The Village Halloween Parade’s humble start

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.

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12 Responses to “The Village Halloween Parade’s humble start”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    Before it became regimented the ghouls and goblins, plus the other fairies, went in whatever direction they pleased. With mobs of people came the cops and we had to follow their parade route. Very early I stopped going to it…

  2. petey Says:

    i went once in the late 70s. i brought a camera and wondered if people would mind, but they were ASKING to be photographed! a wonderful time, wild scenes, but it soon became controlled (as mick says) and i never went back.

  3. wildnewyork Says:

    For a brief moment it probably was inventive and amorphous, and then it pretty quickly went commercial. I’m afraid the Idiotarod may be going the same way!

  4. ‘I Could Have Tweeted All Night’ - City Room Blog - Says:

    […] at the origins of the Greenwich Village Halloween parade. [Ephemeral New […]

  5. Jake Brady Says:

    Guess that is how history is made. Happy Halloween to all of you.

  6. Sean Says:

    I often remark to friends how in the last twenty years or so, all over the country Halloween has become widespreadly so commercialized and its celebration now observed by adults.

    I ‘blame’ this on the Village Parade, which, once it was popularized on TV, was copied by the rest of the country. I was in a small city in the midwest last week, and my host commented on all the Halloween lawn decorations, which were never like that when she was growing up. Then, just a few kids tricked and treated.

    Anyone else have an opinion on the sudden widespread celebration of HAlloween by adults.

  7. wildnewyork Says:

    I like the creativity of the Village parade. But it’s not really about Halloween; it’s theater.

    Halloween is being 10 years old, smearing some fake blood on an old shirt, and joining a pack of friends ringing doorbells for Milky Ways and m&ms. But like so much else that used to belong to kid world, the holiday has been co-opted by adults.

  8. Stuart Betheil Says:

    I have always been amazed about the huge success the Haloween Parade has become.

    I was the Managing Director at Westbeth starting with the second year of the parade.

    It was rather a small parade in those early years….

    I marvel at the wonderful event it has evolved into over the years!


  9. normapadro Says:

    I like the photo. I only went to the parade two times, but didn’t like it. I like the Pride Parade. I used to go almost every year since I was a teen. I don’t live in nyc anymore, but do go to the parade in the new city that I live in now.

  10. Halloween greetings from an older New York City | Ephemeral New York Says:

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    […] didn’t go to the Halloween parade in Greenwich Village because you had never heard of it. You went trick or treating in your building or on your block […]

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