Village Halloween Parade
New York City
There are few things small about the Village Halloween Parade.
The event heads up Sixth Avenue through Greenwich Village for the 39th time this year, and it's only been growing with age. The parade itself is always elbow-to-elbow across Sixth Avenue, partially because of the giant puppets, more than 50 bands and troupes of dancers, but mostly because anyone who shows up in a costume can march in it.
"The idea behind the parade was always a freewheeling expression of creativity, a celebration of the individual imagination and what we call the new American family," says Jeanne Fleming, the parade's artistic and production director, who has been involved with the parade for 31 years. "Halloween isn't a home holiday, and you don't have to go home and celebrate it with your family. You can celebrate it with your family of friends, and it's very embracing and takes in everybody."
As does this parade. There were 60,000 marchers alone during last year's installment and the groups walking around as the Ghostbusters, performing the parade scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off and ... sigh, again ... dancing the zombie dance from Thriller (seriously, Jen Garner's version of this in 13 Going on 30 didn't drive the dagger in one of this dance's major arteries?) were among the less creative options the parade had to offer.
Lest you worry about whether anyone bothers to dress up as, you know, a parade watcher, the New York Police Department estimated that 2 million people lined the parade route last year. So many lined the route with camera phones, in fact, that Fleming noted the lack of applause from the smartphone-holding hordes and decided that this year's parade theme would be disembodied eyes -- all staring back into those camera lenses.
The giant marching staring contest faces a few minor potholes along Sixth Avenue this year. The cash-strapped city has reduced the length of all its parade routes this year to save on policing costs. An NYPD that already had its hands full with the United Nations General Assembly and the Occupy Wall Street protests may get a bit of a reprieve at the parade this year with the parade falling on a Monday. Though that may also shrink the estimated $90 million take the Halloween parade hauled in for local businesses last year, Fleming says the parade began as artistic expression and has never been solely about the money.
The parade's sponsor sheet backs that up. Intercontinental Hotels, Zipcar and Coca-Cola's Monster Energy are the parade's best known donors, but the list slowly trickles down to locals such as TriBeCa brunch hotspot Bubby's Pie Co. and off-Broadway shows including The Fartiste, based on the life of flatulent 19th-century French musician Le Petomane. The wind-breaking performer would agree: Whether Halloween lands on a weekend or not, the show must go on.
"The Halloween parade is always on Halloween," Fleming says. "It will not be co-opted by the workweek or commercial interest."