70th Annual Boyertown Halloween Parade Hits the Street Saturday Night


by Lesley Misko

Community Support and Strong Leadership Save 70 Year Tradition

Stepping off on 69 years of tradition Saturday, October 21 at 7:00 PM, the 70th annual Boyertown Halloween parade is back from the brink of cancellation and organizers promise it will be bigger and better than ever. “As of now over 100 groups, not counting firetrucks, will march in the parade,” says Adriane Zapien, chairperson of the newly created Boyertown Halloween Parade Association.  

The rain date is Sunday, October 22 at 2:00 PM.

Zapien shares the chain of events leading to the formation of a new planning group: “Throughout the decades, a variety of local groups,  most notably the Jaycees for about 18 years, took on the responsibility of the parade." The Jaycees are a civic group that focuses on leadership and business development through community service. But as members aged and lifestyles changed, membership decreased markedly, leaving the group unable to carry on the tradition.

Among those upset about the prospect of losing the parade was Mayor Lori Carnes. Zapien describes, "Lori said, ‘No way. We really want to keep this alive. We can’t let it go under,' and suggested that since it is a historic event, maybe the Historical Society could take on the project.” Still, leadership was needed and Zapien, who describes herself as “a lover of all parades,” stepped up to take charge.

While the parade will be essentially unchanged from recent years, some new touches have been added. The parade will be led by “the Belsnickel.” Sometimes referred to as Santa’s grouchy cousin and often dressed in fur, he is part of German, Pennsylvania Dutch tradition. Also, the Historical Society has brought back the old name for the parade: “Der Gnome Karnerval.”

 Zapien is excitedly anticipating over 1,000 people marching in the parade, including about 50 floats. Always popular in parades, music groups will include the Boyertown Area Senior High Marching Unit, the Middle School marching groups, the Alumni Band, and string group Funky Frets. Zapien is excited by the large number of private residents who have signed up to be in parade in costume. “A number of groups from neighborhoods came to sign up together,” she notes.

Local ROTC students and a color guard will follow the Belsnickel, along with Mayor Carnes, and then a military brigade including a Veterans Coalition of Pennsylvania group and ROTC from Reading will follow. The military participants will be pulling wagons so they can accept donations of clothing and canned goods. (See the photo above for information about clothing specifics and sizes.)

Knowing parade goers will be hungry, planners have arranged for at least six food trucks. Local restaurants will be open, and to help people find the trucks and the restaurants, a map is being shared noting the location of each. (See photo below.)

Zapien’s commitment to the success of the 70th Boyertown Halloween Parade is unequaled. The owner of Revamped Salon and Old Soul Stroll of Boyertown, she quietly shares that she has some serious surgery in her future and is currently taking medication in order to delay it. “It was supposed to be now, but I needed to get this parade wrapped up first. I couldn’t just walk away from this project,” she says.

Despite her level of responsibility for the success of the parade, Zapien repeatedly credits the Boyertown community with making it happen. “I am so thrilled with the community. There were so many donations. People have donated money and food, fencing for 2nd Street and porta-potties, among so many other things,” she declares. A look at the event Facebook page where donor contributions are shared, validates her praise and she hopes parade lovers will patronize these businesses. She expresses her love for the Boyertown area, saying, “We are so lucky to have such an amazing sense of community; I cannot emphasize that enough.”

Clearly, Zapien is not planning to “rest on her laurels” following this event. Already looking ahead to #71, she is excited to have met her goal of bringing in enough money this year to have a start for next year. She confides that a parade logo design is already in the works, and she lets the word “Mummers” slip out in conversation. Meetings are already planned for January. Certainly the Boyertown community wishes her smooth sailing and quick recovery from her surgery, so that she can get back to planning next year’s event!

(You can read more about the parade history in this Mercury article written by Historical Society member, Luann Zambanini.)

[All images from event Facebook page.]

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