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N.Y.C. Halloween Parade Turns 25

October 31, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ It started 25 years ago with a two-headed pig monster, a 7-foot-tall lobster and giant puppets, haunting the streets of Greenwich Village on Halloween night with theatrical glee.

On Saturday, the Village parade celebrated not only its silver anniversary, but its very survival after some sought to scrap the zany hoopla that has grown into a spectacle attracting upwards of a million people.

The 7 p.m. opening, ``Let the Celebration Begin!″ was to be heard live on Japanese radio, and the entire parade was to be televised on a New York City cable channel.

For the first parade in 1974, the puppets were made in the apartment of a Village designer to accompany about 200 marchers, many of whom were friends. About 20,000 marchers are now transformed into characters who join artistic floats made in an upstate workshop, with the help of corporate sponsors.

But the parade still draws on its tradition of presenting radical viewpoints, all marching to their own beat.

For years through the narrow Village streets, drag queens have brushed against born-again Christians, AIDS activists and people dressed as everything from witches and goblins to nuns, Elvis impersonators, walking urinals and lipstick tubes.

Neighborhood merchants hoped to cash in about $40 million from Saturday’s event, spent by spectators enjoying the area’s many restaurants, pubs and shops.

In recent years, some of them came simply to get drunk. In September, City Councilman Thomas Duane, joined by neighborhood activists, asked Mayor Rudolph Giuliani to cancel the parade or move it, saying it fostered rowdiness and drunkenness.

Last year, police issued more than 450 summonses for public drinking but made no arrests.

Duane also said that a recent series of anti-gay attacks in the Village further soured the atmosphere.

But last week, the parade received its permit from the police department with the blessing of the local community board. The panel urged the city to strictly enforce public drinking laws and demand that visitors and participants respect the property in the community.

Jeanne Fleming, who has organized the parade for the past 17 years, said the whole controversy was overblown. ``It’s one of the safest and largest events of the year in the city,″ she says, calling it a ``people’s event″ because anyone in costume can march.

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