MAPLEWOOD/MILLBURN, NJ - Pet owners brought their canine companions to the Essex County South Mountain Dog Park in the South Mountain Reservation for the annual Strut Your Mutt Canine Costume Parade and Contest on Saturday, October 21.

Dogs in costumes of all kinds and their human handlers, many in coordinated attire with their pets, participated in the parade, with judges naming winners for Cutest Costume, Most Creative Costume,Best Owner-Pet Costume, and Best in Show.

Aaron and Kelly Sandler of Maplewood won Best in Show with their puppy Daisy who was dressed as a pineapple.

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Aaron said he was happy but surprised by the win, "we were the very last winner to be called and I totally didn't expect it!"

Kelly agreed, "Our puppy is only 12-weeks-old so we've never done anything like this before. My brother and I just came to see all the dressed up dogs because we both love dogs, but it was so fun to win!"

There were two SOMA winners in the Best Owner-Pet Costume category. Kayla Rexford from South Orange and her team, who were dressed as characters from the Wizard of Oz, won first place. Stephen Weiss from South Orange and his pet Sierra, who were dressed as businessmen, won second place.

Aaron commented that he thought there should have been a Scariest Costume category, and if there was, that the dog dressed like a mummy "would definitely be the winner."

All of the award winners from the Essex County South Mountain Dog Park Contest are as follows:

Best in Show: Kelly and Aaron Sandler from Maplewood and their pet Daisy, who was dressed as a pineapple.

Cutest Costume: First place: Hani Dean from West Orange and her pet Princess Asha, who was dressed as a princess. Second place: Shirley Cain from Caldwell and her dog Pip, who was dress as Pirate Captain Pip Squeak. Third place: Regina Mahon from Bayonne and her pet Gizmo, who was dressed as an astronaut.

Most Creative Costume: First place: The Hummert family from Millburn and their pets Angus and Clyde, who were dressed as characters from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Second place: Taylor Shapiro and her pet Luke, who was dressed as a Native American. Third place: Joy Scally and her pet William, who was dressed as a train conductor.

Best Owner-Pet Costume: First place: Kayla Rexford from South Orange and her team, who were dressed as characters from the Wizard of Oz. Second place: Stephen Weiss from South Orange and his pet Sierra, who were dressed as businessmen. Third place: Paul Subon from Bloomfield and his pet Finley, who were dressed as a spoon and container of ice cream.

Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. presented the awards. “Our Dog Parks have become popular places for dog owners to bring their pets, and our Canine Halloween Costume Parades are another opportunity for the public to enjoy our historic Park System,” DiVincenzo said. “I am always amazed and impressed with the creativity of the costumes. Congratulations to the winners,” he added.

There was also a Strut Your Mutt event at Brookdale Dog Park in Bloomfield/Montclair on October 21. See the full list of winners here.

Note: Anna Sandler, editor of TAPinto SOMA, is the mother of Kelly and Aaron Sandler, and owner of Daisy.