Unofficial Parade Lights Up Dark Downtown
By Emily Johnson The theme of the annual Village Halloween parade this year was to have been a 2012 Mayan countdown. With the streets of downtown Manhattan already dark and apocalyptic in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, the parade was cancelled for the first time in its venerated 39-year history. But on Wednesday night, more than a hundred determined revelers whooped and danced through the Village anyway, brightening the darkened streets with costumes fashioned out of blinking lights and glowsticks. More people joined as the parade wound a zigzagging route up from Prince Street, past 14th and toward the brightly lit buildings uptown. "Well apparently [the parade] is rescheduled, but the only time to come out for Halloween is Halloween night," said Christopher Hardwick, whose white coattails and top hat were decked out with blue lights. "You can't come out the Saturday before or the night before, its always Halloween where it's rocking," Hardwick said. "And there were a lot of people in the neighborhood without power with cabin fever. I walked here from the East Village, which has absolutely no power, down fourteen flights of stairs." Hardwick, who belongs to a group of costume enthusiasts known as Kostume Kult, was one of the organizers of the informal event. He regularly emcees the group's float in the annual parade. Police accompanied the parade through the streets, and for much of the way, the flashing lights on the NYPD vehicles were the main source of visibility. On Christopher Street, the crowd spilled into the middle of the road and officers had to hem them in with megaphones. Some of the marchers pitched in to restore order. "Onto the sidewalk, darlings, everybody onto the sidewalk," trilled an imposing figure dressed as Eleanor Roosevelt. Some people on the event's Facebook page had expressed worry that even a small, unofficial parade would be an unnecessary distraction for the beleaguered city. Jim Glazer, another organizer dressed as a red dragon, acknowledged these concerns. "We had a mixed reaction," said Glazer, more commonly known as Costume Jim. "Some people didn't like the idea because they thought it would take away resources. But the people who really get art, I think, understand that helping people's morale is a very important aspect of aid for downtown." It seemed to be working. Smiling faces appeared at windows lit by candlelight, peering down at the street and beckoning more people to come and look. Motorists stopped their cars on the street to take pictures. "Halloween is not dead!" one man yelled from a passing cab, eliciting cheers from the marchers. And occasionally the parade came upon unsuspecting, delighted costume-wearing people who joined in, swelling the size of the crowd as it marched on. A small band featuring a large tuba-like instrument, akin to something out of a Dr. Suess story, provided the soundtrack for the parade. Cyclists rode alongside, speakers blasting Lady Gaga songs and the theme from "Ghostbusters." For fashion designer Megan Bielli, 24, the mob of light and noise was a welcome relief after days of quiet darkness in her East Village apartment, where she and her boyfriend had been steadily working their way through all of their perishable food. "It's been really dark and dreary going outside, walking around my neighborhood," she said, a pair of glowstick ears perched on top of her head. "It was nice to go to work today where there's electricity and charge my phone, check the internet. That's where I found out about this. Otherwise I wouldn't have known about it." She said she intended to join the others in walking up to where the power was back on. "The whole point is not to be a nuisance," she said. "It's Just to shine a little light on a dark time."
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