The votes are in and Michael Mossbarger has been selected as having the best homemade Halloween costume in the nation. He and his wife, Toni, along with five other finalists, were flown to New York City for a Halloween episode of “Live with Kelly and Ryan” that aired this week.
This was the first visit to New York for the Urbana natives and included two nights at the Lucerne Hotel, a bus tour of the city and spending money. First place prize for the costume contest was a $5,000 Amazon gift card plus a free Amazon Prime membership for one year.
“I just entered him online the first week of October and followed their steps,” Toni said. “They sent him some paperwork to sign, then they called him on the 20th and told him he was one of the final six. There’d be more paperwork to fill out, and they were flying us out to New York for the show. The only bad thing was for him to be able to wear the costume on the show he had to be able to put it on within 10 minutes, and that takes about 35 minutes to put on. So we were on the show in different costumes but still sitting with the rest of the finalists.”
Michael estimated it would have cost $1,800 to ship the 8-foot tall costume to New York, which would have resulted in him standing off to the side in the studio from 7:30 to 11 a.m. Instead, he dressed as a veterinarian while Toni dressed as a cat.
“We were the only finalists from Ohio,” Toni said. There was one from Colorado, and two from Florida. There was a “boxtume” contest with three finalists, and then three in the homemade contest. “They were all super nice people; we all rode to the show together.”
Michael originally created the costume last year and walked around in front of his father-in-law’s house on Halloween night. Toni said it was too late for her to nominate him for the contest last year. This year he faced competition from Mrs. Pac Man and a Spicy Cheeto.
“We weren’t really sure of our chances,” Michael said. “I knew I had a good costume, but we were just relying on the voters.”
“Once we found out there were so many different sites for people to vote on, we couldn’t even follow it anymore,” Toni added. “We still don’t know the total number of votes we got because there was Instagram, Facebook and their own online on the show. I know the lady who won the boxtume contest as a pink camera, she had over 6,000 votes total between everything. His (vote tally) could have been pretty high, because he had 1,800 just on Facebook.”
Michael didn’t know he was in the contest until his wife informed him. It was her suggestion for him to try using stilts. It took him about five and a half weeks to create the original design in his garage using wood, fabric and foam. According to Toni, Michael had always wanted to create a big, elaborate costume but this was his first opportunity.
“Normally I work second shift so I never got the chance,” he said. “But I finally got the chance to be on first shift, so now I’m able to get a little more involved in the holiday. That’s usually my favorite time of year anyway.”
“We always dress up at my dad’s and pass out candy, because there’s usually a lot of kids there,” Toni said. “He’s been kind of competing with my nephew (recent Air Force graduate Landon Murray, 20) for the last couple years with secrets of what they’re going to be. So last year when he walked down the street in that the look on my nephew’s face was priceless.”
Toni said she was grateful to be involved in the quick trip to New York, leaving on Monday and returning to Urbana Wednesday night, which involved a lot of hustle and bustle. The bus tour started at Times Square and passed through Lower Manhattan, Soho, China Town and Fifth Avenue coming back. They saw the Empire State Building, the top of Statue of Liberty, and the Chrysler Building.
They also barely missed the terrorist attack that killed 8 and injured 13.
“We were only two blocks away,” Michael said. “They had to stop the bus and figure out where to go to change our routes.”
Toni said she is glad to be back in Urbana, where she is the manager of PAWS Animal Shelter, because you don’t see grass in New York. Michael is a forklift driver and says he has an art background. Nearly 20 years ago he painted a mural at Rockin’ Robin and it is still on the restaurant wall. He now airbrushes fishing lures, has done a few portraits and is working on next year’s costume.
“We want to thank everybody for voting,” Toni said. “It’s been overwhelming how many people shared his picture on Facebook, and we hope to do it again next year.”
Christopher Selmek can be reached at 937-508-2304.