The Theme: The concept behind this year’s parade is Phoenix Re-Rising. Using the same huge, swooping puppet that arose from the ashes the October after 9/11, this year’s festivities are all about rebirth and resurrection for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. “We are keeping the spirit alive,” proclaims Director Jeanne Fleming. In true Mardi Gras fashion, Dixieland bands will perform alongside a section of revelers dressed up in full Fat Tuesday flair. Furthermore, monies raised from entry fees (to secure prime spots in the parade) will go to the Jazz Association of America; an after-party will serve as a benefit for two New Orleans acts set to appear.
The Route: Participants line up from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the HERE Arts Center on the corner of Sixth Avenue and Spring Street. The walk, which begins at 7 p.m., continues up the Avenue of the Americas to 22nd Street.
The Crowd: About 2 million spectators and 50,000 participants are expected. For onlookers, arriving early is key, especially at popular look-out points such as the corner of West 4th Street. Pedestrians will be allowed to cross Sixth Avenue at both Houston and 14th Streets. For less congestion and better views, you’ll want to head further north. Contact the the Department of Transportation at 212-442-1700 for more info on street closings.
The Costumes and the Contest: Last year, a group of zombies and a Michael Jackson impersonator re-enacted his Thriller video over and over. Another group dressed up as dung beetles running furiously after a large piece of shit. Perhaps most surprisingly, a fake news crew, with two well-coiffed anchorwomen (and cameramen in tow), managed to dupe parade officials including Fleming herself. While all parade participants are automatically considered for awards, making the pre-parade line-up increases your chances of being noticed by an undercover agent. (They do exist!) This year’s prize includes two roundtrips on JetBlue as well as two tickets to Wicked, SPAMALOT, Avenue Q and Sweeney Todd. An after-party held at Webster Hall provides a separate chance to win $500 for best costume.
The Puppets: Artists and technicians work together on constructing the giant, papier- mâché monstrosities that lead the parade. The creations take months to put together and sometimes final details are still being added at the last minute. Last year gargantuan penguins were seen as well as larger-than-life skeletons.
The History: Started in 1973 by puppeteer and mask maker Ralph Lee, the Village Parade was initially a house-to-house walk in Greenwich Village with Lee’s kids and about 25 other people. By year three, Theater for the New City had taken over and lengthened the route. Eventually, the Parade splintered off as an independent not-for-profit that reverted to its original grassroots. Even though Fleming said she does not send out publicity, the Parade was named “The Best Event in the World” on October 31 by Festivals International. Thousands of volunteers make it happen. To sign up, contact halloween-nyc.com/volunteer_form.html.