A highlight of the annual Village Halloween Parade is the troupe of theatrical puppets that lead the procession up Sixth Avenue. We travelled upstate to Rokeby Farm by the Hudson River, where volunteers bring each year's concept to life during a series of workshops, to get a sneak peek at what's in store.
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This year's theme is I of the Beholder, which master puppeteers Alex Kahn and Sophia Michahelles of Superior Concept Monsters (superiorconcept.org)
hope will depict how society has changed with the advent of iPhones and digital media. "The inspiration for this theme started in 2008 when we did a piece called Ghost,
" says Kahn. "When you have this spectacular performance with 13 18-foot-tall puppets, you expect there will be this thunderous applause. Instead, there was this weird silence. What we realized, after this strange ten-second delay, was that everyone had a device in their hand to capture the moment. It became more important for all these people to capture this amazing thing, to have it and disseminate it, than it was to actually be there and experience it." Jeanne Fleming, artistic and producing director of the parade for 31 years, adds excitedly, "This is all about the parade looking back—we're staring back at the audience."
When we visited, work was underway to transform beach balls into glowing eyeballs, while other people created Lady Gaga--esque goggles for a group of Bard performing arts students who will present a performance of The Blind Leading the Blind.
Click through the slide show to hear from attendees, see elements of the parade come together and tour the puppet barn where creations of previous years are stored.
Mark your planner to check the parade's website next September if you want to get involved. Volunteers are treated to two homemade meals, a constant supply of coffee, hot apple cider and doughnuts, and the day comes to a close with beers and a bonfire by the Hudson.39th Annual Village Halloween Parade, Sixth Ave from Spring St to 16th St (halloween-nyc.com). Oct 31 at 7pm; free. To walk in the parade, line up at Sixth Ave between Canal and Spring Sts. 6:30–8:30pm.