Halloween in New York City is like no other……that is what we had been told…..and after experiencing it, we think this is a true statement. It was amazing! Two memorable events filled the day: an art exhibit with a dear friend and the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade.
I spent a delightful day with my Pi Phi roommate from Wisconsin, Jeanne Tucker. She lives in Chicago and we see each other off and on and remain great friends. She was visiting another New York friend for a few days, and we got together a couple of times here which was such a treat!
On Halloween Day morning we met at the New York Historical Museum on Central Park West. This is located next to the Natural History Museum on the west side of the park and has been featuring an exhibit called “The Armory Show at 100: 1913 Modernism Hits New York.” This spotlights paintings and sculptures from the art exhibit a century ago where Americans were first exposed to the radical art styles taking place in Europe at that time. Up until the early 1900s, American art followed the tradition of content being the main focus, and paintings were done in a stylized form often copying the classics. The turn of the century movement in Europe, especially in Paris, changed this with the focus now on new experimental styles of painting rather than traditional methods. Also, the importance of the ordinary person in daily life became foremost in contrast to the previous focus on the wealthy in artificial settings. This revolution included Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh, Matisse, Cezanne, and other Impressionists, Fauvists, and neo-Impressionists. The exhibit at the New York Armory was the introduction of such artists to Americans. Much of the art was considered shocking at that time, and a copy of a painting by Matisse was even burned in effigy. However, this show opened the eyes of Americans to the European world from which some of the greatest artists have emerged. Jeanne and I were able to join a tour given by a docent with a wealth of information and insider tidbits, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. We were sorry to leave, even after having spent a couple of hours there.
We had been told that over 50,000 people traditionally marched in the parade with hundreds of thousands viewing it. Of course, we thought that this was a total exaggeration could not possibly be true. We were so wrong!
We took the subway to the village and were entertained by all the riders in crazy costumes. We walked a few blocks to the parade route but were turned back by barricades and police as it was already packed. Viewers were finally allowed to join the throngs a few blocks northward, and we wedged ourselves into the crowd. Of course we needed to be a foot taller to see as we were about four rows back, so we squeezed out and found a bench against a restaurant window that we could stand on. The view was great!
The hallmarks of the parade are gigantic skeletons with moving joints all manipulated like puppets by people below. Apparently those who participate train quite a while to be able to do this. The appearance of the skeletons caused the crowd to break into shouts of joy and cheering. They were followed by thousands and thousands and thousands of individual paraders marching along interspersed with groups on floats or trucks. Some of the groups appeared to “spontaneously” break into song or flashdance and we saw Thriller performed a couple of times by hundreds of people.
We watched the parade for about two hours and then decided to head home. The streets of the village around NYU were jammed with happy students in costumes. It was a relief to make it through the crowds to the subway and sit down for our ride home. Again we were surrounded by costumes of superheroes and ghouls. The evening was an effort that we probably would not make again, but our Halloween night in New York was memorable and a once in a lifetime experience.