Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Everybody loves a parade?

An hour ago I read the news that the 2015 Las Vegas Halloween parade is not happening.

I've had mixed feelings about the Halloween parade for years, but I'm sorry to read it's not happening in 2015, even if I won't be there.

This year was to be the sixth annual parade. A vague Facebook post suggests that the lack of a supporter/producer has resulted in the scuttling of this year's parade, but an organizer plans to carry on in 2016, bigger and better than ever.

One of the reasons cited as a challenge in 2015 is that the parade would be on a Saturday, since it has always been held on Halloween night. Based on past parades, this year's parade and post-parade festivities were estimated to draw more than 100,000 people. I'm not sure how that figure is calculated, and it seems a bit high to me, but the parade does draw additional pedestrian traffic to the Fremont East area. More than other events that happen east of the downtown canopy? I can't say.

This much I know, I attended the second annual parade in 2011. Back then the parade started south of Fremont Street, worked its way north, crossed Fremont and ended. There was some sort of disco dance party in a lot north of Fremont, but I didn't wander over to it.

There were hundreds of people gathered to participate in the parade that Monday evening. The parade doubled as a costume contest, featuring several categories. Parade participants weren't obligated to enter the contest in order to join the march north to Fremont. I was among those who made the trek, and I didn't enter the contest.

The parade featured a variety of vehicles with a Halloween theme, but overall it wasn't a massive parade. It had the chance to be a great spectacle, but the parade's execution was lacking.

That's because there was a judging stage with "celebrity" judges a block or two before Fremont, as well as bleacher seating for spectators. Participants in each category were judged at this point in the parade, and it created an uneven flow to the parade. For participants like me, who just wanted to make the stroll toward downtown while in costume for the hundreds gathered along the street, the judging station didn't play well. For those who wanted to see the parade participants in action at Fremont Street, it made for a rather unspectacular parade, as best I could tell.

I returned to Vegas for Halloween in 2012 and 2013, but I didn't seek out the parade. Since my 2011 experience, the parade has changed its route, moving its starting point further east on Fremont and working its way back toward the canopy. At the conclusion of the parade a portion of Fremont Street is closed for a street party of sorts. I wandered through the area in 2013, and while it wasn't anything magical, it was a fun way to wander about with costumed characters spending their Halloween in Sin City.

Having a parade on Halloween night is a curious choice. It's not likely to draw families, as children are more likely to want to go trick-or-treating, I would imagine. Since it's a Sin City parade, and at night, it attracts a bit of an element that's not exactly family oriented, so perhaps it's a good thing that it's held on Halloween night and not the last Saturday afternoon of the month.

Since it's always on Halloween, it's on a night that will perpetually draw a larger-than-average crowd to popular gathering places, such as the Fremont Street corridors. I was a bit overwhelmed by my last Halloween under the canopy in 2013. That was a Thursday night, and navigating through the crowd was harder than I had ever experienced.

While I'm skeptical of how big the parade's draw is, and I'm not in a hurry to see or experience the parade again, I hope that the grassroots effort to build a downtown Halloween event will continue, despite this year's hiccup. I have long enjoyed the creativity and fun that the Halloween season brings, and even when Halloween is on a Saturday night here in Minnesota, you won't find any gathering here that rivals Halloween night in Vegas. The parade certainly added to that, and like most things I suspect it was getting better with age. I'll be in Vegas for Halloween 2016, I hope my theory will be proven correct.

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