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Welcome to the last day of October — All Hallow’s Eve. Samhain, the Celtic New Year was celebrated on November 1st. Celebrations began on the night before and since it was a time during which the pagans believed that the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was the thinnest, it was also thought of as a time when communication between the world of the living and the world of the dead was possible. When Christianity came through, the holiday of Samhain was transformed into its Christian skin and known as All Saint’s Day, November 2nd became All Soul’s Day . Hallowmas is Old English for All Saint’s Day and the night before was deemed All Hallow’s Eve or eventually, the Halloween as we know it.
Tonight, a few towns over from us, there will be the annual Rutland Halloween Parade. The parade is celebrating its 52nd year this year and is considered one of the largest, if not the largest, Halloween Parade in the United States. I must say that it is one cool parade. If you ever have the opportunity, I suggest that you take it in. Traditionally, the parade is always held on Halloween itself, regardless of the day of the week that it falls on. This year, the parade was to be held on Saturday, October 29th. The snowstorm that overtook much of the East Coast saw to putting it back in its rightful place — late Saturday afternoon, the powers that be deemed that the parade would be postponed and held on…..you guessed it…. Halloween.
Not good for my brother and his family who traveled up to see the parade and couldn’t stay until Monday for it — but good that it wasn’t canceled all together. That only happened once in 1962 – before my time. This year’s parade will honor the heroes of Tropical Storm Irene — the policemen, rescue workers, firemen and construction folks who are considered by a great many here to be real superheros. Just like Humpty Dumpty they’re the ones that helped to put Vermont back together again after one of its biggest disasters. Tonight, I can imagine that they will be the folks commanding the biggest cheers.
Everyone associates Vermont with certain things – maple syrup, fall foliage and skiing. But Halloween? Vermont boasts the country’s largest and longest running Halloween parade in the country. The parade takes place every year, like clockwork on Halloween night at 6:30 p.m. This year the Rutland Halloween Parade turns 50. The parade has run every year with the exception of one year, 1962 when it was canceled due to the weather. Last year, one of the original founders of the parade, Tom Fagan died on October 21st. He desired not to miss the parade in the event of his death and there was serious talk about putting him in the parade – despite the fact that he was dead. I kid you not. Ultimately, he didn’t make it, but imagine what sort of stories that would have created for generations to come? A parade so good, you even come when you’re dead.
The parade, some would argue, lacks the glitz and glamour associated with that other famous Halloween Parade, the one that takes place in Greenwich Village, NYC. Others, like myself, would disagree. The parade takes community to another level, only the way Vermont can do it. Hay wagons and manure spreaders are transformed into floats, school bands, community groups and even the sheep and cows march in the parade. Everyone can march and everyone participates, whether you are the one throwing the candy (Mardi Gras style) or the one in the crowds, collecting it. The streets are lined with people, more people than one would see at any other time in Rutland or at any one place in Vermont for that matter.
We have been attending the parade for years now, even before we moved here permanently. Once the boys found out that you could stand in one spot and collect an entire sack full of candy and assorted goodies, all while being entertained, they were hooked.
This year, Tim’s Odyssey of the Mind team will have a float in the parade. This means that two of the boys will be parade participants. I promised them that somehow they wouldn’t miss out on the candy, and I guess that I should get cracking on that one, since time is a wastin’.
If you are in the Rutland area, I would highly suggest that you endure the Vermont-style crowds and take in the parade, it is well worth it.