“I of the Beholder” was the theme of the 2011 Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, inspired by French surrealist painter Odilon Redon’s “Eye Balloon” —— hence the eyeball balloons. The 2012 parade was canceled in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
BY ELISSA STEIN | Last week the city was buzzing with the news that the Village Halloween Parade, a Downtown tradition for 39 years, is not definite for 2013. If the parade producers don’t raise $50,000 by Oct. 21, the annual event won’t take place this year. Sixty thousand participants won’t be showing off their costumes. Two million viewers who pack Downtown streets will have to find alternative festivities. And the city won’t reap the millions of dollars it has in the past.
Jeanne Fleming, the parade’s producer for the past 33 years, maintains the October extravaganza takes care of the city’s spirits, that New York City’s largest annual free gathering is a cultural event about creativity and imagination. It was the first major event to take place in the city after 9/11. And after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, organizers hired two New Orleans bands to come up and participate in the parade.
From its humble start with revelers winding through Village streets, to the worldwide phenomenon it is now, the parade has become an institution much larger than the neighborhood it takes place in.
Last year, 12 hours before start time, the parade was canceled. In Superstorm Sandy’s aftermath, the Village was still blacked out. Surrounded by such devastation, organizers knew it wasn’t an appropriate time for large-scale celebrating. But the cancelation created this year’s financial challenges. Along with disappointment from participants, not hosting the parade will affect the Village as well.
“It’s a huge day for our local businesses…I think it’s a shame,” said William Kelley, executive director of the Village Alliance business improvement district, when asked about the potential of no parade.
Tom Gray, executive director of the Greenwich Village-Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, concurred, saying the event brings people to the neighborhood, and that hopefully people will pull together and help make it happen this year.
One longtime resident said that while he wasn’t a fan of the parade, not having it would strip the Village of part of its cultural history. Some fondly remember the event’s earlier years, when police barricades weren’t necessary and one could easily move through the neighborhood in spite of the revelry.
Some bemoan the music-filled floats passing by late into the evening and sidewalks packed too tight to walk on and streets that can’t be crossed. Meanwhile, others feel it’s a fun annual celebration starting with early trick-or-treaters and ending with late-night costume gazing.
My own home is split. One child is devastated the parade might not happen — it’s a dream of hers to walk in it when she’s older. The other hates the noise and congestion that prevent us from going outside.
This year the parade’s theme is “Revival! Hallelujah Halloween!” embracing how New York City comes back no matter what it’s challenged with. Promoters are hoping that everyone will chip in to keep the event on the calendar. They’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the necessary funds. Should they be successful, Jefferson Market Library’s giant spider will be back.