Halloween Parade celebrates 25 years

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NORTH BENNINGTON — This year will be the 25th anniversary of North Bennington's Halloween Parade, and the event's organizers have added a few new elements to celebrate the occasion.

The parade will begin at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct 31 at the North Bennington Post Office and will end at Norshaft Lions Park, after a loop through the village center.

For the past 25 years the parade has been hosted by the Vermont Arts Exchange. VAE Director Matthew Perry said that it grew out of a Halloween-festive day at the then-North Bennington Graded School, where students would march around town in their costumes after school. However, when a parent complained about the school hosting a "pagan" event, then-Principal Ernie LaFontaine contacted the VAE and asked if they could take it over, and thus, the North Bennington Halloween Parade was born. The event takes place after school on Halloween each year, unless Halloween falls on a weekend, in which case it has been the Friday before.

"It was a small parade at first, with local resident David Buckley stopping traffic on Rte 67A with a beer in one hand and directing people up West Street or Prospect Street with the other," said Perry. "The next year we were encouraged to ask the North Bennington Volunteer Fire Police for help with traffic. Years later the Bennington P.D. asked to be invited and now lead the parade."

"In the old days there were no bystanders because everyone was in the parade," he said. "Now there's an audience. It has grown with more awards for costumes and more families taking time off of work to be present. The costumes are amazing."

Village Trustee Matthew Patterson has been judging the costumes for over 15 years. For the first time this year, he said, an award will be given to the best-dressed pet. Judges will also be sprinkled throughout the crowd as they gather to march in order to give them a better look at all the different costumes. This year, winners will receive hand-painted plaques to honor the occasion and their achievement. Perry is working with students from the Vermont School for Girls to make those plaques.

As always, the Norshaft Lions will be on hand selling hot dogs, chili, and cider. There will also be a bonfire on the plot of land across from the park after the parade, overseen by the North Bennington Fire Department.

New to the festivities this year will be the incorporation of art galleries into the celebration. On Friday, Oct. 27, a few days before the parade, there will be two art exhibitions on display. First, at the Village Train Depot from 6-8 p.m., will be "Scream Dream," with works presented by local artists. Then at the Left Bank from 7-9 p.m., students from Bennington College will present their own works in a gallery entitled, "Trick or Treat." The Scream Dream gallery will be open for additional hours during the parade.

The VAE kicked off their Halloween season on Friday with an event at Powers Market, which featured music by the Jeff McRae Trio and posters from over 20 past Halloween parades. The event was very well attended, with food provided by Powers and libations from Kevin's Sports Pub and Restaurant.

Perry thanked Village of North Bennington, The Fund for North Bennington, and the Vermont Arts Council for supporting the VAE, and said that the parade wouldn't be possible without their support and the support of several other individuals and groups within the community, including the Lions, the fire department, Village Highway Superintendent Norm LeBlanc, who helped create the fire pit, and many more.

Reach staff writer Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122 or @DerekCarsonBB

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