By Lucy Komisar
The annual Greenwich Village Halloween Parade is like a movie you’ve liked a lot, repeatedly. Maybe the “Casablanca” of parades.
It is led by the giant skeleton stick puppets created by the late Ralph Lee, who started the parade as a small event in the 1970s. From the artists’ residence Westbeth at Bank Street and the Hudson River, it flowed out into the streets and took over the Village. Alongside the skeletons are just as giant billowy puppets.
As a parade started by artists, there is always very clever art. “Van Gogh” has been here before, this year joined by “Mona Lisa.” Is the lady on a stove an example of “found object art”?
Political commentary always features. The peace symbol is still there, if apparently of little impact these days! (Is the bomb a sign for warmongering?)
Other marchers have more current protests: “Scream if your rent is too high” with a mask of the famous “Scream” by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. Or, “Remember when women had rights?” and “Remember when kids were safe in school?”
There are always clowns and clowny figures, here a fireman and dog (a woman), a scary nun and priest, and two red-skinned devils (note the horns).
The nationalities appear, Mexican (“the day of the dead” figures), Asian, and, can we count the French aristocrats?
Music all along the way, including (love the name) the “L Train Brass Band.” For non-New Yorkers, the L line subway train goes between Manhattan and Brooklyn with a stop at Sixth Avenue and 14th Street on the parade route.
The major giant puppets and bands are excellent. I liked many very clever individual costumes. Can’t resist including the mustard guy!
Leaving, I paid obeisance to the iconic spider on the Jefferson Market Courthouse Library.
The only problem is that aside from special groups, bands and dancers, who are roped off to give them space, the marchers are so jammed together, 10 abreast, that you miss most of the inventive costumes. I could focus only on those walking at the west side of Sixth Avenue where I stood.
The march took two hours, so I don’t see a solution in spreading marchers out – it might take double that time. Perhaps organizers could limit the parade to those with real costumes, as in spite of the “rules,” many had none. Or put them at the end.
Some advice: Check the lighting. The march starts downtown at 7, but gets to West 10th Street at 8pm. By then it’s dark, so if you see in the Village, a good place to watch is near 10th Street at the Jefferson Market Library where the TV cameras set up with klieg lights and brighten the street.
All photos © by Lucy Komisar.