New York City is known for its parades. From the splendor of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to the weird and wacky Coney Island Mermaid Parade, we just seem to like shutting down traffic to march for something. One of the most popular New York City parades is the Village Halloween Parade, which this year celebrated its 45th edition.
The history of the Village Halloween Parade dates back to 1973, when an informal parade of puppets was put on for the kids by the Westbeth Artists Community. Since then, a Halloween parade has been held each year, except for 2012 after Hurricane Sandy. It has grown into a massive spectacle, and it’s one of the most popular events of the year in the city.
The Village Halloween Parade route runs along Sixth Avenue, from Spring Street to 16th Street. Since there’s so many people marching/spectating, it becomes a huge production and certain subway stations are shut down. The NYPD is out in full force, keeping all of us safe.
I had never heard about the Village Halloween Parade until my parents went to it about 10 years ago. My mom basically demanded that I go this year to at least spectate, especially with the weather being what you could consider almost warm for Halloween. I figured that walking in the Village Halloween Parade would be a really cool thing to do, so I tried to decide on something easy to wear.
My original costume ended up being a massive disaster. I wanted to go as Debbie Harry, and I ordered a special blonde wig and found the most “Village” outfit I could. It was a mess, so I decided a lame costume was better than missing the parade entirely, and I threw on some cat ears and drew some pitiful whiskers.
After a long subway ride down to Canal Street, it was time to start the Village Halloween Parade!
Just kidding! Here’s the thing about having more than 50,000 people marching in a parade - you need a lot of crowd control to keep everyone in order and prevent a reenactment of the stampede from the Lion King. This means standing and waiting. A lot (easily more than an hour and a half) of standing and waiting. If you aren’t a fan of crowds, or the thought of standing around for hours makes you cringe, then you will 100% want to sit this one out.
Standing around was pretty boring, but it did give me a chance to look at some of the costumes of the people around me. I felt woefully inadequate in my cat ears and bad makeup job, but such is life. There were people in less of a costume than I was, so it wasn’t really a big deal.
After waiting for what felt like forever (I sent out more than one “omg never again” texts), we finally passed the waiting floats and started our march in the parade.
Let me tell you, if you’ve never marched in a parade before (or even if you have!), the Village Halloween Parade is a real treat. The streets are lined with people, all cheering and taking your picture. You’re surrounded by crazy costumes, talented performers, and floats playing music. It’s really a cool experience. For those who are big into making intricate Halloween costumes, this is your chance to shine.
The Parade route goes on until 16th Street, when you’re diverted over to the next Avenue with the thousands of other walkers. Then it’s time to clear out and find a way home, which is probably more challenging when you have a big costume on. For me, I was so exhausted that I practically ran to the closest subway to head back to Queens.
I think the Village Halloween Parade is one of those New York City events that requires more than just “showing up” to enjoy. Like most of my bucket list items, I did this one by myself. With all the waiting around, I really think I would have had a better time if I had at least one other person with me. For me, especially with my slight attempt at a costume, this just seemed like a really crowded Halloween. If I walk again, I want to actually put some effort into my costume. Otherwise, maybe I’ll just head to the sidelines to watch.