Having traveled to 70 countries in her lifetime, Michele Riggi can assert with total confidence “there’s not one city in all those places like Saratoga.” Fresh off of a 17-day adventure around the world, including visits to Nepal, China, and Hawaii, Riggi returned home for another special adventure—Halloween at her own home.
For the past 11 years, Riggi and her husband have hosted incredible Halloween festivities, which include cash hidden in chocolate bars, free donuts and cider, petting ponies, a pumpkin weight guessing contest, and incredible decorations. Riggi cannot be missed during the festivities, as she wears an ornate custom-made Cinderella gown. To go along with the Cinderella theme, she also borrows a carriage from the Great Escape amusement park which she places outside her home.
Although Halloween is their trademark event, the Riggi Family is involved in Saratoga life throughout the year. Michele, a former ballerina herself, is the President of the Museum of Dance here in Saratoga Springs. Her son-in-law, David Zecchini, is the owner of various popular restaurants including Forno and Boca Bistro. The family has very generously supported the community, and recently made a donation of one million dollars to the local YMCA to expand their facility.
But what the family is most well-known for is their home on North Broadway. The home has become a hallmark of the upscale residential area that borders downtown. Cars frequently pull over to take pictures of one of the most elaborate properties in the area. The Pallazzo Riggi is home to Michele, her husband Ron, and their famous pets. The interior of the home is equally manicured as the exterior—flowers cover tables, chandeliers hang in various different rooms, and the foyer hosts incredible fresco walls. The Riggis did not build the house for themselves; instead, they built the house with the love of their dogs in mind. At the time that they moved in they only had 13 dogs, a pack that has more than tripled in size since.
The Riggi’s pack of dogs has now grown to 41, given the recent addition of Boo, a deaf rescue chihuahua. Taking care of this many dogs is very time-consuming, so the Riggis have a special housekeeper who spends the day looking after them. “These dogs are kept better than most people,” Riggi says as she explains how it is particularly hard to take care of a group this large. “They [are like potato chip]—you can’t just have one.”
At the start of each day, the dog bedding is changed and each of the four dog bedrooms are cleaned. Then it is time for them to be fed. The feeding of all 41 dogs takes about an hour-and-a-half, as each dog gets fed individually to prevent any fighting for food. The Pallazzo Riggi orders and cooks 100 pounds of organic meat every three weeks. The broth from the meat is mixed with grains before each portion is frozen. This food diet is satisfactory for most dogs, and even helped some lose weight. After the feeding is done, it is time to give some of the older dogs their medications. Keeping track of all the medications and making sure that they always have some left is one of the hardest parts for Michele Riggi about having this many dogs.
The Riggis go to great lengths to ensure the happiness of each and every one of their dogs. One of the eldest dogs, for example, refuses to eat the chicken based meals and instead will only eat McDonald's cheeseburger patties. Every other day, Riggi goes to McDonald's to get eight cheeseburgers for him.
Keep an eye out at the Riggi house as she is now installing her Christmas decorations. For those who missed all the pumpkins in the yard and Halloween decorations, do not worry because she plans on bringing them back next year. She even has ideas on how she can make Halloween at the Riggi’s even better and bigger for the following years.
Michele dreams of a Halloween Block Party, in which the entire block be closed to traffic, to make the festivities even bigger. In addition, she is considering changing her iconic costume: from Cinderella to something new. Although she is not sure what that costume will be, there is no doubt it will be lavish-just like everything else Riggi.