Gianni Reyes wanted to pet the puppies.
With his mom watching from the sidelines, 1-year-old Gianni reached his hand into the paddock and petted the “puppy” — or a goat in a fenced area at the Utica Zoo.
“He calls every animal a puppy,” said Layonda Reyes, keeping an eye on her son dressed as his own animal — a blue-and-green dinosaur. “His grandma has birds and lizards, but they’re all puppies.”
The Reyes family was one of many families who visited the zoo during its 26th annual Spooktacular event Sunday. Children, parents and families masquerading as animals, superheroes, zombies and pop culture icons roamed the zoo grounds, stopping at trick-or-treat stations promoted by local and national businesses or some of the food and craft vendors. Despite the occasional rainfall, families stood in lines for candy, hayrides and animal exhibits.
Colder weather and spitting rain kept visitor numbers lower than last year for Friday and Saturday’s Spooktacular events — evenings of entertainment more fit for teenagers and adults, said zoo Director Andria Heath. But Heath said Sunday’s attendance was making up for the weekend. Buses shuttling families from an ancillary parking lot for Sunday’s event was something Heath said attributed to the big crowd.
“We haven’t done it for a Sunday event before,” she said. “Usually people get discouraged if they drive all the way up and have to turn around. It’s making a world of difference.”
The Winther family — all five members dressed up as Disney Pixar’s Incredible clan — geared up for their first Spooktacular event. Marisa Winther arranged 7-month-old Ashton in his stroller. Mr. Incredible, aka Mark Winther, carried Ashton, 3, on his shoulders and followed 5-year-old Alaina to the emu and wallaby corrals.
“We love coming to the zoo, and it’s great to kind of have Halloween and the animals together,” Marisa Winther said. “So far, so good.”