by Stephen Lynch
“It’s not typical of New Yorkers to be so festive and nice,” said Virginia Waters, the organizer of the west Midwood Halloween parade. New Yorkers are generally not the nicest people. Someone asks you for directions and they keep walking their way. Maybe a homeless person asks for a dollar or some food, and people act like their music is all they hear. It’s a known fact that New Yorkers don’t show empathy. However, this Brooklyn community helps bring people together no matter the race or how old they are. Imagine small kids running around to doorsteps, people dancing to the Halloween bops, kids getting their hands dirty from all of the unhealthy snacks and most of all, the candy kids are all bragging about getting.
The Halloween parade in West Midwood brings kids together from the local Pakistani and Mexican neighborhoods. The parade starts at 6 p.m. and the Halloween March begins at 6:30 p.m. After the march ends at 7 p.m., the kids are free to trick-or-treat around the houses in West Midwood. The kids get candy and other foods from around the close neighborhood. The whole time, people are free to take all of the food and drinks they like provided by the neighbors at no cost, including cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and even apples (if the infamous “healthy Halloween parents” get a hold of the food table!). Even young adults can even come to try and scare the kids to try and have some fun. Everyone comes together for food, music and most importantly, trick-or-treating. Virginia Waters, who has been running the event for 19 years, says it is basically a “melting pot” with all the people coming together. She mentions how it’s amazing to see New Yorkers out of all people come and do this.
The Halloween Parade in West Midwood started 36 years ago. Flatbush was trying to make a comeback and trying to get fewer people to move out of the neighborhood because people were fleeing the suburbs. The local neighborhood associations were trying to get neighborhood cohesiveness and needed an event to do so. The idea of a Halloween parade was a perfect fit. It’s a safe and effective way of getting people together to be a better and healthier community. When the parade started it had maybe 200 people, which wasn’t that much, said Ms. Waters, but was great to start off with. However, now there are over 500 people showing up to the parade each year.
Ms.Waters joined the parade for her son. She heard that the parade was going to happen that year and decided to join the committee for her then-7-year-old son to have a great Halloween. Since then she has continued to work on the committee because she thinks it’s a great opportunity to give back to the neighborhood. The parade that has been originally a beacon of hope for the community is now a regular event where people always celebrate and have a great time.
Ms. Waters did say there were some rough patches along the way. For example, after Superstorm Sandy, people were particularly paranoid about going outside. Despite that, 300 people attended the parade. Ms. Waters explained how she knew people were still shaken from the incident but it was still a great day and distracted people from reality for a few hours. One heartwarming moment Ms. Waters pointed out is that when kids ask how much food is, she is glad to say it’s free. The parade is free of charge, including food and drinks. This means anyone could have a great time, and everyone could make it a day to remember. She even mentioned that the parade costs less than $100 to run because everyone in the neighborhood contributes so much in terms of food and drinks.
As the parade started to gain traction among the community, locals have started to give to the cause. P.S. 217, which is located near the parade, holds a huge bake sale on parade day. Although they have a bake sale to raise funds towards the school, they oftentimes donate their extra food to the parade. Virginia also mentions how the police are extremely cooperative and she is so thankful for the several recurring police officers that come and keep the parade the safe each year. Having a sense of security during such a potentially hectic event is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Overall the elaborate costumes, the amazing decorated houses, food and good vibes all contribute to an amazing Halloween Parade. It’s a charming event for all people of all ages and it’s open to anyone willing to have a spectacularly spooky time!