March Down Main Street – Halloween Parade Memories

There are some big city Halloween parades out there that are pretty spectacular, with New York’s Village Halloween Parade probably being the most notable. This parade has become a huge spectacle with an estimated 60,000 costumed participants and 2 million spectators. It includes hundreds of giant puppets, dozens of bands playing music from around the world, and a plethora of artists, dancers, and other entertainers. Having started in 1973, this parade can even be considered retro. Be that as it may, this post is not about big city parades.

This post is about the little guys, the small towns and suburbs, and the kids (no adult revelers here).

I fondly remember my hometown’s Halloween parade. It started at Ben Franklin Elementary, proceeded down Princeton Pike, and terminated at Lawrence High School. No twists and turns, just a straight shot down the street. The route was exactly 1 mile, which would take the average adult about 20 minutes at a typical pace. But for little kids, blinded by Chewbacca masks or runny KISS make-up; dragging their lassos of truth, dinosaur tails or sacks of candy; and shuffling their clown-shoe-laden little feet, the journey took much longer. It seemed like forever, but was likely about 90 minutes or so.

People threw candy at us children from fire trucks and vintage convertibles. Moms and dads and friendly neighbors lined the curbside in aluminum lawn chairs, admiring the motley crew of characters that marched before them – not to be confused with Mötley Crüe, who was not available.

And the finale was the costume contest in the high school parking lot. “Costume contest” seemed to be code for “mass chaos” as parents shoved their kids around trying to classify them by the appropriate costume category…things like most original, most realistic, funniest, scariest, kids under 5, etc. The worst were parents that tried to enter their kids in all of the categories at once…c’mon, give the rest of us a chance.

I never won a costume contest, which is a shame as I had some awesome homemade costumes, such as the tooth fairy with accessories including a giant tooth and a giant quarter; the Statute of Liberty with working flashlight-based torch, realistic crown, and robe dyed the perfect shade of green; and a robot made from a spray painted cardboard box with plenty of control knobs (painted spools of thread) and a roll of calculator paper streaming from my shoulder.

Even though my parents worked very hard – and spent many late nights – on my homemade costumes, I never won a contest. And don’t tell them, but my favorite getup was always my store-bought Casper the Friendly Ghost costume with vinyl body and plastic mask.

Did your town have a Halloween parade? Did you ever win a costume contest? Check out these delightfully retro paraders and see if you can pick out the best costume!

1953 – Photo from grickily. I like the masked hula girl, she’s keeping it simple. Did everyone need a nondescript plastic mask?

1961 – Image from fluffy chetworth. Naturally, my favorite is the Casper a few rows back; he’s been a friendly ghost since the ’40s. The scene looks pretty American to me, but with all of the moms wearing babushkas, could this be Eastern Europe?

~1974 – Submitted by evil robot 6 – These kids seem to be West Coasters – lucky ducks parading around under swaying palm trees in their short-sleeved cheetah suits, while us East Coast kids were freezing our tails off because we didn’t want to cover our costumes with much needed coats. My favorite is the owl – maybe Woodsy?
Halloween parade

1977 – Pic from Neato Coolville – Room 6 was a good looking cast of characters for sure, but my favorites are the Jawa, the Donny Osmond, and the poor kid at the back that forgot his costume and had to wear a pink mask donated by his teacher.

2010 – Image from hubertk – This photo from just last year is obviously not retro. Yet, I can’t help but be comforted by the similarities between images of Halloween parades from past eras and this modern version. The same classroom full of kids, lead by a teacher or two; same brick school building; same autumn leaves. They even don the same costumes. Classics such as witch (I see two), devil, skeleton, Darth Vader, Minnie Mouse, Spiderman (there are three), Captain America, and other familiar characters. It’s reassuring to know that some things never change and the classics never go out of style.


Don’t look at the dogs, work the lock! You looked at the dogs!

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8 thoughts on “March Down Main Street – Halloween Parade Memories

  1. In elementary school we did this every year and it was the highlight of my school going year. Nothing was learned that day and the school day ended with a singalong in the school auditorium.

    I know they were still doing the same thing at my old school up till a couple of years ago and hope they are still doing it today.

  2. Oddly enough I can still remember the lyrics to many of them, but they were all “cover” tunes of other songs turned into Halloween songs. So they did when the saints come marching in, but instead of saints we were spooks and ghosts. Of course the name of the school was also inserted into the songs.

    I think the first 2 years of school they gave out lyrics, maybe they did after that, but I was committed to the moment and memorized them. Those were good times.

  3. CarlosTheDwarf says:

    I very fondly remember the mad scrambles into the street to collect all that candy thrown from parade floats. It always tasted the best while being eaten on the way home in the bed of a pickup truck (back when you could do that sort of thing).

  4. Love this post and the pictures like a big bowl of candy corns.

    My neighborhood had a halloween parade for years, and I distinctly remember being dressed as the Hulk and thinking “the judges must not have seen me because I didn’t win.”

    Our town still does a main street parade, and both of my kids will march in it.

    Thanks for the great post.

  5. I remember several of the songs we used to sing at school around Halloween time.

    One was called “Skin and Bones”, and I just found the lyrics online:

    There was an old woman all skin and bones, O-o-o-o!
    She lived down by the old graveyard -o-o-o!
    One night she thought she’d take a walk, -o-o-o!
    She walked down by the old graveyard, o-o-o!
    She saw the bones a-layin’ around, O-o-o-o!
    She thought she’d sweep the old church house, O-o-o-o!
    She went to the closet to get a broom, O-o-o-o!
    She opened the door and BOO!

    I remember another one called something like “On a Night called Halloween”, but I can’t seem to find it online.

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