HISTORY OF THE PARADE
This year marks the 39th Annual New York’s Village Halloween Parade.
Started by Greenwich Village mask maker and puppeteer Ralph Lee in 1974, the Parade began as a walk from house to house in his neighborhood for his children and their friends. After the second year of this local promenade, Theater for the New City stepped in and produced the event on a larger scale as part of their City in the Streets program. That year the Parade went through many more streets in
Greenwich Village and attracted larger participation because of the involvement of the Theater. After the third year, the Parade formed itself into a not-for-profit organization, discontinued its association with Theater for the New City and produced the Parade on its own.
Today the Parade is the largest celebration of its kind in the world and has been picked by Festivals International as “The Best Event in the World” for October 31.
After the 8th year, when the crowd had reached the size of 100,000 Celebration Artist and Producer Jeanne Fleming, a long-time participant in the Parade took over the event. She began working closely with the local Community Board, residents, merchants, schools, community centers and the Police to ensure a grass-roots, small “Village” aspect of the event, while at the same time preparing for its future growth. Now, 30 years later, the Parade draws more than 60,000 costumed participants and spectators estimated at 2 million.
Originally drawing only a postage stamp sized article in the New York Times, now the Parade is covered by all media—local, national and worldwide.
The Parade has won an Obie Award and been recognized by the Municipal Arts Society and Citylore for making a major contribution to the life and culture of New York City. In 1993 the Parade was awarded a major NEA Grant for Lifetime Achievement and in 1993 and 1997—it’s 20th and 25th Anniversary Years— it was awarded Tourism Grants from both the Office of the Mayor of the City of New York and the Office of the Manhattan Borough President in recognition of its economic and cultural contribution to New York City. Additionally, the Parade has been the subject of many books, scholarly dissertations, independent films and documentaries due to its position as an authentic “cultural event.”
In 1994 The Mayor of the City of New York issued a Proclamation honoring the Village Halloween Parade for 20 years of bringing everyone in the City together in a joyful and creative way and being a boon to the economic life of the City. The Proclamation concludes: “New York is the world’s capital of creativity and entertainment. The Village Halloween Parade presents the single greatest opportunity for all New Yorkers to exhibit their creativity in an event that is one-of-a-kind, unique and memorable every year. New Yorkers of all ages love Halloween, and this delightful event enables them to enjoy it every year and join in with their own special contributions. The Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village is a true cultural treasure.” In that same statement, the Mayor declared the week of October 24-31 to “HALLOWEEK in NYC in perpetuity.”
Perhaps our greatest honor came only 7 weeks after the tragic events of 9/11, when Mayor Rudolf Giuliani insisted that the Parade take place stating that it would be a healing event for New York. With the eyes of the world looking at us, we created a giant Phoenix puppet rising out of the ashes.
Hundreds of millions of of viewers worldwide watched as the Parade provided tangible evidence that NYC was enduring, safe, surviving, and spirited in the face of great tragedy and hardship.
In 2005 we paid tribute to New Orleans and invited all Katrina evacuees to join us in a Funeral Procession Tribute to the stricken city. Over 8,000 evacuees showed up for the Parade and Benefit.
In 2010 the Parade commissioned Haitian Karnaval Artist Didier Civil to make traditional Haitian Carnival figures in
a themed element entitled “Memento Mori!” in support of his efforts to rebuild the Art School in Jacmel, Haiti’s center for Carnival. Again, thousands of Haitians participated in the Parade to mourn and remember all those lost in the earthquake.
Our Mission Statement
New York's Village Halloween Parade is committed to the cultural and imaginative life of New York City and to the advancement of large-scale participatory events in the belief that such events, when artistically inspired, can play a major role in the resurrection and rejuvenation of the City's spirit, economy and the life of its people.
The Halloween Parade plays an important part in the life of the City. It is the only Parade in the country that has at its heart an artistic base. It's generous spirit has nurtured hundreds of thousands of people who reach into their imaginations and take themselves physically out into public to perform and to celebrate. We believe public events of this sort give people the opportunity to claim the open spaces of their City for purposes other than work; to inhabit them with a sense of freedom and spontaneity; to play, thus renew their relationship to the environment. The Parade is a powerful event, for while it is happening, it animates all the senses—sight, sound, smell, taste, color and movement. The emotional response that it generates has a lasting effect on how the participants and those who either watch or hear about the event feel about the places and the people of New York.
Fleeting as it may seem, the Annual Village Halloween Parade provides a subconsciously experienced time structure that lends a sense of durability, continuity and community to New York City life.
This is an event that evokes the muses…
By NYU Professor Greg Steinbrenner
On some days in the City it is easy to imagine that the world, or rather this world, or rather this culture is in decline. There are holes in the street, there are holes in the fabric of society through which more and more people slip into the desolate world of margin and hunger. There are gaping holes in the moral fabric of those who are not marginalized in the material sense; they suffer instead a metaphysical desolation of moral ambiguity. On some days, sadly few, (and for that all the more precious) the City pauses in its rampage, and the people breathe and they grow and they rediscover dreams long stifled. Hope is not dead, nor are dreams and fantasies, that on most days in most people lie dormant. On Halloween the spirits walk and the human spirit talks loudly and clearly, and it all happens at around seven o’clock on 6th Avenue in Greenwich Village.
Crowds. Thrilling and frightening, they appear spontaneously when the subway is late; they appear when the hustlers play the three-card con game; they appear when someone gets arrested; and when Paul Simon plays free in the Park. Crowds appear when the Halloween Parade is about to start. Pools and eddies and swirls of people lining 6th Avenue, standing, shifting, rubbing against the blue police barricades. They appear from out of the depths of the possum-like City, playing dead through the early fall. They come to see the pageant, the spirit of spirit, the crazy line of living expression that gathers a few hours earlier at Spring Street.
The first event is a magnificent living tableau of the spirit of chaos arising organically from the hundreds of marchers. So convincing as chaos is the tableau that one only recognizes that it is only a guise when it sheds its mantle to reveal a parade.
The chaos begins to sound like an orchestra pit with kazoos and steel drums and bongos and tambourines and megaphones and voices uplifted to express great joy. Great joy in expression. What is going on here? This is what I see:
On this night on this street the rules of everyday are set aside. Rules about fitting in, about acting like everyone else to avoid sticking out, rules about assimilation. The margins and center are somehow connected. I see people giving expression to the creative life-affirming parts of their soul. The old women in the Kazoo Band are standing in front of a group of men in G-strings with web headdresses. They will both march up 6th Avenue. What a glorious sight, if only for a moment to share in the rushing splendor of self exhibition! In the pulsating confusion, I am caught up in the spirit of human possibility. Walls are down tonight for the marchers, revealing an indescribably beautiful, powerful, scary realm of diversity. Marchers come in groups—cultural revelers— the group of giddy yuppies dressed as the hundred and one dalmations join forces with 101 other dalmations fleeing a Cruella DeVille of questionable gender.
This pageant evokes the muses. It explodes in a forest of colors and a sea of smiles onto blocks of dazzled onlookers. The New Yorkers lining the streets are doused in a living waterfall of freedom. The pageant is liberation for lifestyles, cultures, and individuals who are given the chance for one night to show themselves as they wish to be seen.
As a cultural anthropologist, my eyes are trained to observe and comment accurately on everything I see, to theorize about anthropological motivations and interpretations of the pageant. Tonight instead I am left with a mood, a feeling, an amazing possibility. In this dark city, in these wearying times, we are still capable of moments of “ecstatic freedom.” And it was not happening on television or on a movie screen, or in my apocalyptic imagination—it was happening in 6th Avenue, right under my nose, in my ears, and in front of my very eyes. Yes, for a moment, I believed that the people around me were really alive.
This piece appeared in the NYU Performance Studies Journal and was written by NYU Professor Greg Steinbrenner. Reprinted by permission of the author.
Artistic and Producing Director: Jeanne Fleming
Associate Producer/Volunteer Coordinator: Natasha Brooks-Sperduti and Clara Ines Schuhmacher
Puppet Designers: Alex Kahn & Sophia Michahelles
Field Marshal: Mike Abegg
Special Projects, Natasha Brooks-Sperduti and Peter Criswell
Wondrous Helpers: Mike Dunlap and Tish Flynn
Operations: Lewis Siris/Public Works
Creative Director of Culinary Affairs: Johanna Bard
Music Coordinator: Matthew Fass
Master Puppeteer: Basil Twist
Master of Television Ceremonies: Peter Rosegarten
Public Relations: Liana Hawes
VHP Logo Designer: Gigi Alvaré
DJ, Television Liaison and Music Specialist: Jordan Matthews
Cruise Director: Harlan Matthews
Artists-In-Residence: Ania Aldrich Ricky Aldrich
Pesto King: Harlan Matthews
Advisor & Friend: Paul Caron
Party Girl: Jen Gapay
Larry Nussbaum (Marshall In Command)
Moira Sauer (Puppet Maker)
Jason Miranda (Puppet Maker)
Debby Lee Cohen (Puppet Design)
Mia Kanazawa (Costume Design)
Mark Kindschi (Technical Director)
Gigi Alvaré (Puppet Design)
Bronwen Rucker (Pumpkin Queen Emeritus)
Rick Russo (Associate Producer)
Dave Kliphon (Web Designer and Master)
Jim Boden Leo Kram Bobby Miller Karl Raabe Patricia Kuharic Larry Nussbaum
Scott Leparaque Adi Ashkenazi Marilyn Stern Lauren Piperno Mary Pathay Allen
Widelux Photos: Elijah Cobb
Videos: www.Karlseye.com Karl Grober
Videos: Jordan Matthews, Editor
Webmasters Extraordinaire: Elena Erber and Stephen Bliss