Halloween parade is saved

With no one to do the work, the hugely popular parade nearly faded away after 25-year run

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  • Gothic zombie skateboarder Dylan Cruz won first place in the Most Handsome Child category at last year's Halloween parade and party in Chester. (Photo by Ginny Privitar)

By Ginny Privitar

— Phyllis Battiato made an urgent plea at the village trustees' meeting Monday night: will someone step up to organize the Halloween parade this year — even a scaled-down event? Otherwise, she said, there will be no parade and no party.

Battiato organized and ran the event for 19 years. It started small and grew, and grew — and grew — in popularity.

The parade has a last-minute savior: the Town of Chester.

Walter Popailo, who heads the parks and recreation department, told The Chronicle Thursday morning that he and Supervisor Alex Jamieson decided they couldn't let the parade and party go.

"It's good for Chester," Popailo told The Chronicle. They're working with a tentative date of Sunday, Oct. 19, to not compete with planned soccer tournaments and to give the town enough time to schedule a rain date.

Last year, more than 400 people registered in costume, and an estimated 800 people attended the parade and party. Like Applefest in Warwick and Great American Weekend in Goshen, the Chester Halloween parade draws many local residents along with many others from outside the community. Children and adults alike enjoy the festivities in equal measure.

Since the Battiatos' retirement, volunteers from the community have stepped up to keep the parade going, especially Dori Gilbert and police Chief Pete Graziano. But they both have jobs and can no longer devote the time required.

No one responded to organizers' request, made in the Chronicle's Feb. 28 article “Halloween organizers want to pass the torch," that some person or group take over the beloved tradition.

Popailo said he hopes someone or a group of someones will want to take over the parade and party in the future, "but we fully expect no one to step up."

It’s a lot of work and a big commitment. The parade committee usually starts contacting corporate sponsors in March, when their home offices give out grant money. It may be too late for that. But even a scaled-down event is better than none, Battiato said at Monday's meeting: perhaps only the parade part, with some prizes and a few games.

Popailo said both the parade and party will go on, even though they're getting a late start. He urges local people and businesses to volunteer and donate money and goods. He wants to continue the tradition of party-goers bringing bags of candy to donate.

ShopRite has in the past donated food for the party. The Chester Fire Department has donated time and effort: cooking the hot dogs and hamburgers, working the food tables, and donating and setting up tables and chairs. Many other donors, including McDonald’s, have donated money or prizes. Suburban Propane provided the cooking gas.

Money is needed for the tent and port-a-potties, among other necessities.

The parade committee usually starts soliciting donations in August. Time is running out.

About 12 to 20 volunteers are needed to help out, including volunteers to solicit donations — prizes, free tickets or gift cards — from vendors.

For more information on how to help, call Kaitlin Moran at 469-7000 ext. 8.

Editor's note: Pamela Chergotis added to the reporting of this story.

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