The 27th Annual Portsmouth Halloween Parade


Rhianwen Watkins, Arts Editor

All I could see were the backs of heads. Many were adorned with skeleton masks, witch hats or something of the sort. They bobbed excitedly, chattering with those next to them, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the parade. I found a window, just big enough through them, to get a view of the scene.

The chill in the air clung to my face, but I didn’t care. The parade began at 7 p.m. on Pierce Island, but I was waiting for them in the middle of town. About forty minutes later, they finally came. A couple of blue lights became visible down the street and began moving in circles. As they came closer, I could see that they were motorbikes. A police officer sat atop each one, circling each other as hundreds of faces gleamed in excitement behind the barricades that kept the streets of market square clear.

Once the motorbikes made their entrance, they gave way to the main event that people came out for: the 27th annual Portsmouth Halloween parade. Soon hundreds of dancers of all ages and all costumes were zombie-walking their way towards us to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

Video cameras appeared overhead.

The chorus kicked in and all of the dancers began swinging their arms side to side in unison, their hands forming monster claws. They looked like they had awoken from the grave, making their way, like zombies, through the entire routine. They finished their segment and the crowd cheered.

The zombies went away, and in came a new crowd – the leftist marching band, playing a few of the biggest Halloween hits. They were followed by the Seacoast Ski Club, decked out in glow-in-the-dark gear, dancing passionately to “Eye of the Tiger.”

“I came to see the thriller group and leftist marching band,” said Cindy Henry, a Portsmouth visitor who was standing next to me. “They’re my favorite.”

Linda Morrison who came with her said she came “just for the whole scene, and to see how creative it is here.”

Monsters, ghouls and Halloween characters of all kinds followed behind. Fairies and clowns walked among witches and Jack Skellingtons from “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Marios, Luigis and toads from the video game, Mario Kart, filled the street, with some of their kids riding in little cars.

Among them came a swath of people dressed in red cloaks and white caps portraying “the Janes”, holding signs that read “VOTE VOTE VOTE.” With the upcoming election only days away, it is no surprise that the parade was an opportunity to encourage people to get to the polls.

A big dragon float, led by another entourage of dancers adorned with glowy lights filled the street as the dragon soared ominously through the crowd.  

The rest of the performers made their way down the street and through the night, with ghostbusters trailing behind them.

The crowd began to disperse, and it was then, that I saw a family friend, Theresa Fister, who happened to be in the mob.

“What was your favorite part?” I asked.

“It was very creative and was fun to see everyone so excited,” she said. “And they put so much time and energy into the performances.”

I feel lucky to be from a town that puts on such magnificent festivities around the holidays. And the Portsmouth Halloween parade is no exception.

You just might see me among those dancing the thriller next year.