RED BANK: A HALLOWEEN HIKE FOR THE AGES

halloween 2011 10 Listen up, citizens of Gotham: the Red Bank Halloween Parade hits the street this Sunday for its 67th annual edition, filled with witches and goblins of all ages, and some spectacular floats, too. (Photos by John T.Ward. Click to enlarge.)

By TOM CHESEK

halloween 2011 5The year was 1948, and the place was Red Bank, New Jersey — where just a couple of months earlier, “Auld Lang Syne” bandleader Guy Lombardo’s speedboat took the trophy race in the National Sweepstakes Regatta on the Navesink. As the summer heat turned to October chill, thoughts were turning to the looming Dewey-vs.-Truman Presidential election; to a World Series that entered a fortunate few homes for the first time by the miracle of television; and to an altogether different hometown event: the Red Bank Halloween Carnival.

halloween 2011 6Some of the costumes are killer.

Just a few years after World War II, the carnival inaugurated a new and elaborate feature: a Saturday night Halloween Parade that would march to the Armory on Chestnut Street, scene of a huge community party. With every public servant and civic organization getting their two cents in — and the marching route expanding into nearly every neighborhood in the borough — the parade was promising, in the words of the Red Bank Register, “to be ten-fold more elaborate than planned… and the committee isn’t through planning yet.”

With the participation of schools, scouting troops, fire departments and fraternal organizations representing several Monmouth County towns — and hundreds of contest prizes stacked up in the window of Snyder’s store on Broad Street — anticipation ran high for an event in which “ghosts, goblins, cops, robbers and old cowhands make with the whoopee.”

Today, the nighttime event has relocated to Sunday afternoon; the route has long since been fine-tuned to a straight-on strut up Broad Street; the big Armory bash and the out-of-town marchers have become the stuff of nostalgia. But when the 67th Red Bank Halloween Parade commences on Sunday afternoon, it will stand as a colorful connector of “old Red Bank” to the bustling borough of the new century.

Presented by the borough Department of Parks and Recreation, the parade begins with lineup and costume judging at 1 p.m. at the intersection of East Bergen Place and South Street. Then ,at 2 pm, the costumed characters, fire trucks, school bands and fanciful hand-decorated floats traces a joyously noisy route through the downtown business district, traveling north on Broad, turning west onto White Street and arriving at the municipal parking lot for a celebration filled with kids’ activities, prizes, and live music by Salmon Jam.

Come early, dress up (there are prizes for Best Costumes by age, Best Pet Costume, and Best Small Group), decorate the kids’ strollers or simply trick-or-treat yourself to one of the borough’s most enduring (and endearingly nutty) local customs. For more info, or to register a float, call RB Parks and Recreation at (732)530-2782. Rain date is October 26.