When the Park Slope Civic Council canceled its annual Halloween Parade this year, few were in a position to complain. Although the leafy, liberal, and often ridiculed Brooklyn neighborhood largely escaped the wrath of Sandy, it was hard to dispute the fact that New York’s police and sanitation workers had more important things to do. Staging what the council touts as “perhaps the largest children’s Halloween march in the nation” hardly seemed right as much of the city copes with the storm’s aftermath. (New York’s famous Village Halloween Parade was also canceled for the first time in its 39-year history, as were numerous other events in the storm’s path.)
As Park Slope families headed out with trick-or-treaters in tow, it was clear that some were relieved at being spared the sprawling parade that’s haunted the neighborhood since 1986. Gone were the heaving crowds along Seventh Avenue, the intimidating gangs of teenagers in disguise, and the frenetic race to drain the neighborhood’s candy supply. No giant puppets or politicians, no bands or roller-skating wraiths. With no parade and no subway service to get there, Park Slope wasn’t the destination it normally is.
The result: a normal neighborhood Halloween. “By this point, we’ve normally run out,” said a woman dispensing candy bars near Connecticut Muffin along the retail strip of Seventh Avenue at 5:15 p.m. “It’s too much.” Over on Eighth Avenue, a woman sat on a stoop with her friend, looking relaxed. “Aah! It’s nice to see a few kids at a time,” she said, giving two lollipops to my 7-year-old son, the ninja, while admiring his burlap Unicef Halloween bag. “Maybe they can alternate the parade to every other year.”
While kids were coasting on the news that school was out for the rest of the week, the adults’ moods were dampened by the plight of those in nearby neighborhoods. Some were putting up friends or family members whose homes remained without power. Many were worried about how they’d get to work the next morning as subway service from Brooklyn into Manhattan remained suspended, and those who’d tried to drive in that day had spent several hours in traffic jams.
The general mood, though, was one of gratitude—gratitude at having been spared the worst of the storm, and gratitude at having a year without the Halloween Parade. As my 11-year-old noted, this was the first year he’d seen so many people he knew walking around the streets, the first year that one of them didn’t get temporarily separated from us amid the throngs of ghouls and princesses, and the first year he didn’t encounter house after house of people hanging outside with glasses full of Chianti but empty candy bowls.
Then again, it was also the first year he and his siblings were all back home by 7:30 p.m. Did any of them miss the parade? I asked several children standing around our courtyard. “Not really,” shrugged one boy as he rooted around for a box of Lemonheads to swap for two fun-size Snickers. “But I didn’t see that many good costumes. Maybe the adults only dress up if they’re in a parade.”
Halloween came. How could it be so? It came without puppets. It came without hags. It came without jostling to fill up their bags. Maybe Halloween can be junk from a store. Maybe this year, we’re glad it’s not something more.