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New York's Village Halloween Parade

Greenwich Village Halloween Parade
The annual Greenwich Village Halloween Parade in Manhattan is the world's largest Halloween parade.[1]
Tall rod puppets, a signature of the parade.
Papier-mâché masks reflect the evening's Mardi Gras atmosphere.
A Tusken Raider rides a mammoth-sized Bantha puppet, designed by Oliver Dalzell.

New York's Village Halloween Parade is an annual holiday parade and street pageant presented on the night of every Halloween in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of Lower Manhattan. The Village Halloween Parade, initiated in 1973 by Greenwich Village puppeteer and mask maker Ralph Lee, is the world's largest Halloween parade and the only nighttime parade in New York City.[1] The parade reports itself to have 50,000 "costumed participants"[2] and 2 million spectators.[3] 2018 marks the 45th anniversary of the Village Halloween Parade.[4]

It has been called "New York's Carnival." The parade is largely a spontaneous event as individual marchers can just show up in costume at the starting point without registering or paying anything.[5][6] The parade's most signature features are its large puppets which are animated by hundreds of volunteers. The official parade theme each year is applied to the puppets.[7] In addition to the puppets, the website reports that 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, all within 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 New York time and lasts for about two to three hours.[8]

The parade has been studied by leading cultural anthropologists. According to The New York Times, "the Halloween Parade is the best entertainment the people of this City ever give the people of this City." "Absolutely anything goes," says USA Today. "Be prepared to drop your jaw."

The parade is also themed in the video game Tycoon City: New York, published in 2006.[9]


Historical timelineEdit

  • 1973 - An informal parade of puppets for children was organized by Ralph Lee of the Mettawee River Theatre Company around his residence of artists in the Westbeth Artists Community. Parades from 1973 until 1984 would start at Westbeth.
  • 1974 - The parade was still aimed at children and went from Jane Street at the Hudson River to Washington Square Park. About 200 adults and children participated.[10][11]
  • 1975 - The parade was produced by the Theatre for the New City[12] (which at the time was in Westbeth). Lee and the Theatre won Obie Award for the production. The 1975 parade grew to 1,500 participants. The new management introduced more adult elements into the event including a Halloween ball after the parade.[13][14][15]
  • 1976 - Organization of the parade was formally handled by a non-profit organization.[13]
  • 1977 - Route was changed to 10th Street between Greenwich Avenue to Fifth Avenue and still ending in Washington Square. A devil sat at the top of the Washington Square arch where it released balloons and slid down a wire into the fountain. The year also saw the first appearance of giant spider on the Jefferson Market Library.[13]
  • 1985 - With crowds expanding to 250,000, the route was moved from side streets to Sixth Avenue from Spring Street to 22nd Street (although in practice the gathering point was further south at Canal Street and the northern point would be shortened to 16th Street.[16] The change in route ended the connection to Washington Square Park. Jeanne Fleming took over managing the event.[13] The change with its barricades also reduced the possibilities of people joining the parade at any point as had been the case.
  • 1990 - New York University and Manhattan Community Board 2 begin hosting an unrelated Children’s Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village in the afternoons n Washington Square.[17]
  • 1998 - Sophia Michahelles and Alex Kahn become the official designers of the parade's puppets.[18]
  • 1999 - Basil Twist designs the spider that currently appears on the Jefferson Market Library.[19]
  • 2001 - Less than seven weeks after the September 11 attacks the parade was broadcast worldwide and was an indication that New York was bouncing back.[20] The parade was led by a giant puppet of a Phoenix rising out of the ashes. Noticeably missing from the parade was Bread and Puppet Theater which had been a political staple of the parade but was protesting the new War in Afghanistan.[21] Earlier the Bread and Puppet contingent consisted of five blocks of its giant puppets.[22]
  • 2005 - Less than 8 weeks after Hurricane Katrina more than 8,000 storm evacuees attended a funeral procession tribute as part of the parade.
  • 2010 - Haitian Carnival Artist Didier Civil created Haitian carnival figures as a tribute to victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake.[20]
  • 2012 - The parade was cancelled for its only time in the aftermath Hurricane Sandy which had heavily damaged coastal New York City and had left Greenwich without electricity during the parade time. [20]
  • 2013 - A Kickstarter campaign to cover costs of the 2012 closing saved the parade from permanently closing.[20] The campaign raised $56,000 and had a goal of $50,000.[23]
  • 2017 - Less than four hours after Sayfullo Saipov killed 8 people six blocks west of the parade route in the 2017 New York City truck attack the parade proceeded as scheduled. Both Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo marched in the parade.[24]


Parade participant (2004)
Exotic masquerader in beads, feathers, headdress, and face paint (2004)
A masquerader poses in front of a wrought iron fence in historic Greenwich Village.
Celebration artist Jeanne Fleming, the parade's artistic and producing director
Twenty-foot illuminated caterpillars — animated pageant sized puppets designed by Alex Kahn of Superior Concept Monsters — transform Manhattan's Greenwich Village in 1998.
An incandescent baby phoenix conceived and designed by Sophia Michahelles of Superior Concept Monsters rises from fiery ashes to new life in 2001, after the September 11 attacks.
Finishing touches are made to a giant dinosaur puppet in the staging area on parade day.

In 2001, the parade presented a work of puppetry that would become celebrated for its artistry, and remembered in the city's history. After terrorists struck Lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001, events citywide and nationwide were being either scrapped or postponed. Organizers believed the parade would give the city a much-needed emotional release, reform the community, and help it to begin the healing process. They felt that this was the most positive way they, as artists, could serve the city at such a desperate time. "This is the meaning of the Dancing Skeletons that always lead the march: they know better than anyone what they have lost, and so they dance this one night of the year to celebrate life," Fleming told CNN in an interview.

By September 15, Fleming had scrapped the old theme and chosen a new one. Although no one was certain the parade would take place, designer Sophia Michahelles conceived of a new theme, Phoenix Rising, to galvanize the spirit of New York in the wake of the tragedy. A giant puppet of a phoenix, the mythical bird that rises up out of its own ashes, was created by Michahelles in the workshop of Official Parade Puppeteers Superior Concept Monsters. The animated creation was mechanically configured to spread its wings and rise out of fiery ashes, represented by flickering lanterns lifted on poles, encircling the parading figure. On October 25 the parade received final authorization to go ahead. In light of the widely established community relationships which Fleming had cultivated, and the parade's long tradition, Mayor Rudy Giuliani insisted it go on.


  1. ^ a b "Village Halloween Parade".
  2. ^ "Village Halloween Parade".
  3. ^ Village Halloween Parade. "History of the Parade". Archived from the original on July 27, 2014. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
  4. ^ "New York City's 45th Annual Village Halloween Parade". Retrieved 8 August 2018.
  5. ^ "Participate - NYC Village Halloween Parade". Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  6. ^ "Costume Contest - NYC Village Halloween Parade". Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  7. ^ "Artistry - NYC Village Halloween Parade". Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  8. ^ "Village Halloween Parade in NYC guide".
  9. ^ Tycoon City: New York at
  10. ^ "The founder of NYC's Halloween Parade fears he created a beast". 29 October 2016. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  11. ^ "What Happened to the Halloween Parade?". Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  12. ^ "Theater for the New City - Production History, 1970 - 1979". Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  13. ^ a b c d "A history of the Village Halloween Parade: Puppets, performers, and NYC pride - 6sqft". 6sqft. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  14. ^ Skal, David J. (20 June 2016). "Halloween: The History of America's Darkest Holiday". Courier Dover Publications. Retrieved 6 November 2017 – via Google Books.
  15. ^ Franks, Don (22 September 2004). "Entertainment Awards: A Music, Cinema, Theatre and Broadcasting Guide, 1928 through 2003, 3d ed". McFarland. Retrieved 6 November 2017 – via Google Books.
  16. ^ "Participate - NYC Village Halloween Parade". Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Processional Arts Workshop: People". Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  19. ^
  20. ^ a b c d "About Us - NYC Village Halloween Parade". Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  21. ^ Kalish, Jon. "50 Years Of Bread And Puppet Theater". Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  22. ^ Bell, John (30 April 2016). "American Puppet Modernism: Essays on the Material World in Performance". Springer. Retrieved 6 November 2017 – via Google Books.
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Village Halloween Parade marches with message after terror attack". Retrieved 6 November 2017.

Other sourcesEdit

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