In-the-know travelers go where the locals go. In this monthly series, "Manhattan Like a Local," I sit down with on-the-ground experts in New York City who share insights on their very favorite Manhattan experiences, along with NYC travel tips and strategy.
NYC is the nation's urban hub for Halloween thrills and chills, with much of the activity centered on the wonderfully outrageous Village Halloween Parade, now in its 42nd year.
We chatted with the parade's Artistic and Producing Director Jeanne Fleming, who has been a mastermind behind the parade and other major regional events and festivals for more than 30 years. Here, she discusses the parade's origins and its 2015 theme, and shares helpful tips and tricks for making the most out of this year's event.
The Village Halloween Parade has been the biggest Halloween event in NYC for more than 40 years. How has the event evolved over the years, and what are you most excited about for the 2015 edition?
The parade started as a Village resident and mask-maker walked from his house to his park. Along the way, others joined in—and it grew like Topsy! In those days, maybe 100 people marched in it and I was one of them! I just loved it because I saw it as a celebration of the individual creative imagination. It was not just for artists, it was a chance for everyone to come out and perform, to transform, to come together no matter their differences.
Over the years, word of mouth brought more and more folks both to be in the event and to watch it. Now the estimate is that 100,000 march and 2 million watch! It just kept growing!
This year, our theme is “Shine a Light! In times of darkness, we shine a light.” Since ancient times, that is what folks have done on Halloween – in the dark night, they put an ember in a pumpkin and walked from house to house, bringing a light into the darkness.
For the parade, the light we shine is one of a kind of utopian society, where for one night everyone seems to get along, coming together in a community joined by creativity and imagination. This year, the theme seems to truly resonate with the global zeitgeist, and we hope folks will come to the parade in the modern-day version of the light in the pumpkin: bringing their positive and creative energies into a world that is challenged by divisiveness and fear.
The parade is always crowded. Do you have any tips or tricks for getting great spots for viewing the event?
To me, it’s always best to be IN the parade! It’s crowded at first when it lines up, but then it spreads out and you have room to perform, dance, and enjoy intimate interactions with the audience. To find out how to do that, go to www.halloween-nyc.com. All the details for joining or watching the parade are there. It is also televised on NY1 from 7:30pm to 9:30pm, and then again later, so folks can see it when they get home and look for themselves! Our hashtag for the parade is #ny1boo.
Any suggestions on fun and festive spots to hit up for post-parade revelry?
Webster Hall is our official after-party – the best costumes go over there because there is a $5,000 prize and they have a fantastic Halloween show!