Among the approximately 240 attendees at this year’s Halloween fundraiser for the Secaucus Animal Shelter were Cruella de Vil, King Neptune, and a geisha girl. All three won awards for their costumes at the event, which raised about $10,000 for the shelter.
Held at La Reggia Restaurant, the fifth annual party took place on Friday night, Oct. 30, the eve of Halloween, and featured a delicious buffet dinner. A DJ spun hits from across the decades, culminating in a conga line of festive characters from fiction and fantasy snaking around the dance floor as judges selected the funniest, scariest, most original, and best couples costumes.
Lifelong Secaucus resident Stacy Havlicek took home a prize for the second year in a row, this time as the geisha girl. Last year she was an equally elaborate Marie Antoinette.
“It’s the most awesome thing… And these decorations. Flying babies? I love it.” – Nancy Wells
Havliceck is part of a contingent of attendees from Unico, the Italian-American service organization, who come every year to support the shelter. “A bunch of us have dogs,” she said. “So it’s near and dear to our hearts.”
Vanessa Montesano lives in Clifton and worked at the shelter in the past. She attended with her friend, Michael Press. “This is a doggie fundraiser, so anything for dogs,” she said. “I volunteered with the dogs two years ago at the shelter. I would play with them and help train them and stuff like that.”
The pair were attending the event for the first time, and loving it. “We’re having a great time,” said Press, dressed as an old-school, caped vampire. “The food is wonderful.”
Flying babies and assorted ghouls
This year the party spanned two rooms, with the buffet set up across the corridor from the main banquet hall. “Last year I ran out of space,” said Councilwoman Susan Pirro, the town liaison with the shelter and one of the chief organizers of the event. “This year it’s not as tight.”
“They made a change,” said Gina Corbosiero, the wife of La Reggia’s owner and a major pet lover herself, with two dogs rescued from shelters, six birds, a rabbit, and dozens of koi fish among her menagerie. “They did a nicer job this year. And the props are fabulous.”
“It’s the most awesome thing,” gushed Nancy Wells from Hasbrouck Heights, attending for the first time. “Whoever did this, the decorator, is wonderful. I love Halloween and this whole season. The spookiness, the leaves, the colors, everything about it. And these decorations. Flying babies? I love it.”
She was referring to the zombie tykes circling on a swing set above one of the buffet tables. Skeletons of humans and other beasts sprawled at tables grinning, while demons and mummies and witches and beasts lined the rooms. Assorted evil creatures hung from the ceiling overhead.
All of them belong to La Reggia Banquet Manager Nicole Tuscano. “My husband tells me I work solely for my props,” she laughed. The couple began collecting their gruesome goodies at their home in Secaucus and brought them to La Reggia for a Halloween party years ago. After Tuscano got a job at the restaurant as a bartender, the props moved into an empty storage space upstairs, and the Halloween festivities ballooned.
In addition to the now-traditional Animal Shelter fundraiser, the restaurant holds an even more elaborate Halloween event on Saturday night.
Supporting a good cause
A very special prize was awarded to Rhyta Musto at the end of the evening. The widow of former Union City Mayor Bill Musto, she recently turned 94 years old.
Other attendees came from around the region to support the cause. “My friend knew about this through the Friends of Homeless Animals,” said Little Falls resident (and Shih Tzu owner) Rose Bucci.
“My friend lives in Harmon Cove,” said Luann Pandorf from East Rutherford, explaining how she heard about the event. “I came here two years ago and had a lot of fun. This is terrific.”
“The DJ was great, the food was great, the atmosphere was great,” said Pirro about this year’s event. “We’re raising money for a good cause and people are having fun, and that’s what we want.”
Funds raised at the party will go toward the purchase of a van for the shelter. Currently the shelter does not have its own transportation and needs to utilize the animal control van when it’s available.
“Sometimes it’s out on a call,” said Pirro. “We really need our own vehicle for adoption or fundraising events.”
Meanwhile construction continues on the new isolation building at the shelter. Animals coming into the shelter must first be checked out here to ensure they are healthy before being introduced into the main facility.
“The exterior is mostly complete,” said Pirro. “They’re going to start on plumbing and electrical and the interior very soon.”
Animal lovers take note: a new shipment of puppies is due this Sunday. “They’re Labrador mixes, very cute,” said Pirro. Call 201-348-3213 or visit sasng.org for more information on adopting an animal or donating.
Art Schwartz may be reached at email@example.com.