(EDITOR'S NOTE: This event is back on! A last-minute save by a dog wellness company called Get Joy kept the event from being cancelled due to permit issues!)
In this exclusive interview, Joseph Borduin, the director/producer of the renowned Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade in East Village, Manhattan, talks about the event's fascinating history, its growth, challenges, and what the future holds. Known for its enormous popularity, this New York City tradition has been transforming in response to its growing audience and construction limitations. Borduin sheds light on how the community has rallied around the parade and shares his dreams for taking the parade to the next level. (Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)
Joseph Borduin, now in his fourth year as director/producer, has navigated several location changes due to the event's immense popularity and ongoing construction projects.
The parade's success is largely attributed to the creative spirit of the NYC community who prefer making costumes to buying them.
The future of the parade could include a procession route to accommodate its growing audience and new partnerships with other East Village organizations.
Q: Can you share the history behind the Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade and how it has evolved over the years?
A: This marks our 33rd year and my fourth as director/producer. The parade began as a way for members of the dog run/community in the East Village to showcase their unique creativity on Halloween by dressing up themselves and/or their dogs. Over time the event continued to get bigger and bigger to the point we could not hold the event in the dog run because so many people were showing up to see the costumes. Well, that trend continued every year, and it kept getting bigger to the point where the entirety of Tompkins Square Park became too small for the crowd that shows up. We had to move the parade to the East River Amphitheater and that worked out for a number of years, but it just didn’t feel right. It's the Tompkins Halloween dog parade, not the East River Halloween dog parade.
Then the East River Park went under construction, and I had to bring the event back to Tompkins in 2022. Needless to say, everyone came out. We had to stop letting people in the park because it was filled to capacity. The streets around the park were packed full of people and traffic was at a standstill. I have never seen so many people in the East Village, ever! Then I found out that Tompkins Square Park was undergoing renovation starting in 2023 for 18 months. That’s two Halloweens that I don't have a location to hold our event at anymore. I had to cancel Halloween and sent potential sponsors elsewhere. I was devastated. Some months went by but then the community started to find out that Halloween was cancelled, and the grapevine began to grow. Then I got the phone call and was told by the community that this show must go on. It's a staple and tradition of the community. I thought to myself that this could be the time to present my ultimate dream for this event and that is to make it a real parade with a procession!
The idea is to meet on Ave B and 14th Street, walk down Ave B to 7th Street and take a right on 7th Street. Judges will be on the parade route to hand out passes to the best dressed costumes to come on stage for the best-in-show competition. Nothing is set in stone as of the time I am writing this, and I should know by the end of this week if I can continue planning this but it's my only solution to spread out the crowd and not clog up Tompkins. I honestly never thought I would get to this point so fast but with both parks under construction and so much momentum from last year's event, this could be our year to make this a real parade. If the West Village gets the human Halloween parade the East Village should have the Dog Parade!!!
Q: CNN calls it "the largest dog costume parade in the world." What, in your opinion, has contributed to its immense popularity?
A: NYC's creativity is the key. I remember being interviewed by the BBC about the supply crunch a couple of years ago and they asked what our contestants going to do if they can’t purchase any costumes. My response was we don’t buy costumes, we make them! I felt really proud at that moment about our parade!
Q: Safety is a priority at all events. What precautions and guidelines do you have in place to ensure that both dogs and humans enjoy the event safely?
A: We're coordinating with the DOT, NYPD, and local officials for a traffic plan that includes street closures, intersection guards, and both undercover and uniformed officers.
Q: Can you walk us through the organization and planning stages of the parade?
A: This is my fourth year directing this and this is my fourth different location that I have to create from scratch. Maybe ask me again when I can run with the same setup two years in a row.
Q: Tompkins Square Park has a rich history, especially with its First Run dog park. How does the parade contribute to the community around the park?
A: This is very important to me so this year we are reaching out to other organizations in the EV (East Village) to ask for their help in any way possible. There are a couple of groups that are heavily involved with me logistically to make this happen, but I don’t want to go into those details until this gets approved.
Q: The park underwent a significant renovation in 2008, adding many new features. Do these facilities play any role in the Halloween Dog Parade?
A: No and the goal this year is to try to keep people out of the park as its undergoing construction.
Q: What exciting prizes can participants expect in this year's parade?
Q: Do you have any tips or advice for those looking to join the parade for the first time?
A: Get there early!!! Hard to say anything else yet as I still don’t know myself.
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