Future of Village Halloween Parade at risk without funding for festivities
The Village Halloween Parade, a New York institution in its 40th anniversary, is “teetering,” according to its organizer, Jeanne Fleming.
The parade took a huge loss last year when it had to be canceled after Superstorm Sandy, much to the chagrin of at least 28,000 pleading on Facebook for it to go on.
This year, Fleming and her small cadre of devoted artists and dreamers are fighting to bring it back.
They’ve launched a Kickstarter with the goal of raising $50,000, the net loss stemming from last year’s canceled parade.
Fleming noted that with even minimal support from the 60,000 people who participate in the event, it could go on. Add to that the estimated 2 million spectators, and another couple of million who watch on TV — Fleming said it is NY1′s most watched program of the year — and it seems impossible that the Kickstarter is only halfway to its goal.
And there’s no doubt that there is interest in the parade this year: She’s already helping coordinate plans for a group from “the Burning Man community” that anticipates a turnout of 4,000 to 5,000 people.
“If everybody gave a dollar, well, we’ll be fine,” she said.
Part of the issue the parade faces this year is a spike in insurance costs after Sandy, and new demands by parade sponsors for additional — and expensive — cancellation insurance.
The city should have an interest in supporting the parade as well: Fleming said it brings in an estimated $90 million into the city’s economy. The parade’s cancellation last year “was a huge loss for downtown.”
“It’s the best night for business in Greenwich Village and Soho and all the clubs and restaurants,” she said, noting that she has gotten calls from many of them, as well as the Chamber of Commerce.
Fleming has been the parade’s producer since its eighth year. It was started 40 years ago almost by accident by a puppeteer named Ralph Lee who lived in the Village and would walk through the streets with his kids. People followed, and before Lee knew it, it was a parade. Lee was in it for the art and overwhelmed by the logistics of it, so Fleming stepped in and said, “I’ll cover all the parts you don’t want to do.”
“I gave it to myself as a present every year,” said Fleming.
Fleming has always seen the parade as “an opportunity on a big scale for New Yorkers to come out and express their creativity.”
“It was such a great way for ordinary people to be stars of their own movie for a night,” she said. “That’s what fascinates me: It’s the joy that tens of thousands of people experience that night and connectedness that isn’t mediated by a device.”
She described it as a rare opportunity where New Yorkers can find themselves “interacting with each other, with people they don’t know, without the phone, the cell phone, the computer. It’s really live, it’s physical.”
“Kids, black, white, young, old, and they’re all standing there together with these huge smiles on their faces,” she added wistfully. “The parade is like a little utopia where everybody gets along.”
“Everybody’s who they want to be that night,” she added. “I never get tired of it.”
Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat