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Meet the most die-hard Village Halloween Parade marchers

These spirited fanatics are dressed to kill and ready to keep All Hallows’ Eve in the city wild once again this year

Will Gleason
Written by
Will Gleason

If there’s one Halloween event that’s inseparably linked to New York, it’s the Village Halloween Parade. The annual street pageant has showcased local creativity with innovative costumes, floats and live music since 1974, and it’s still going strong. Anyone who wants to participate can march as long as they’re in costume, and many, many people do. An estimated 70,000 New Yorkers take to Sixth Avenue every year to celebrate the spooky night with over-the-top costumes—towering puppets, lumbering beasts and choreographed undead masses—while thousands more pack along the West Village route to cheer ’em on. Get to know some of the hard-working ghouls who spend countless months—and inches of foam board—making sure their looks are scary good for one of the best Halloween parties in New York.

RECOMMNEDED: Full guide to Village Halloween Parade

All photographs by Nicole Fara Silver

Stars of the Village Halloween Parade

Photograph: Nicole Fara Silver

Brandon Hardy
26, artist
Participant since: 2010

“I direct my own segment of puppeteers in the parade that conjures The Nightmare Before Christmas. We started with just seven of us, then doubled the next year, and now I believe we have more than 50 characters from the movie. I design all of the costumes, and every year I reevaluate and make little adjustments. I usually start on the concepts in February. There’s a lot of cardboard, a lot of foam, a lot of wood and a lot of hot glue. I try to design everything in such a way that there are options for all experience levels, to get new people to join the parade each year. I think there’s a level of self-actualization to Halloween that’s exciting and important to people. There’s always an impulse around this time of year to make things and be creative and explore.”

Serra Hirsch
46, puppeteer and voice artist
Participant since: 1997

“I make sure my costumes always have an interactive element. It helps bring people in and makes it easier for them to celebrate the fun of Halloween. A lot of what I do are called humanette puppets…a human head on a puppet body [with] a foam core and foam rubber. I wear the same hiking backpack to anchor my costumes every year and just paint it a different color. One of my first big costumes was eggs and bacon. At one point during the night, some drunk guy started taking bites out of my bacon. It was Styrofoam! And he just took a bite! There’s a vibe and energy at that parade that’s quite lovely, and it’s always fun to let that develop. It’s the biggest audience you’ll ever perform for! It’s really a 20-block performance.”

Photograph: Nicole Fara Silver

Dr. Barnaby Ruhe
70, art teacher and painter
Participant since: 2009

“Every year I go as a different artist. I pull along two canvases, for each side of the street, and paint an homage to the artist on both sides over the course of the parade. I’ve done about 15: Andy Warhol, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning.… I’m channeling the spirit of the artist through the energy field of the millions of people watching. Most famous artists were like rock stars; they really relied on the energy of their [fans] to produce these spectacular paintings. The parade gives you that same thing, that kind of energy field to work with, and that’s why I do the parade and paint live. I think the paintings I’ve done during the parade are my best work.”

Andy Hort
30, chief environmental officer of a printing company
Participant since: 2009

“I live in the Village with four kids, and I thought they’d have fun with it. They wanted go as Harry Potter [characters], and I had bushy hair at the time, so I spent about five months learning how to walk on stilts and went as Hagrid. Since then, I’ve gone on stilts every year. We usually spend about two months working on our costumes. Every year we do it, more and more kids from the neighborhood go with us. I’m like the Pied Piper. Now we probably have over 20 kids marching with us. We always buy $100 worth of candy to hand out, and that way we never lose track of the kids. They always come back to the candy.”

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