All roads will lead to Maple Avenue at 7 p.m. this Wednesday as the Town of Vienna celebrates its annual Halloween Parade.
It’s been 76 years since the Town of Vienna began its Halloween Parade in 1946, a spectacle that takes place every year rain or shine. Even during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the parade carried on through a physically distant, driveby arrangement.
There will be costumes, floats and, of course, goodie bags filled with candy. Maple Avenue will be closed in light of the event.
A panel of judges will select the most creative floats based on the parade’s theme, which changes from year to year. For 2022, it is “Time Machine: Vienna in the past, present and future.”
To Peggy James, the executive director of the Vienna Business Association, the parade represents the best parts of Halloween — costumes, celebration, music. But it also represents the town’s tight-knit community.
“I think about 30,000 people go to the parade here,” James said. “It’s crazy.”
People line up chairs and blankets days before the parade to stake out their lot on Maple Avenue, James said. You can spot their blankets and chairs piled up against the curb, she said.
The parade is sponsored by the business association and the Town of Vienna Parks and Recreation. James, who is charged with putting together a panel of judges and getting local businesses to sponsor the parade, said it was incredible to see all the businesses that want to support the event.
“The parade is just like ‘Small Town USA,’” James said. “You just see so many of your neighbors and so many of your fellow business people.”
James said there were some staples of the parade: The Vienna Art Society, which she said always puts together a creative float. She also noted The Jammars, a local percussion-based music group, the town’s School of Rock and the Harley Davidson Club, which all usually make appearances every year.
Lily Widman, Vienna’s recreation program coordinator, said it was fun to see every float’s different interpretation of the theme.
“There’s one group this year that’s actually making a time machine for their entry, so that’ll be cool to see,” Widman said.
The parade is special, she said, which is why the town will shut down a major through-way in Northern Virginia year after year.
“This is a really huge undertaking for the town of Vienna,” Widman said. “And it’s amazing that we manage to close down Maple Avenue at rush hour on a Wednesday every year. It’s not easy to do. And like I would say just about every town employee at the town of Vienna has some hand in making it happen.”
Widman said, however, the coordination was worth it — the parade is her favorite event that the town puts on.
“I’m the event coordinator for the town,” Widman said. “I’ve run a lot of large-scale events for the town and they’re all wonderful. But this one — it just sparks joy in the kids and the families attending more than anything else.”
The parade is woven in the town’s history. In October 1955, The Fairfax Herald wrote that it was the place “thousands of kids from six to 60 in the guise of clowns, goblins, witches, spooks, [and] storybook characters.”
In October 1959, the Herald wrote that prizes went to the “spookiest, funniest, prettiest, and more original costumes.”
Maggie Reidy, secretary of the Vienna Host Lions Club, a volunteer organization, said her club will never miss a parade. News clippings also show that the Lions sponsored the parade in 1955.
“Our club is 80 years old,” Reidy said. “So, we’ve been doing the parade every year that there’s been one. We enjoyed it very much.”
Reidy will have to miss the parade this year, but she already has her costume for 2023 ready to go, she said. A lion suit, for the Lions Club.
Leigh Kitcher, who Widman and the town chose to be the parade’s grand marshal, also has finally picked out her costume.
“I thought ‘My gosh, who am I going to go as?’” Kitcher said. “And I only knew that I wanted to wear this beautiful orange hat my friend lent me.”
Kitcher was chosen to lead the parade because of her active role in Vienna, Widman said. She has been involved in leadership positions in Historic Vienna, Inc. the town’s Ayr Hill Garden Club and the National Capital Area Garden Club. Kitcher also helped Vienna coordinate its first Liberty Amendments Month in 2021.
Kitcher knew she wanted to dress professionally but wanted to also celebrate the day.
“I thought: ‘Oh! I want to be Bella Abzug,’” Kitcher said of the feminist who spoke out against the Vietnam War. “What could be more appropriate than going as Bella because she was known for her hats. She was known for her outspoken support of women’s rights. And human rights. And she’s just a dynamic person.”
Kitcher’s excited, she said. She described getting selected to be the marshal as an honor.
Parade organizers said kids who just want to march in the parade should show up at 6 p.m. at United Bank at 374 Maple Ave., which is the parade’s starting line. Those who have registered to be in the parade and put together floats are to do the same, according to the town website.
Kitcher, dressed as Abzug, will lead the way at 7 p.m. Wednesday to kick off the fall festivity. She will be the one in the orange hat.