Nancy Zupanec: Fond, scary memories of Pittsfield's Halloween parade

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CHARLOTTE, N.C.— When I think of New England, many things come to mind. Cranberries, covered bridges, white churches with tall steeples somewhere in the center of town, parades. Fourth of July parades, for example, happen in towns large and small all over New England, including my hometown of Pittsfield. The Fourth of July parade that is held there is a sight to behold. When I was young, the city's population doubled on this holiday because of it.

The Pittsfield parade that is my favorite, however, doesn't happen on the Fourth of July. Every year, toward the end of October, the city hosts a Halloween parade to the delight of all children over the age of six. Maybe five.

When I was young, I didn't know how unusual Halloween parades were. I thought every city had one. Pittsfield's history with Halloween parades goes back over 70 years, which is a tribute to the city. [The city's 73rd parade was Friday night.]

The magic of the Halloween parade in Pittsfield draws upon the love of make-believe that lives inside a child. Halloween revels in pretending — requires it, actually. The imagination runs wild.

In theory, Pittsfield's Halloween parade could be a daytime event, held on a weekend afternoon. Instead the parade starts boldly in the evening's darkness, which is what a parade in honor of ghosts and witches demands. Scary doesn't happen in daylight, and lighted jack-o-lanterns are invisible.

On parade night, I stood on the sidewalk to watch the floats pass. The passage of time has dimmed the details of what I saw, even though I went to the parade every year. Still, I can feel the delight that sparked up and down my spine as I lived in the parade's make-believe. The blend of fantasy and darkness was irresistible. Together they offered tickets to another world.

My parents took me to the Halloween parade. I don't remember them standing with me, but parents didn't figure much into this holiday at all, except for their role in buying treats. Even when my friends and I went trick-or-treating, our parents stayed at home.

At the parade, I could be alone in my imagination. I could fly through the night with a covey of spirits and stay away as long as I wanted. The call of "bedtime" didn't reach the moon. Halloween was the best holiday, and the parade was its culmination — the best of the best.

Halloween gave me the chance to spend time in an unencumbered present. It offered me the freedom that comes from living in a world whose location is here and whose time is now.

As a child on Halloween it was my world. I would go there again in a heartbeat if I could.

A retired lawyer, Nancy Zupanec was born and raised in Pittsfield.


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