2010 Greenwich Village Halloween Parade

by Parade Guy on November 1, 2010

The 28th Annual Greenwich Village Halloween Parade was held this year and it drew over 60,000 participants, based on the length of time it took for get everyone on the route.  There were several lessons to be learned that came out of this year’s event, mostly around pre-planning and open communications.

One of the biggest issues we faced was confusion regarding staging areas.  As with all large public events in New York City, coordination with our public safety providers is a key to success.

This parade is unlike any other I work with around the Country.  The biggest difference is that anyone can choose to participate just by showing up.  Over the years, I have estimated that every degree above sixty add about one thousand new participants to the route.  As the vast majority of parades are staged by unit, the Halloween Parade is typically broken into two sections.  First, a small group of invited guests is placed on the route by the Staging and Integration teams.  This group includes marchers, bands, and vehicles.  The second group is a varied mix of dance groups, bands, vehicles and general public participants.  This is where is gets interesting.

The vehicles are staged in two off route blocks prior to being brought into an integration chute, a section of protected street on 6th Avenue.  The first problem we ran into this year was that in order to get the vehicles into the integration chute, we had to cross the public holding pens.  I got as new job to part the seas of humanity to safely move vehicles.  It may have been that I looked a little like Moses, I am not sure.  Even though there were only four vehicles to move from one pre-staging area, it took almost an hour with assistance from NYPD to accomplish this task.  This challenge came about due to a lack of communication between various groups assigned to manage the general public.

For this parade, there are four integration chutes:  Section One and Two Parade Guests, Section Two Vehicles, and two chutes that lead back to general public holding areas.  As the parade is integrated, The Section One groups are lead onto the route first.  Then Section Two known participants are mixed with general public parade entrants.  If you ever watched someone cooking and using terms like a pinch of salt or a dallop of butter or add to taste, then you get an idea of how the parade is integrated.

It is a little more organized and scientific then it may sound.  Integration team leaders work with the NYPD to determine how many general public participants are let on to the route at any one time.  Criteria used to make this judgment include how quickly the parade is moving in front of them, the size and speed of the vehicles on the route at the time of public insertion, the number of known elements left in the chute, and the size of the general public in the two staging areas.

The integration is truly a joint effort in fluid dynamics and crowd control.  As a participant in the parade, there is really no way to plan when you will be on the route or when you will be done.  There are just too many variables in the equation.

I used the term fluid dynamics throughout this site.  The concept was something that I learned about in college and is something that I firmly believe is a vital component of a successful parade.  Instead of molecules of a gas, liquid of solid moving through know vessels, valves and choke points, I see vehicles, bands, horses, marchers and all of the other elements of a parade having to move from staging through intersections, constrictions in road widths, and other manmade obstructions to get to the end of the route.

Over the years, I have learned a great deal about the fluid dynamics of various parade elements.  Equestrian units move differently than marching bands, long floats have different turning radius depending on wheelbase, and of course you need to take into consideration the third dimension of height when dealing with some floats and balloons.  All of these are important when working through the pre-planning and execution stages of a parade.

Perhaps the best place to actually observe this phenomena is at the head of the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade.  You will see the general public participants swarm around Section Two vehicles until the width of the street if full.  Ahead, there are approximately ten intersections under the joint control of parade marshals and NYPD officers that stop the parade and let cross town vehicular traffic move across the route.  As you can visualize, the impact on the integration area of a long crossing is that everything comes to a stop.  On the front side, the impact is an ever expanding gap in the parade.  It’s a balancing act that requires constant communication and management.  To tie my favorite recurring theme into the mix, it really helps to have experienced people in these critical areas, even if they come from other parades.  I have asked friends from other NYC parades to join in, knowing that in the end, the parade will be better executed.

I was kind of busy and didn’t get an opportunity to take a lot of pictures, but if you use any internet search engine with the term “2010 Greenwich Village Halloween Parade” you will find thousands of images.  I do suggest that you do this on a non-work related computer and without anyone under the age of eighteen around.

See ya’ on the route!

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