TOMS RIVER – The 79th Annual Toms River Halloween Parade, sponsored by the Toms River Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 since its inception, is on Tuesday, October 31 this year starting at 7 p.m. A rain date is set for November 1.
A true community event, the non-profit parade is a yearly tradition for local high school marching bands and community organizations. For some families, the parade is old news. For others, it might be something new and exciting.
Either way, the Toms River Halloween Parade dates way, way back – to October 31, 1919. Led by local veterans who served in World War I, over 500 people marched in it, and then joined a block party along Robins and Water Streets that featured dancing, children’s games, cider and donuts. In the 1950’s, the party relocated to a parking lot, on grounds that are now the Toms River Municipal Building.
There were some gaps. The parade was put on hold during the 1930’s due to lack of funds, and once again in the 1940’s during World War II because of labor shortages and blackout rules – but it recovered.
Today, more than 6,000 people take part in the annual parade and over 10,000 spectators crowd Main and Washington Streets to watch marching bands, decorated cars and floats, and ghosts and goblins march through downtown Toms River. It is the second largest Halloween parade in the world, dwarfed only by the annual Halloween parade in New York City’s Greenwich Village.
“I have lived all over the country, and I’ve never seen a parade like the one we have here in Toms River,” said former Dover Township committeeman Clarence “Bud” Aldrich III, who also recalls people asking him if Toms River is the place where they have “that Halloween Parade” while vacationing in Hawaii.
Toms River’s parade is run by a committee of Fire Company No. 1 members, while Fire Company No. 2 steps in to provide fire protection for the event.
Aside from the traditional parade divisions of best costume, best decorated float, and youngest and oldest marcher, a new division will be added for best representation of the book Station Eleven, which students in Toms River Regional Schools are reading as part of a grant awarded by the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) Big Read program.
The book describes a post-apocalyptic world where a flu pandemic wipes out the population and a traveling symphony forms, putting on Shakespeare plays to keep the arts and humanities alive for what few people remain. Costumes reflecting post-apocalyptic worlds, Shakespeare, emergency preparedness, traveling symphonies, and the book’s connection to Superstorm Sandy five years later are encouraged.
Also new this year is a parade division for best decorated family pet, both walking on a leash and riding on a float.
Individuals, community organizations, scout groups and emergency service organizations are encouraged to register and march in the parade, but all individuals and apparatuses must be in costume or decorated festively. Politics of any kind are not allowed in the parade.
Registration will take place at the Toms River Volunteer Fire Co. #1 Firehouse, 26 Robbins Street, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on October 31. It is free, but donations are gladly accepted.
Any questions should be referred to 732-349-0144. For full parade rules and regulations, visit trfc1.org/halloween.html.