Rutland Celebrates Its 50th Halloween Parade

10/30/09 5:30PM By Nina Keck
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AP File Photo/Toby Talbot
(Host) When it comes to Halloween parades - Rutland hosts one of the biggest. This Saturday, thousands of people, many in costume - will line the streets to celebrate the city's 50th annual Halloween Parade.   VPR's Nina Keck has more.

(band music)

(Keck)  Proctor's marching band will be among 100 bands, floats, dancers and marching groups that will wend their way through downtown Rutland Saturday night.  Proctor bandleader Aron Audette says it's an event he and his students look forward to it every year.

(Aron ) It's really a lot of fun - usually the adrenaline gets going and you get all excited and I get goose  bumps when I  see so many people on the street that they have to push them back.  Like sometimes it's hard for us to fit down some of those streets."

(Keck)  In addition to nearly 70 musicians and dancers, Proctor will also have a float in this year's parade.  Mike Knowles is one of the parents who helped students build it.

(Knowles) "I can't tell you what a rush it is to ride in the truck and look back and see people interacting with the floats.  If we can get somebody to point and laugh and say how did they do that?  It's a great time." 

(Keck) While spectators love the floats and costumes, the candy that gets thrown out and Rutland's annual pumpkin princess . . . when it comes to crowd pleasers, though, it's hard to top the skellys.

(Sound of drums)

(Meitrott) "The skelly's are the skeletons - we've been given that affectionate name by the crowd.  I'm really tickled at how Rutland itself has made us the icon of the parade."

(Keck) That's Gary Meitrott - founder and director of Drum Journeys of Earth.   Seven years ago, he and his percussion students dressed up as skeletons danced and drummed their way along the parade route.    The crowd loved it and the skellies now lead the parade every year.   

(Sound of rehearsal)

(Keck) Meitrott says about 90 drummers and dancers will perform Saturday night including Alis Headlam and Kathie Luzader.

(Headlam) "Well we're the bottle blasting babes and we're hitting bottles and pots and pans and hubcaps. . . . . 

(Luzader) "It's really incredible.  You become a community with tens of thousands of people that you don't even know.   It's an amazing experience to be part of it."

(Keck)  Gary Meitrott says that while the floats are beautiful and very creative, he thinks that what makes parades so much fun for people is the human interaction they provide.

(Meitrott ) "I really wanted to be down on the street level with the crowd and interact with them  and I think that's the main thing that we brought to this 7 years ago and we just keep adding more and more to that."

(Sound of drums)

(Keck) Since this is the parade's 50th anniversary, a portion of Center Street will be closed off to make room for a post- parade block party.  

For folks who want to learn more about the parade's history, the nearby Chaffee Art Center is hosting a special exhibit with old photographs and information on how the parade got started, including its early ties to the comic book industry - a passion of the parade's founder Tom Fagan.  They even have comic books from the 1960s and early 70s with story lines that include Rutland's parade.  

For VPR News I'm Nina Keck in Rutland.

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