PITTSFIELD -- They don't have web-slinging abilities or a multi-million dollar Batcave full of gadgets. They probably doesn't own that many skin-tight spandex outfits, either.
But public servants like Pittsfield Safety Officer Michael Ortega are the real heroes, according to many youngsters who skipped the Batman and Spider-Man costumes and instead dressed up like firefighters, police officers and armed forces at this year's final Third Thursday.
"It's good that they at least have someone positive to look up to," Ortega said while handing out sweets to young zombies and farm animals.
The Third Thursday theme this month was Hometown Heroes and Superheroes, incorporating the usual Halloween season festivities like costumes and candy while reminding everyone of the real heroes of the world.
Just like last October's Third Thursday, Greylock Federal Credit Union sponsored this month's outing and hosted the costume contest and parade through downtown Pittsfield. Last year there were about a hundred costumed contenders. There was no official number as of Thursday night, but Greylock spokeswoman Vicky May said she ran out of the 150 goodie bags she made for participants.
"We're here for the kids of the community and always try to do something free for them," May said, standing next to the registration table that bustled with eager, costumed kids.
Starting up every May, Third Thursday provides an opportunity for local nonprofits to raise money.
"I'm thrilled how it brings the community together in creative and inspiring ways," said Megan Whilden, the director of Cultural Development for the city of Pittsfield. "It all circles back. We're not importing something and plopping it down. We're bringing out what's already here."
Strutting down North Street allowed the costume contest judges -- Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, Live 95.9 afternoon DJ Bryan Slater and Great Barrington musician David Grover -- to get a better look at everyone's get-up.
He didn't win any contest, but Lee resident Alex Parsley, 9, was dressed as an Army man. With his head-to-toe camouflage outfit, his 2012 Halloween costume will probably be a spitting image of what Parsley will wear when he's older.
"I want to join the Army and fight for our country," Parsley said. "The Army is our real hero."
Mya Desautels of Pittsfield dressed up as a police officer because she "really likes" them and thinks they're the real heroes. Sam Glockner, 3, wore a fire chief outfit because firefighters "save the day" and come "when you press 9-1-1."
The weather was unusually inviting for a mid-fall Third Thursday and resulted in a packed downtown. Heavier costumes -- be it the abundance of padded-muscle Spider-Man costumes or a life-size box of ranch-flavored Wheat Thins -- might have been a bit uncomfortable under the hot sun that hovered above well past 6 p.m.
"Third Thursday is weather dependent," Whilden said.
Though Third Thursday will be on hiatus until May, there will be events to sate the community such as the First Friday Artswalk.
In the meantime, Whilden said she is already planning for May.
"We're always open to ideas," she said.
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