Howl-O-Ween Island Paws’ annual Gulf Coast Humane Society fundraiser set for next Friday
It’s that time of year again to dress your dog in the best costume while supporting Gulf Coast Humane Society.
Liza Clouse said they opened Island Paws in 2004 right after Hurricane Charley, which was a down time for the island and businesses.
“We had planned to open in September, but that got delayed until October and it was just sort of a timing thing,” she said. “I don’t know if we would have done a Halloween party had we opened on time in September. It coincided with a good time to kick off the opening of the store and it was small.”
Trasi Sharp said they put some hay bales out by the store and had a Halloween costume contest for the dogs.
“It was just a handful of people. It was neighbors who had dogs. It was just sort of a way to get the name of the store out there,” Clouse said. “We did it as a meet and greet and the store opening.”
This year the annual event will take place from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 27, at the Over Easy Cafe patio, 630 Tarpon Bay Road. Tickets are $15 for adults, and $10 for kids, which includes food and drinks. The MC of the event is Robert Van Wickle, NBC Senior Chief Meteorologist.
“He’s done it a couple of times over the years and is super supportive of whatever event we do,” Sharp said.
As the event built momentum and the crowd grew larger, the owners of Island Paws began selecting groups as benefactors of the event’s proceeds. Sharp said after a few years they began meeting groups from various rescues, which eventually drew light to Gulf Coast Humane Society.
In addition, photographers became a staple of the event providing pet owners with the opportunity to have their animals photographed with hay bales. Additional contests were also added.
By the fourth year of the annual event, the duo bought Over Easy Cafe and Howl-O-Ween Fundraiser moved a couple doors down.
“We have people that call us in February and March, ‘we are planning our vacation, but we always like to come during your event. What days are they this year,'” Sharp said.
Clouse said they have a lot of visitors who do not have their dogs with them, but attend the event to show their support.
“People are excited to get down here and are excited for fall,” Clouse said.
Although many owners dress their dog in costume for the contest, Sharp said it is not necessary.
“Some dogs come without costume, which is great. They just want their dogs to socialize,” she said.
Sharp said a few months ago they began hearing about some of the attendees costume ideas.
“People take pride in saying I won it last year, or took second place and are going for first,” she said.
First, second and third place prizes are awarded for the costume contest.
Raffles are also held during the event, due to the generosity of local island businesses donating gift cards.
This year she anticipates people wanting to attend the event to help their beneficiary, Gulf Coast Humane Society.
“The Gulf Coast Humane Society has done so much to help Hurricane Irma victim pets by opening their food pantry, offices and clinics in trying to help in anyway they can,” Clouse said, adding that they not only need financial and food support, but they are also pushing adoptions as well. “They are really wanting to make space for other animals and increasing their foster network because that helps them.”
Sharp said they have people bring bags of food and donate supplies, which are hauled to the Gulf Coast Humane Society the following day.
Local businesses and individuals sponsor the event, with Island Paws and Over Easy Cafe being the main sponsors.
“We do cover the cost of the food and the alcohol. We do beer and wine. We have a good vendor who supplies treats for the goodie bags,” Clouse said.
Friends of theirs bartend the event, leaving individuals with the opportunity to tip them, again with the proceeds going towards Gulf Coast Humane Society.
“All of our employees and friends all just volunteer their time to work it, cook and serve the food, to bartend, to cleanup. It’s kind of our family and everyone chips in,” Clouse said.