For years, it’s been a colossal spectacle, with deep crowds lining Sixth Avenue, thousands of marchers donning fantastically creative props and costumes, and live TV coverage capturing each moment.
Plus tons of cops, police barricades, drunken kids, and litter—lots of litter.
But in the early 1970s, the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade was more of a small-scale bit of street theater, a mile-long walk planned by a local mask-maker and pupeteer for his West Village neighbors.
The giant caterpillars of the 1998 parade, standing tall on Sixth Avenue
It started in the courtyard of Westbeth, the factory-turned-artist lofts on Bethune Street. From there, a few dozen revelers in masks and costumes—including a man in a lobster outfit and a two-headed pig—wandered along the Village’s side streets to Washington Square.
The parade’s popularity took off fast—as did the number of marchers and viewers. By 1984, the parade grew so massive, the route had to be relocated to Sixth Avenue from Spring Street to 22nd Street to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of people who came to the Village to see it.