All Hallow’s Eve in New Paltz is ghouls and goblins, witches, and vampires marching down Plattekill Avenue in the town’s annual Halloween parade, as they have for the past 58 years.
Everyone congregates at the New Paltz Fire Department to schmooze with friends and neighbors over candy treats and apples. Six different Hudson Valley apple farms: Apple Hill Farms, Dressel Farms, Hurds Family Farm, Jenkin-Leukins Orchards, Minard’s Family Farms, Tantillo’s Farm, and Wright Farms provided the refreshments.
Halloween has become such a New Paltz tradition that people from surrounding towns have heard about it and joined in on the holiday festivities.
Mia Rossino, a resident of Rifton who dressed up as a dog this year with her husband, said she and her family have been coming to the Halloween parade in New Paltz for 15 years.
“The whole community comes together and it’s joyous and fun and always such a pleasure,” she said. “It’s an event everybody comes out for and it’s something we all enjoy seeing every year.”
New Paltz resident Paul Cristafi agreed, saying that Halloween might be the most important holiday in town.
“So many people come out for the parade,” he said. “Halloween is all about creativity and what you see here [at the parade] are a lot less costumes that are store-bought and a lot more handmade costumes. People put a lot of thought into it.”
Not only do students, children and families get to have fun on Halloween, but the parade offers the town’s emergency services a bit of a break from their serious, everyday emergencies as well. The New Paltz Fire Department, Police Department and Rescue Squad all attended the parade in some capacity.
“Usually we’re all in serious mode when we’re all together,” said New Paltz Fire Department Chief Dave Weeks. “But now we’re here to have a good time with all of the people and residents we know in the community.”
Further downtown, a second Halloween party of its own went on: The Bakery’s annual Night of 100 Pumpkins. According to Maeve Dougherty, an employee of The Bakery, some of this year’s finest pumpkins included Donald Trump-kins and Drake “Hotline Bling” pumpkins.
Employees of The Bakery dressed up and handed out free pumpkin bread, hot apple cider and hot chocolate to the townspeople who walked around admiring the pumpkin-carving artistry. Little kids got to trick-or-treat too.
In a white feather coat, black tights, a white painted face, eyes painted black and rainbow lights draped around his costume danced Jason Shelton to the loud rhythm of the authentic African drums played at this event each year. This was his first year attending Night of 100 Pumpkins and he agreed that there is a real sense of community during Halloween in the village.
“A community is something you can think about, but it’s extremely important for people to be together and actually feel that there is a real community rather than just an idea of one,” Shelton said. “There is such a freedom of expression and kindness everywhere on such a freaky night. People should feel free enough to dress up like this every day, but it’s nice that we get permission on Halloween,” Shelton said.
The third annual event hosted in town was the New Paltz Youth Organization’s (NPYO) 26th haunted house. Children, staff and volunteers from NPYO dress up in spooky attire to scare their friends, families and neighbors.
This year, the children at NPYO decided on a theme entitled “The Hunt,” where they brought attendees from scene to scene, room to room for a “cult” experience. Four-hundred people attended this year over the two-days the haunted house was open.
Jose Formoso, an employee of NPYO, said that all proceeds from the event go towards funding the haunted house. He said 30 to 40 children get involved, along with volunteers from SUNY New Paltz, New Paltz Middle School and New Paltz High School.
“The haunted house adds to the spirit of Halloween,” Formoso said. “And New Paltz is such a liberal town that people encourage others to express themselves and to show off their creativity.”
SUNY New Paltz hosted a haunted house of its own on Old Main Quad on Oct. 27, the Tuesday before Halloween night. This creepy crib was organized by the Union Programming Council (UPC) to get the campus into the festive season.
Events Coordinator of UPC Brendan O’Brien said Halloween in New Paltz is unique. He said that Halloween in Albany, where he went to school isn’t nearly as celebrated there as it is in New Paltz.
“Halloween in New Paltz is a good kind of crazy,” he said.
This story first appeared in The New Paltz Oracle on November 12, 2015.