New Paltz being a place where a little weirdness or unconventionality is worn as a badge of honor, it’s no surprise that its inhabitants have long taken Halloween into their hearts as the unofficial “town holiday.” The elaborate themed haunted-house productions at Dan and Ann Guenther’s home were the stuff of legends for a couple of decades. The Night of 100 Pumpkins at the Bakery, with its artistically carved jack o’ lanterns, its lively drum circle and free pumpkin bread and hot cider, remains a community attraction not to be missed.
And then there’s the annual parade, reliably departing the Middle School at 6 p.m. led by a band playing the theme from The Addams Family, prancing down Main Street in full costumed glory, turning left at P & G’s and winding up at the Firehouse. Reliably until 2020, of course, when COVID put the kibosh on all such social gatherings.
Of all the beloved community gatherings canceled last year by concern for public health, the Halloween Parade may well have been the most dearly missed. The Office for Community Wellness and the New Paltz Youth Program made a gallant effort to replace it, and the usual door-to-door trick-or-treating that followed, with a network of “grab-and-go” candy stations downtown. But it just wasn’t the same.
So, it’s a thrill to be able to reveal that, this year, the parade will be back! The Village Board gave its blessing, and the New Paltz Rotary Club picked up the ball that had been dropped when former sponsor the Lions Club, whose membership had greatly dwindled, decided to cease operations – including the traditional handing out of an apple and a Hershey bar to each participant at the end of the parade. The line of march will assemble at the Middle School as usual at 6 p.m. on October 31.
“Yes, the parade is going on,” Rotary president Lauren Rooney confirmed. “It will still end at the Firehouse, but the Firehouse is not going to be open. We’re not giving away apples and candy bars.” Phoenix Kawamoto of the Office for Community Wellness will be bringing back the scattered candy giveaway tables instead, she said. “We’ve donated money for her stations, to supply them with little bags of candy. We’ve got our fingers crossed that everyone will be fine.”
Well, if ever there was a day when wearing a mask is de rigueur, rather than a subject for political contention, Halloween is it. Masks covering the nose and mouth (regardless of vaccination status) will be required down at Historic Huguenot Street (HHS) as well, as the historic site hosts an entire day of fun family activities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on October 31, its first annual Halloween Fair. Three tours of this year’s Haunted Huguenot Street production, “Gertrude Deyo’s Ghost Ball,” will follow at 6, 7 and 8 p.m.
Costumes will be encouraged at the HHS Halloween Fair, which will charge a $10 admission fee per child (parents accompanying them get in free). Attendees will have the opportunity to complete three spooky crafts to take home, participate in a scavenger hunt of the historic stone houses to receive a Halloween goodie bag and receive a festive treat (allergy-friendly “teal pumpkin”-approved bags will be an option). Preregistration at www.huguenotstreet.org/calendar-of-events/halloween-fair is required for this event, with arrival times at 10 or 11 a.m., noon, 1, 2 or 3 p.m.
Billed as “a (socially distanced) celebration of life, death and love,” Gertrude Deyo’s Ghost Ball will be presented at Historic Huguenot Street Friday and Saturday evenings starting October 15, as well as Halloween Night. Participants are invited to meet the spirits who inhabit Huguenot Street for a fabulous night of merriment and mischief, exploring the cultures that make New Paltz what it is today and the ways they have tried to welcome the dead (and dispel the undead). Guests can sip on festive mocktails, see into the future with fortune-telling games, dance to spectral music and get their (preferably costumed) pictures taken at a photo booth. All festivities will take place outdoors, with plenty of distance between partygoers, living and not.
Haunted Huguenot Street tours run three times each evening at 6, 7 and 8 p.m., with a maximum of 20 visitors per tour, so it would be wise to register ASAP at www.huguenotstreet.org/calendar-of-events/ghost-ball if you wish to attend – especially on Halloween itself. Tickets cost $25 general admission, $20 for HHS members, seniors, students, active military members, veterans and children under 13. To learn more, or to volunteer to help out with Haunted Huguenot Street, call (845) 255-1660 or e-mail email@example.com.