Characters revel in NYC Halloween parade

October 31, 2008 9:44:55 PM PDT
Thousands of revelers dressed as everything from goblins to pizza slices turned out Friday for Greenwich Village's Halloween parade, reveling in a tradition equal parts spookiness and spoof. But real-world concerns intruded a bit on the fanciful festivities, billed as the nation's biggest Halloween celebration.

The ongoing financial crisis scared at least seven major parade sponsors into pulling their support, and even some spectators scaled back.

Michael Whalen had wanted to dress as the vampire Lestat, after the character created by best-selling author Anne Rice. But Whalen, who supervises a day program for developmentally disabled adults, instead donned a costume he could create cheaply: "Born in the U.S.A"-era Bruce Springsteen, in white T-shirt and blue jeans, carrying a cardboard guitar.

"I have no money to spend a lot on a costume," said Whalen, 33, of Brooklyn. But his discount get-up wasn't dampening his mood.

"It feels great to make your own costume," Whalen said. "It's about the creativity."

Creativity was in plentiful supply at the parade, a 35-year-old custom in a community known for its bohemian history. The parade started in 1973 as a neighborhood event and now features as many as 60,000 costumed participants; anyone wearing a costume is allowed to march.

Organizers estimate the spectacle draws 2 million people.

Spectator Daniela Petrova, 35, came expecting "a freak show," and it didn't appear she would be disappointed.

One participant dressed as a "kissing booth" - going rate: 25 cents. Another came as exercise guru Richard Simmons.

A team of dancers re-enacted the famous zombie strut in Michael Jackson's "Thriller" video, celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

In a nod to the financial times, at least one participant was dressed as a banker.

Organizers said the parade budget was half of last year's. Some major sponsors, which donate $25,000 and up for large floats, said they couldn't afford it.

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