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October 24th, 2007

It’s Halloween in NYC: DANCE, LITTLE GOBLIN, DANCE!

by Mr. Norman Maine

You’re in New York City, a place that’s strange enough most days of the year, but this day above all days…oh this day, you’re allowed to be as odd as you can possibly be! It’s 5 o’clock and you’re putting the finishing touches on your makeup, the buzzer to your apartment rings, you answer it and head back to the mirror. Suddenly the door swing open and there is Freddy Krueger in drag, an Octopus with 93 tiny tentacles, and The Supremes–all men, all white in black face, and tonight it’s ok. You jam yourselves into the elevator; make your way to the streets and head down to the West Village where you seek out a prime viewing spot, while maintaining close proximity to several bars.What’s all the excitement about? Why, it’s Wednesday. No, seriously…it’s HALLOWEEN!

This year marks the 34th Annual Greenwich Village Halloween Parade.What was started by a Greenwich Village mask maker and puppeteer in 1973 as a walk from house to house in his neighborhood for his children and their friends has become one of the biggest annual celebrations in this or any other city. After the second year of this local promenade, Theater for the New City stepped in and produced the event on a larger scale as part of their City in the Streets program. In 1975 the Parade went through many more streets in Greenwich Village and attracted larger participation because of the involvement of the Theater. After the third year, the Parade formed itself into a not-for-profit organization, discontinued its association with Theater for the New City and produced the Parade on its own.

Today the Parade is the largest celebration of its kind in the world and has been picked by Festivals International as “The Best Event in the World” for October 31. After the 8th year, when the crowd had reached the size of 100,000, Celebration Artist and Producer Jeanne Fleming (a long-time participant in the Parade) took over the event. She began working closely with the local Community Board, residents, merchants, schools, community centers and the Police to ensure a grass-roots, small “Village” aspect of the event, while at the same time preparing for its future growth. Now, 26 years later, the Parade draws more than 50,000 costumed participants, and spectators estimated at 2 million line the parade route of 6th Avenue and Spring Street to 21st Street. Originally drawing only a postage stamp sized article in the New York Times, all media–local, national and worldwide, now cover the Parade. NY1, the New York City channel, covers the three and one half hour parade with celebrity guest commentators, and the parade itself boasts several famous grand marshals; last year Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of KISS proudly rode in the parade in full KISS makeup.

The Parade won an Obie Award and has been recognized by the Municipal Arts Society and City lore for making a major contribution to the life and culture of New York City. In 1993 the Parade was awarded a major NEA Grant for Lifetime Achievement and in 1994 and 1998–it’s 20th and 25th Anniversary Years–it was awarded Tourism Grants from both the Office of the Mayor of the City of New York and the Office of the Manhattan Borough President in recognition of its economic and cultural contribution to New York City. Additionally, the Parade has been the subject of many books, scholarly dissertations, independent films and documentaries due to its position as an authentic “cultural event.” In 1994, The Mayor of the City of New York issued a Proclamation honoring the Village Halloween Parade for 20 years of bringing everyone in the City together in a joyful and creative way and being a boon to the economic life of the City. The Proclamation concludes: “New York is the world’s capital of creativity and entertainment. The Village Halloween Parade presents the single greatest opportunity for all New Yorkers to exhibit their creativity in an event that is one-of-a-kind, unique and memorable every year. New Yorkers of all ages love Halloween, and this delightful event enables them to enjoy it every year and join in with their own special contributions. The Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village is a true cultural treasure.” In that same statement, the Mayor declared the week of October 24-31 to be “HALLOWEEK in NYC in Perpetuity.”

Perhaps the event’s finest hour came only 7 weeks after the tragic events of 9/11, when Mayor Rudolf Giuliani insisted that the Parade take place, stating that it would be a healing event for New York. The Giant skeletons that usually lead off the parade were temporarily retired that year, and with the eyes of the world looking on, a giant Phoenix puppet rising out of the ashes led the thousands of marchers up 6th Avenue. The smoldering ashes from the rubble were still visible in the night, as the hole in the sky where the Twin Towers stood insistently reminded us of what had happened. Hundreds of millions of viewers worldwide watched as the Parade provided tangible evidence that NYC was enduring, safe, surviving, and spirited in the face of great tragedy and hardship. In 2005. the parade paid tribute to New Orleans and invited all Katrina evacuees to join in a Funeral Procession Tribute to the stricken city. Over 8,000 evacuees showed up for the Parade and Benefit.

I have to ask you, is there anything like this city anywhere, really? Christmas in New York is just like a wonderland, there is no where else but Times Square to ring in the New Year, we have Springtime For Hitler (on Broadway), summer in the Hamptons, The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and we, the collective we, the whole city, we own Halloween. So dress up, be funny, be scary or kooky and odd, let the real you out and deny it all the next day. Just be safe and have big fun because it’s Halloween in the village, and everyone is celebrating.

PARADE TRIVIA:

The parade is listed in the book, 100 Things to Do Before You Die: Travel Events You Just Can’t Miss.

Boys and girls whose birthdays fall on October 31 are invited to march together in a group.

The event brings an estimated $60 million into the city’s economy.

The week of October 24-31 was declared “Halloweek in NYC in Perpetuity” in a 1994 mayoral proclamation.

It was picked as “Best Event in the World” for October 31 by Festivals International.

The second track of Lou Reed’s album New York, “Halloween Parade,” is a tribute to this event.

Filed Under: Articles | Arts & Leisure | Community | Events | New York

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