Westminster parade has been a Halloween tradition for 64 years

October 31, 1994|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Sun Staff Writer

The 500 Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Simbas, fudge brownies and assorted other costumed characters who marched in Westminster's Halloween parade last week were treading in 64-year-old footprints.

"The Westminster Band has decided to entertain all Halloween merrymakers on Main Street with music and a parade next Friday evening," the Democratic Advocate, a weekly newspaper, reported Oct. 24, 1930.

Band members asked people interested in seeing "clean sport" on Halloween to attend a planning committee meeting.

The Advocate's Oct. 31 issue advised, "Each person is to dress in some gaudy uniform. Ride in decorated vehicles. The purpose is to have everyone who takes part dress to correspond with the festive day, Halloween."

The band contributed $10 for cash awards, $3 and $2 for first and second prizes for adults, $1.50 and $1 for first and second prizes for boys and girls under 12.

In last week's parade, American Legion Post 31, which sponsors the event with financial assistance from city government, gave away $500 in first and second prizes for individuals, groups and floats.

Judges in 1930 gave the top adult prize to two women costumed as "Andy and Madam Queen." Staff members at the Historical Society of Carroll County were unable to provide any information on Andy and Madam Queen.

Other winners were a clown band, three boys dressed as a mother, father and baby, two girls in Colonial costumes and an Uncle Sam with female companion.

The first parade attracted an estimated 400 spectators. The Advocate did not report the number of entrants, but it said, "Given the success of this year's celebration, it will become an annual affair in this city."

Parade Chairman Russell Fisher couldn't pin down the year the Legion began sponsoring the parade. But he said older members have told him it has been a Legion project for nearly 50 years.

The parade boomed during the Depression, and early sponsors added a dance at the armory, now Longwell Municipal Center.

In 1935, the Advocate reported that the celebration attracted 500 entrants and 6,000 spectators. Parade marshal Capt. John Magin dressed as Red Riding Hood that year, and girls captured the boys' prizes.

"Mabel Corbin, garbed as Frankenstein, was named by the judges as the most comical boy, the judges being completely fooled by Miss Corbin's attire," the Advocate reported. "And for the same reason, the prize for best dressed boy went to Ethel Bohn."

By 1940, the Halloween celebration included the parade, a promenade and dance in the armory with prizes for best waltzing, modern dancing and jitterbugging couple.

But with the first draft for World War II calling up 40 men from Carroll County, the Advocate appeared to have become blase about the Halloween parade.

"The Halloween frolic in this city last evening was no different than any other. The crowd was far from being as large as usual. The Westminster Band was the only musical organization," the newspaper reported Nov. 1, 1940.

Norman E. Ogg, a senior member of the Westminster Fire Company, said volunteer firefighters used to dress in costume and march down Main Street in the Halloween parade, tossing candy and bubble gum to children lining the parade route. "But that's been 30 years ago," he said. He didn't recall when the practice stopped.

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