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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

This Is Halloween: The NYC Village Halloween Parade

I had only lived in NYC for two months when my life collided with the NYC Village Halloween Parade.

I had ventured into Manhattan  -a curious 18 year old with a pumpkin hat on, ready to experience my first city Halloween.
I got off the subway at 14th Street and saw millions of people gathered for blocks.
My first glimpse of the parade was a giant puppet who was peeking up above the masses as it danced it's way uptown.
I was like a mosquito drawn to a light.
I battled through the crowd to get as close as I could to see the parade, which was still pretty far. I watched for over an hour completely enchanted by the never ending flow of costumed participants, bands, dancers, floats and creativity.
This was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Everywhere I looked people had huge smiles on there faces and so did I. It was almost impossible not to.
The Village Halloween parade had glamoured me like a True Blood vampire, making every memory of Halloweens past seem nonexistent.

I knew I had to be a part of this event somehow, so when the next Halloween arrived I volunteered to carry a puppet.
I had a blast in my first parade, but being a puppeteer was no joke. That giant ghost werked me out! By the end of the night I was so tired and sore that I shoved some candy corn in my face and fell asleep.  

The following year I wanted to try something new and hopefully less exerting, so I joined the awesome team of parade marshals.
I quickly got to know the parade from an insider perspective. While attending pre parade meetings I learned just how much work, energy and love was put in to make this parade by it's "Mom"-Artistic and producing director Jeanne Fleming and her team.
Being a marshal that first year was a big change and a big responsibility.

Everyone from the public to the NYPD looked to me in my official t shirt for directions on where to go, where to park, and even where to pee!
I learned so much that night about how a parade is run and just how many working parts (and brains) it takes to pull it off the night of. Being a marshal had proved to be even more exerting than holding a giant puppet, but I was hooked.

I have spent every year since working on the Parade, but am always haunted by strange reoccurring dreams about it.
In the dreams I am trying to get to the parade to start my marshal job and I can't. I'm always stopped from getting there or inside by something different. A delayed flight, missed train, police officer, car accident and more. I miss the parade entirely, my Halloween is ruined, and i'm so sad.

Last year my bad dream became a reality when Hurricane Sandy hit NYC. The team had had a final planning meet up just days before. We were excited and organized.
Then the storm hit us harder than anyone had expected. They city went dark, and the parade was cancelled for the first time in it's 39 year history.
Everyone involved in the event was heartbroken. It felt like we were living out The Nightmare Before Christmas film, when the mayor announces "Halloween is cancelled this year."

I spent the Halloween day stuck in Brooklyn watching the children of my neighborhood trying to salvage what was left of the dampered holiday. The usual smiles were replaced with worried faces from parents and business owners. No one knew how long it would take for power to come back, train service to restore and schools to be in session.

I looked at the clock that evening at the usual moment of the parade kickoff and tried to imagine myself standing where I had been at that moment for the past ten years. I missed the smiles, the energy, the amazing costumes that participants work so hard on for a year to debut. So many memories came flooding back and for a moment I felt like I was there.

I was there at the parade where creativity rules and people transform 100% into the character they are dressed as. On the night when anyone can live out there wildest fantasy and become a star in front of an audience of thousands. Where people from every country, all walks of life, rich or poor come together feeling equal and free.
It is a magical thing to witness, even as a memory.

This year the parade really needs support so that it doesn't become one.

I'm happy to be participating in the Kickstarter for the 40th Annual Parade with my Gaga Tribute.
Please click below to check out the page by clicking below and donate if you can. This is a not for profit organization. Every little bit will help to keep this amazing NYC tradition alive!

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