The Village Halloween Parade has been called “New York’s Carnival.” A parade is largely a spontaneous event as individual marchers can just show up in costume at the starting point without registering or paying anything.
The parade did begin in the Village, just a bit farther west than its current location at the Westbeth Artists Housing. Once home to Bell Telephone Laboratories, Westbeth opened its doors in 1970 as a very early example of affordable live-work spaces for artists of all disciplines.
One of the building’s residents, Ralph Lee, started the parade as a moving puppet show for his children and their friends in 1974 in the courtyard of Westbeth. Lee is the founder and director of the Mettawee River Theatre Company and an award-winning puppet and mask maker. He had amassed over 100 masks and puppets, which he put to use during this inaugural event.
The parade’s signature features include its large puppets, which are animated by hundreds of volunteers. The official parade theme each year is applied to the puppets. In addition to the puppets, more than 50 marching bands participate each year. In addition, there are some commercial Halloween parade floats.
The official route, on Sixth Avenue from Spring Street to 16th Street in Manhattan, is 1.4 miles long (the distance from the gathering spot on Sixth Avenue from Canal Street to Spring Street adds another 0.2 miles). The parade usually starts at 7 PM and lasts for about two to three hours.
Every year a distinct parade theme is chosen. Master puppeteer Alex Kahn suggests a theme, which is then approved by Fleming. Not only does the theme influence costume choices, but it is the inspiration for the performance that leads the procession. Many themes have been in direct response to national events.
In 2001, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, they chose the theme “Phoenix Rising,” with the hope of lifting the spirit of New Yorkers. Similarly in 2005, after Hurricane Katrina, the theme was “New Orleans Mourned…and Reborn!” Fleming invited all displaced New Orleans residents to gather at the parade, which included a series of giant lanterns depicting New Orleans landmarks.
According to 6sqft.com; ponly.com. Source of photos: internet