vina Castillo, who owns the Kew and Willow Store.
Local pet supply stores donated the gifts given at the event: K9 Caterers, Dog Days and Cat Nights and Wagging Tails all provided supplies and gifts for the dogs, as well as gift certificates.
Bobbi and the Strays donated “huge gift baskets filled with doggie toys and treats that were absolutely incredible,” Sydell shared.
“When it comes to dogs, the community really steps up,” Sydell shared. “You can’t be upset about dogs, especially in costume. What’s cuter?”
Both Craig and Sydell encourage the community, particularly the younger members, to get involved in the dog park and We are Kew Gardens, as well as the community at large.
“We believe in community service. We believe that communities are built by the communities that live in them,” Craig said. “We do these things like the dog parade to really engage the community. To get the community involved and have a really fun day, while also giving back to the community.”