“There were a lot of frustrated New Yorkers and dog lovers that had been a part of this parade and feel that this iconic event in New York City is so critical for both themselves and their companions. So it didn’t take us long to raise our hand. Anytime we see that joy is threatened and dog wellness is at risk, we tend to lean forward into it and say, ‘How can we help?’ And that’s what we did.”
–Tom Arrix, Founder and CEO, Get Joy
When the 33rd annual Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade in New York City was canceled earlier this fall due to permitting challenges and rising costs, dog wellness brand Get Joy wasn’t just going to roll over. Instead, two weeks before the Oct. 21 parade had been slated to take place, the company jumped in as title sponsor and effectively saved the beloved event to the tune of 15,000 very happy human attendees and hundreds of wagging tails.
In partnership with the parade’s organizers, Friends of the First Run—the fundraising group that manages the Tompkins Square Park Dog Run community canine park—Get Joy helped deliver the biggest dog parade in NYC history. (And quite possibly the cutest. The costumes. Oh, the costumes.) The event has traditionally been held within Tomkins Square Park itself. But thanks to the brand’s financial support and acquisition of the proper permits, the parade closed down city streets for the first time and proceeded down Avenue B.
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No registration was necessary to attend and/or participate, but with parade attendees having griped about overcrowding in recent years, Get Joy put parameters in place to ensure the experience was comfortable for everyone. That included distributing 600 wristbands on a first-come, first-served basis to those interested in marching in the parade with their furry friends. Wristband holders also had access to the park stage on 7th St., where the official doggo costume contest was held.
Get Joy’s signature-green VW van led the procession down the avenue from 13th to 7th Streets, while employees and volunteers were on hand dishing out green sunglasses and dog treats, and the brand’s vintage-style bike carts made appearances throughout. To boot, the company’s founder and ceo, Tom Arrix, served as a member of the costume contest judging panel, which entails selecting 40 dogs and their humans to advance to an exclusive competition on the park stage. Get Joy also dished out an array of fun prizes to the winners of categories like Best in Show, People’s Choice and Most Creative.
The undertaking, of course, came with its challenges. It marked Get Joy’s first experience organizing a large event, working with a range of city agencies (including the police department and mayor’s office) and learning the ins and outs of event permitting. Oh yeah, and the team had 13 days to pull it off. That’s ruff.
“We took it as if we were launching a product, and we had 13 days to figure it out.”
–Tom Arrix, Founder and CEO, Get Joy
The strategy entailed Get Joy, Friends of the First Run and volunteers jumping on multiple calls each day and developing a robust communications plan that leveraged “any kind of network distribution that we could control,” including email and paid and organic ads. Social media messaging had a calming undercurrent that reassured anxious pet parents that the parade was back on, and a lighthearted tone that spoke to the company’s joyful brand promise.
Despite the obstacles, however, the brand says the parade was so perfectly aligned with its mission to improve families’ lives and nurture dogs’ minds, bodies and souls, that it was a true labor of love.
“If you believe in something way bigger than yourself, and in this case way bigger than our company—we really wanted to bring joy to those in New York City—anything’s possible,” says Arrix. “You tend not to get caught up in the small hurdles that sometimes can trip you up.”
Arrix says he hopes to make Get Joy part of the Tompkins Square Halloween Dog Parade for many years to come as the brand continues working to “build the future of what a dog community really is and needs to be” and demonstrate the parallels between human and canine well-being.
“Live experiences allow us to really tell our story,” he says. “Our purpose is to improve the lives of dogs and families. And when we can talk about that to people, whether it be on a one-to-one or one-to-many [basis], we believe that people quickly understand what dog wellness is and how they can uniquely create their own journey of dog wellness… It’s way more purposeful and valuable when we can tell those stories in person.”
Inside the ‘Met Gala for the canine community’:
Photo credit: Matt Ferr