Zombies, princesses and a 5-foot emoji joined hundreds of other costumed revelers for the 30th Annual New South Bronx Halloween Parade last Friday. This year, on a cloudless and crisp fall evening, the theme was the Halloween Parade itself: 30 years of celebrations and commitment to a South Bronx tradition.
“In 1985, this was a community under siege,” said Joseph Mpa, one of the parade’s organizers. “A group put the parade together as a way to uplift the community, and the now they’ve taken it and made it a tradition.”
This year’s parade is an opportunity to celebrate the progress the South Bronx has made in those 30 years, Mpa said.
The parade attracts not just South Bronx residents but visitors from upstate New York, New Jersey and the other boroughs. Heidi Palacios traveled from Dutchess County with her husband and two children to compete in the Best Costume Contest.
Palacios went through five rolls of toilet paper, 62 glue sticks, and a slew of wire hangers to turn her son, Ehren, 8, into a 5-foot papier mache dragon, complete with moving legs. She’s been working on it since June.
“My kids love the costumes, so I love to make them great ones,” she said.
Ehren took first place in the Best Kids category, and his sister, Sage, 6, took third place as a blue chiffon butterfly.
The competition was tough. Many attendees arrived in hand-made costumes that displayed their creativity and hard work. Zombies were by far the most popular choice, but others chose to go inside-of-the-box, creating a Rubik’s Cube and an emoji large enough to wear, made from cardboard.
Bronx organizations such as Urban Health Plan and ArchCare Senior Life joined in the fun, along with Bronx schools that brought banners and floats designed with the event’s theme in mind. Unitas Theraputic Community decorated a float with images of iconic Bronx pioneers, such as housing activist Father Gigante. A group of middle-schoolers from Casita Maria sported matching zombie make-up and carried an orange banner decorated with the arts organization’s name on a jack-o-lantern.
“This is an important community event because it let’s us take back the streets,” said Cynthia Baez, an organizer who handed out orange and black balloons to the young attendees. “It gives kids a sense of safety on Halloween.”
As the sun went down and the parade-goers left Simpson Street for Westchester Avenue, the United We Drill drum line and color guard from Philadelphia gave participants a beat to walk to. It was a lively and enthusiastic crowd; the excitement was palpable.
“To me, what’s important is unity in the community,” said Sandra Reyes-Collazo, the lead organizer of the parade. “We want to celebrate how the community is blossoming.”