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Halloween parade, Oct 2014 – 68
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Image by Ed Yourdon
(more details later, as time permits)

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I have a confession to make: I’ve lived in New York City for 45 years — but until last night, I had never attended, observed, photographed, or participated in the annual Halloween Parade that takes place in Greenwich Village. I can’t be blamed for the first few years: I moved to NYC in the late 60’s (on Bleecker Street, right in the middle of the West Village), and the parade did not begin until 1974. But that means last night’s parade was the 40th such event … and for some reason, I missed them all.

But I was there last night … a little unsure of myself, for the parade did not actually begin until 7 PM, an hour after sunset. Even at 5 PM, the sun has usually dropped so low (in the fall and winter months) that the light is pretty mediocre for photography — and it was a cold, gray, overcast day as well. So I brought my flash along, even though I’ve rarely used it, and wandered through the crowd to see what I could find.

And it was a crowd: as early as 1985, it was estimated that some 250,000 people were participating in the event; I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a million people there last night. But at first, I couldn’t find any of them: the newspaper had announced that people could arrive at a pre-parade “staging” area on Canal Street and Sixth Avenue … but when I got there (early, as usual), there was not a soul to be seen. But I eventually noticed some costumed people who seemed to know where they were going … and I could hear music in the distance … so so I began heading north, and found the beginning of the crowd scene about three blocks further north, on Broome Street.

After that, it was sheer bedlam for the next couple of hours — until the parade officially began moving north on Sixth Avenue, right at 7 PM. The costumes were overwhelming — everything from witches and goblins, monsters, the GhostBusters, kings and queens and pirates and aliens. There were a few topless women with thick psychedelic body-paint to provide a small amount of modesty, and there were several groups of dancers who had obviously practiced dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” which blared loudly from several sound systems. Meanwhile, there were drummers and samba bands, steel bands, and informal groups doing their best to provide the crowd with Italian, Chinese, Irish, Dixieland, and African music…

After I left the parade, I took the subway from Canal Street up to 14th Street to meet my wife for a quiet dinner at a small Italian restaurant in the neighborhood. But everywhere I went — streets, sidewalks, subway stations — it seemed that all of Greenwich Village had been caught up in the revelry.

Beyond that, it’s impossible for me to describe the noise, the music, the costumes, and the overall revelry. For an overall summary, you might want to look at this Wikipedia article

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_York’s_Village_Halloween_Parade

But I think the only way to really understand what the NYC Halloween Parade is all about is to be there. Words don’t really suffice …

Geoffrey Oryema
african music
Image by MirjamvandenBerg

Kusun Ensemble at the DIA [50D-2392]
african music
Image by Juan N Only
Kusun Ensemble, a music and dance troupe from Ghana, West Africa at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan on June 25, 2010.

Click here to View Large On Black.

[These photos are under a Creative Commons license. If you wish to license them for commercial purposes, want to purchase prints or are interested in commissioning me to take photos, please send me a Flickr mail or visit my website, www.juannonly.com/, for contact information. Thanks.]

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