Collinsville, CT: Halloween Parade
This year’s event will be held on Halloween, Saturday, October 29. Kids’ activities begin at 6:30 p.m.; parade starts at 7:00 p.m. collinsvillehalloween.com
The first year we attended the Collinsville Halloween Parade, I pulled out my seldom-used sewing machine to make my 2-year-old son a pumpkin costume. My husband and I dressed as scarecrows and joined him in the procession.
When a Red Baron biplane, a Christmas tree, and a table and chair walked by, I realized how far we’d fallen short of the artists among us.
The next year, when my husband was in genuine firefighter gear, me in a home-sewn fire hydrant costume, and our baby and our preschooler dressed as Dalmatian puppies, the comments from the spectators as we strolled the parade route made the late nights of sewing and painting all those spots worthwhile.
For 16 years now, the artists of Collinsville, Connecticut (a village within the town of Canton), led by cartoonist John Squier, have organized a parade that takes place on the last Saturday night in October. The informal gathering blends the best of the Mummers and Mardi Gras, minus the booze.
It’s a free family event, where the parents have as much fun as the kids. Our family starts brainstorming Halloween costume ideas in August. Throughout the year, I scout for costume possibilities while perusing junk shops, consignment stores, and yard sales. The parade also attracts teens, young adults, empty nesters, and dogs–many dressed in creations born of imagination and ingenuity.
Collinsville’s townspeople parade no matter how cold or wet the night. When it’s mild, attendance swells to more than 2,000 people from all across the region–not bad for a village whose total population is 2,750. Last year it was so cold and wet, we should have dressed as fishermen.
Squier, in his alter ego as “Boo-solini,” serves as “monster of ceremonies,” wearing a Chia Pet-inspired wig, white face paint with black eyes a la Peter Gabriel, and white lab coat. From the balcony of the Canton Historical Museum, Boo-solini oversees the kids’ screaming competition and the costume contest “boo-off.”
Local artists transform the historic downtown by painting the store windows with ghouls, goblins, and bats. The “Hideous Heads”–giant murals of skeletons and spooks painted on wood–help set the scene. Ghosts hang over Main Street from a wire. On parade night, an artist sets up a fog machine, lights up the street, and mans the sound system. Our own Phantom of the Opera leads the parade, performing from an organ in the back of a pickup truck. At the homes lining the parade route, residents decorate with creepy jack-o’-lanterns, cobweb-covered porches, and open coffins with corpses that rise.
Locals invite friends and family to visit the weekend of the parade. The year we had an exchange student from Mexico staying with us, our family helped outfit him as he learned our unique tradition.
When our kids were small, we really got into it. More than a decade ago, with my brother and sister-in-law visiting, our group of six recaptured our youth as Captain Hook, Peter Pan, Wendy, Tinker Bell, and a pair of pirates. We’d borrowed the Captain Hook costume, but were still thrilled when we won best-in-show (receiving the loudest boos from the crowd).
These days, our two teenagers create their own costumes. Only our 10-year-old lets us help him find the right mix of horror and humor. We’re hoping 15 years of inspiration from artists will rub off, and we’ll think of something completely original for ourselves.
If all else fails, though, there’s always the black cape and white sheet.
Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.