The Village Halloween Parade Is Canceled, Here’s What to Expect Instead

The parade organizers wouldn’t just leave you hanging.

Village Halloween Parade 2019
Village Halloween Parade 2019 | Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images
Village Halloween Parade 2019 | Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

For only the second time in its decades-long history, the treasured Village Halloween Parade has officially been called off due to COVID-19 concerns. It’s no surprise, really, in this Year of Cancellations, but that doesn’t make the news any less upsetting. It’s the city’s only night parade—one that welcomes everyone and embraces the bizarre—and since 1973, it’s been the cornerstone of Halloween celebrations in NYC.

So what are we to do when the main event of the season gets slashed? More than you might think! The traditional march up Sixth Avenue might be a no-go, but the parade organizers aren’t about to leave you hanging. Here’s everything you need to know about Halloween night in NYC during this actually cursed year.

Wait, why couldn’t they figure out a virtual alternative like Macy’s did with the Thanksgiving parade?

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Macy’s may have announced they’d go through with a modified, TV-only version of the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, but that same type of format wouldn’t translate well to the Village Halloween Parade, which relies on community participants to pack the parade route.

“As we considered doing ‘something’ online this year as a placeholder, we felt that idea went against all that the parade stands for: this LIVE interaction between folks,” wrote Jeanne Fleming, artistic and producing director of the parade, in a letter to the community.

The joy of the nighttime Halloween event is dressing to theme and joining the crowd, not sitting at home watching the holiday pass by on a screen. Unfortunately, for only the second time—the first was in 2012 following Hurricane Sandy—canceling the march was the best solution.

But I’ve been planning my costume all year! Is there something else I can do on Halloween night?

Yes! While the parade is off, Fleming wouldn’t dare ditch her loyal followers. In the spirit of trick-or-treating, she promises a Halloween night “trick” that will also be a “treat.” What does that mean? Well, we don’t exactly know yet, but we have some clues!

“Like the Parade itself, which is a spontaneous gathering of people, our Halloween treat will be spontaneous and unannounced and unique to our night Parade,” Fleming wrote. “Our tricky treat will happen on Halloween night and it will be COVID safe! Keep tuned for hints… but just like the child who comes to your door on Halloween, you won’t know who it is or what it is until you see it! BOO!”

In response to an email from Thrillist prying for more details, Fleming stayed tight-lipped, only sharing that since they can’t gather a crowd, they’re planning something “Banksy-style.”

We know for sure that at least one tradition will be kept this year: At some point during the night, Master Puppeteer Basil Twist’s Giant Spider will emerge from the tower of the Jefferson Market Library and “social distance” high above the street.

Jefferson Market Library
Every Halloween, Basil Twist's Giant Spider emerges from the Jefferson Market Library tower, where it's stored year-round. | stockelements/Shutterstock

Where will I find updates about the surprise trick-or-treat event?

Social media is your best bet for getting in-real-time updates on the special “treat.” Follow Village Halloween Parade on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for day-of hints about how to experience the alternate Halloween night event.

Is there still a theme?

The parade theme chosen for 2020 was BIG LOVE! BIG EMBRACE! “This was perfect for this moment in time,” said Fleming. “Our themes have totally to do with the zeitgeist in NYC at the moment.”

During a typical year, people are encouraged to march in costumes that fit the theme, and even though this year will look different, Fleming says that BIG LOVE! BIG EMBRACE! will still be incorporated into the evening.

What about a costume contest?

As of now, there’s no costume contest planned for this year, but don’t let that deter you from dressing up. Whether you serve big love or big terror, just make sure to serve—and wear a mask!

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Kyler Alvord is a news writer at Thrillist. Find him on Twitter and Instagram. Or don't. It's really up to you.