Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Dog Days of Autumn: Unleash family fun at Fort Hunter’s Howl-O’Ween.

If you find dogs in costumes to be more appealing than all those Reese’s and Hershey’s bars combined, Dauphin County’s Fort Hunter Park has a sweet treat for you.

On Oct. 27, Fort Hunter hosts its second annual Howl-O’Ween, which will attract all kinds of doggies in disguise—and other sociable pets are invited, as well.

You are encouraged to dress for the weather, and if you are really in the spirit of the season, dress to complement your costumed canine.

Last year’s head-turners included two white dogs dressed as Oreos (they were the creamy centers, of course), a Rhodesian ridgeback that was a dead-ringer for a lion, a “Superdog” with an entourage of superheroes, a skunk, a lumberjack and Eeyore joined by the entire Winnie-the-Pooh crew.

All of those costumes were showcased in the parade.

Because a handful of the more “free-spirited” dogs decided to stray from the neat procession line, the parade will be replaced this year by individual appearances. Every furry friend will have their day as they walk across a stage on the lawn by the barn for their five minutes of fame and can enter to win a prize as the funniest, scariest, most creative or other contest superlative.

Last year, the free event surprised even the organizers by attracting a crowd of some 500 animal-lovers and their beloved pooches—along with one old goat (who just came as he was), said Julia Hair, park manager.

Besides the always-irresistible dogs in dresses, the famous rescue dog, Libre of Speranza, will be on hand.

Also on tap will be an obedience demonstration by Mia Sumata, an agility demonstration by the Dauphin Training Club, Steppin’ Woofs dancing dogs demonstrations, and sheep herding demonstrations by Marianne Walters.

Guests can also dress up their pets in mustaches, hats and other hilarious props in the photo booth, sniff their way past pet-themed vendors, have their kids’ faces painted, and decorate pumpkins. Organizations like the Humane Society, Castaway Critters, Furry Friends Network, Honey’s RAID, Speranza and Phoenix Assistance Dogs of Central PA all will be on hand. Pet-themed snacks, hot dogs and beverages will be for sale.

You can bring your cat or any other type of pet, but Hair said that dogs seem to be the best fit.

“This is the perfect time when dog owners and dogs have a place to come to mingle,” Hair said. “There are no expectations—just to be dog owners and get together.”

And if you are not yet a dog owner but want to be, many of the pet rescues will bring animals eligible for adoption with them.

“Last year, it was a lovely, sweet time for people with dogs to enjoy being with their dogs and other dogs, and this gave them the opportunity to do just that,” Hair said.

Hair gave credit to Fort Hunter board President Allen Lengle for the canine inspiration, after he saw a similar idea at Rehoboth Beach in Delaware.

Hair also thinks it’s a match made in heaven because the original owners of Fort Hunter—the Reily family—owned a parrot and a monkey.

She said that some costumes are store-bought and some are homemade, but they are all highly creative.

“This is just a sweet, simple festival on a Sunday afternoon,” she said.

Dauphin County Board of Commissioners’ Chairman Jeff Haste, who oversees the county Parks and Recreation Department, called it a “fun event for families and their pets.”

“On most days, the news can be awful, and this little thing, you come away feeling like hope is not lost. There’s good in the world,” Hair said. “Here, we have happy people and happy animals, and all we needed was a place to hold it.”

So, grab some pumpkin spice coffee, don your creepiest or most comical Halloween outfit, dress the dog, and immerse yourself in some paws-itively adorable puppy love.

Howl-O’Ween takes place Sunday, Oct. 27, noon to 4 p.m., at Fort Hunter Park, 5300 N. Front St., Harrisburg. For more information, visit

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