In the decade plus I've called Park City home, I've come to appreciate a simple fact. For all of its laid-back, easygoing, live-and-let-live attitude, this town gets downright bloodthirsty when there's an award on the line. A magazine is launching a contest to name the best mountain biking town in America? Instantly, all 7,500 residents become cheerleaders, lobbyists, voters, hardcore biking enthusiasts and campaigners. Our quirky community transforms into an agro team with everyone participating when Park City is up for any kind of recognition.
Our collective competitive nature refuses to accept the "it was an honor just to be nominated" or "everyone who participates gets a trophy" theme. We don't just want a chance to play -- we want a spot on the podium. "We're number one, dammit!" might as well be our motto.
In the last year alone Outside Magazine named us the best active town in America, Google recognized Park City for being exceptionally connected, SKI Magazine gave all three of our resorts top-10 billing, the International Mountain Biking Association awarded us the highest honor a mountain biking community can achieve -- Gold Level Ride Town. And then of course there are loads of past accolades, touting everything from our environmental efforts to our nightlife.
But recently Park City made another "top town's for " list and it seems to be getting only limited attention. Granted, if it were the Academy Awards, this designation would be akin to winning the "best make-up and hairstyling in an animated film" category. But at the end of the day, all those gold trophies look identical and you still get to put "Oscar Winner" on your resume. So let's start the boasting process, because Travel + Leisure magazine just named Park City the third best town in America for Halloween.
While the article in the magazine does give a quick mention of the city's ghost tours, the justification for our third-place finish is overwhelmingly dedicated to the Howl-O-Ween dog parade on Main Street. Our award speech should go something like this: "But most of all, I want to thank Fido. If I hadn't adopted him from Furburbia all those years ago, who knows if I ever would have walked in this parade to begin with."
While our furry pals do deserve much of the credit for tolerating those extravagant piglet, ladybug and pumpkin costumes, so too does the canine-loving couple who started this little shindig 12 years ago: Jeff and Kimberly Kuehn.
"People in Park City love any excuse to dress up in costume, and originally, I just thought it would be fun to include the family dog in a celebration," said Kimberly. "Our dogs are such a big part of our lives in Park City -- we take them to parties, to work, to run errands. Why not trick-or-treating, too? That's how the idea started."
And like many ideas that start out as a silly way to have fun, the dog parade quickly escalated to a favorite annual event. Though Kimberly admits even she is a little surprised by how this event has grown.
"Twelve years ago, I bet we had 30 dogs at the most in the parade, and many of them were only wearing their birthday suit. Word got out by a few locals hanging flyers and it was just something different to do. Now, there are close to 500 dogs on Main Street each Halloween," Kimberly added.
And most of those pups don't settle for a few fake spiders on their collar. Their costumes are elaborate, creative, and often times, downright hysterical. There are Great Danes dressed as prisoners, accompanied by Chihuahuas dressed as cops. I've seen the entire cast of the Wizard of Oz, complete with one dog in ruby red slippers parade down Main Street. Dogs dressed as a deck of cards, reggae singers, disco dancers and wine bottles have also been spotted.
"People put a lot of time and energy into their dog's costume," Kimberly acknowledged. "They want it to be a true reflection of their dog's personality, and sometimes their own, too. And of course, everyone wants to have that one costume that everyone else is talking about. Trust me, the people take a lot more pride in the costume contest than the dogs do!"
Which of course, is just one more contest Parkites can get a little crazy about winning.
This year's Howl-O-Ween dog parade starts at 5pm Halloween night on Main Street.
Amy Roberts is a longtime Park City resident, freelance writer and the proud owner of two ill-behaved rescue dogs, Boston and Stanley.