The Recession Proof Holiday


Giant Eyeballs

Parade goers carry giant eyeballs during the Village Halloween Parade. Photo: Catherine Griffin.

Giant eyeball-shaped balloons floated through the air above the crowd.  A pair of Jack Sparrows posed for a picture as a man covered in plastic spoons wandered through the street.  People crowded on the edges of the metal barricades, pointing out costumes and spectacles as parade marshals sternly told photographers to clear the way for the parade after one photographer was nearly run down by an approaching float.

Although the annual Village Halloween parade has taken place for the past 39 years, the most recent two years has shown a change that is in strict keeping with the economy.  Instead of running from Spring Street to 21st Street up Sixth Avenue, the parade halts at 16th Street.  The reason behind the change is financial.  In April 2009, the New York City Police Department required all parades to either shave their routes by 25 percent or limit them to five hours.  This particular cutback saves the NYPD an estimated $3 million per year.  Yet while the money saving is good for the city, it’s a bad move in the eyes of Jeanne Fleming, artistic and producing director of the parade for the past 31 years.

“I think that the parade route should be longer when times are tough and people can’t afford tickets for theater,” said Fleming. “You’re looking at thousands of people that are coming that won’t be able to come due to space.”

While the route may not be recession proof, Halloween is.  Thousands flocked to the parade this year, most of them wearing costumes of their own design.  According to Ellen Davis of the National Retail Federation, during recessions the sale of Halloween items goes up.  The federation predicted that an estimated 161 million Americans would celebrate Halloween this year, spending about $6.8 billion on decorations and costumes.  The fact that it doesn’t cost much money to participate in Halloween is also one of the reasons that so many have decided to celebrate the holiday this year, Davis said.

Dorothy Sica, a parade goer for the past three years, participated in the event since it brings back fond memories.  “It makes me think when I was a kid and went out with my friends and had fun,” she said.  This year, she dressed as the Queen of Hearts.

Others seemed to like the ability to be something that they weren’t.  Dressed as a pirate, Michelle Geller, another parade goer, commented, “You can be anything or anyone.”

Many agreed with her.  Those at the parade seemed to like the ability to escape for a few hours into the festivities as they dressed as pirates, zombies or giant eyeballs.

Not all revelers, though, were there for fun.  Some were there for work.  Katie Nelson, who wore black clothing laced with green glow lights, was at the parade on behalf of Zipcar, a rental car company helping to sponsor the parade.

“It’s a hard job, but someone has to do it,” she joked.  She had planned to come to the parade anyway, but decided that getting paid while doing it was a better option.

The Village Halloween Parade route may have shrunk, but most of those attending it didn’t seem to think it affected the overall quality, except perhaps for making the event slightly more chaotic and crowded.

Neil Capre was dressed as Dracula during the parade and has attended the event for the past eight years.  “It’s a little crazy now,” he admitted. “We don’t know where to go and getting in is like a labyrinth.”  While it was crowded, he also said, “I still love it.  It’s my favorite holiday.”