New York City's Village Halloween Parade Returns Canceled last year for only the second time ever because of the pandemic, New York City's storied Village Halloween Parade returns, partly due to one very generous fan.

New York City's Village Halloween Parade comes back to life, saved by a serious fan

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The Village Halloween parade in New York City is back this year after sitting out in 2020 because of the pandemic. It's been described as the city's version of Carnival, and it's one of the largest and most colorful cultural events in New York. The parade also provides a major economic boost to Lower Manhattan. Jon Kalish reports.


JON KALISH, BYLINE: The 48th annual Village Halloween parade will kick off Sunday night at 7 p.m. As in years past, there will be giant puppets, marching bands, floats and thousands of costumed marchers making their way up Sixth Avenue. You never know who will show up at the Halloween parade, as I found in 2001 when I encountered a Brooklynite and his pet goat.


KALISH: I couldn't help but notice that your goat is covered with Metro cards.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Oh, yeah. He's Metro Goat, and I'm Metro Man...

KALISH: (Laughter).

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: ...Able to leap over a turnstile in a single bound.

KALISH: That was just seven weeks after the terrorist attacks on 9/11. But in 2012, the parade was canceled for the first time ever after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy. Jeanne Fleming has been the parade's artistic director for 40 years. She didn't learn that this year's event was on until mid-September.

JEANNE FLEMING: I didn't know. I had no idea. I mean, like everyone else, we were waiting to hear - what's going on with COVID? What's possible?

KALISH: When city officials gave the go-ahead, Fleming scrambled to find sponsors. A crowdfunding campaign netted only about $10,000. Then financial adviser Jason Feldman came forward and contributed $150,000, effectively saving the day.

JASON FELDMAN: I was just trying to do something nice for the city I love, knowing that the people of our city love this parade. Hopefully it's a great turnout and hopefully lots of spectators.

KALISH: Feldman will not be dressed as a knight in shining armor, opting instead for a much more Zen costume. He'll be borrowing a Buddhist monk's robe from a monk in the Catskills. The marchers have been asked to wear medical masks in the staging area but are free to take them off once they begin the mile-long walk up Sixth Avenue. Spectators are being urged to wear masks as they gather on the packed avenue, where social distancing is impossible. Parade director Jeanne Fleming.

FLEMING: One of my favorite puppeteers is not coming because she doesn't feel safe. Other people are not concerned at all. It's the entire gamut of everything that the nation is feeling, that everyone is going through.

KALISH: This year's grand marshal is comedian Randy Rainbow, whose YouTube song parodies have kept the nation laughing during the pandemic. He'll be decked out in a specially made rainbow coat and his trademark pink glasses as he travels on a float with six dancers.


RANDY RAINBOW: (Singing) Sedition. Sedition.

Huh? Look it up.

(Singing) Sedition.

KALISH: That's Randy Rainbows parody of the song "Tradition" from "Fiddler On The Roof." The tradition of the Village Halloween Parade continues Sunday night, and that's a good thing at this point in the pandemic, says parade director Jeanne Fleming.

FLEMING: It's the night when people get to come out and tell their stories, whatever their story is. That's the role that it plays. Can you imagine two years of shutting ourselves in without having this night of celebration?

KALISH: Yes. And that would be pretty scary.

For NPR News, I'm Jon Kalish in New York.


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