North Bennington Halloween Parade called the biggest yet

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NORTH BENNINGTON — According to event organizers the 25th annual North Bennington Halloween Parade was the biggest yet.

"This is definitely a record, the biggest ever," said Matthew Perry, director of the Vermont Arts Exchange, the organization that spearheads the parade every year. Hundreds marched through the village center, ending at Norshaft Lions Park.

The parade featured many of the standard costumes: doctors, criminals, aliens, witches, zombies, farmers, robots, ninjas, and even people riding ostriches. Large inanimate objects seemed to be a theme this year as well, with giant popcorn, pizza, soda, and a gumball machine.

As always, prizes were given out to the best costumes, although this year for the first time awards were given out to pets as well. The awards were created by the VAE with the help of the Vermont School for Girls.

"It's so difficult," said Village Trustees chairman Matthew Patterson, one of the costume judges, as he waited for the parade to begin. "There are so many good ones to choose from."

The top prize went to the Olson family, Shayne, Madalyn, Vitalia, and Lilith, who dressed up as post-apocalyptic survivors. Also getting prizes in various categories were San from Studio Ghibli's 1997 animated film Princess Mononoke, the gumball machine, a family of young children dressed as dragons, and two separate families who dressed as buildings, one representing India and one representing a ghost town, complete with saloon.

Throughout the parade and after-celebration, music was provided by the Monument Drum Troupe.

According to Perry, the parade 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."

As always, the Norshaft Lions were on hand selling hot dogs, chili, hot chocolate, and cider after the parade, and a bonfire was held across the street from the park. Perry said that the parade would not be possible without the support of the Village of North Bennington, The Fund for North Bennington, and the Vermont Arts Council, the Lions, the North Bennington Village Fire Department, Village Highway Superintendent Norm LeBlanc, who helped create the fire pit, and many more.

Derek Carson can be reached at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.

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