Halloween parade is a 'Thriller'

A much publicized plan by the Chamber of Commerce to protect young children from getting too much of a scare at this year's Halloween parade by separating kids and adults didn't seem to be in effect.

Children and their parents were slated to march first in the annual parade, which began at 3 p.m. Sunday at the corner of Gresham and East Main streets. Adults, whose attire "must be appropriate for a family audience," were to march behind the children.

Hundreds of pirates, princesses, witches, wizards and even an alien on stilts danced together down the parade route Sunday afternoon to an upbeat tempo set by the colorfully-costumed musicians of Samba Like It Hot.

A few tiny tots, accompanied by their parents, preceded the bulk of the parade. But the vast majority of masked revelers, running the gamut from wee babes to venerable senior citizens, marched behind the salsa band in a great big blob of costumed humanity.

"This is just how we do it," said 16-year old Jenna Schweizer. "It's more like a mosh than a parade."

For the first time this year, there were rules for parade participants. Participants' costumes could not include nudity, profanity, lewdness, illegal drugs, violence, obscenity, racism or offensive content, according to the chamber.

There were folks dressed as bogeymen, panda bears and enough bees to fill a hive. Even the canines got into the act with fairy poodles and weinerdogs sporting hot-dog costumes.

Deanna Stollings created homemade costumes for herself and her children. Stollings dressed as a peacock, and her three daughters sported outfits depicting a giant sock monkey, a google-eyed fish and a flounced harlequin/jester.

As G-rated as her kids' costumes were, Stollings gave a thumbs down to efforts to curtail costumes.

"I think it's ridiculous," Stollings said. "Halloween is supposed to be spooky, fun and full of fantasy. Not regulated."

Parade marchers also were prohibited from smoking or using devices with flames, such as torches, flame-throwers or lanterns, or from using explosive devices, such as firearms and fireworks. Drugs and alcohol also were prohibited at the parade.

Ashland School District Superintendent Juli Di Chiro, an ex-officio member of the chamber's board of directors, said last week that last year's parade was "a little co-opted by adults" who were "dressed in things that scared the children."

Because of last year's disturbances, the chamber's board of directors briefly discussed canceling the parade this year, before deciding to emphasize that it is a children's parade, Di Chiro said, adding the chamber had hired four security guards to help with crowd control.

Sabena Moriarty, her husband, and their children — who sported costumes ranging from a 16-year old "Cookie Monster" to a 7-month-old "football" — strolled near the end of the pack behind a troupe of "Thriller" dancers. Moriarty expressed gratitude for the chamber's efforts to tone down this year's parade. Some revelers last year had sported outfits that were too sexually explicit for a family parade, she said.

"I think it was important to make people wear appropriate attire," Moriarty said.

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