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The Zombie Takeover at the Village Halloween Parade

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays because of the costume creativity and candy. Where better to see an estimated 60,000 costumed participants dressed as ghouls, ghost, and goblins galore than in this year’s 42nd Annual Halloween Parade in Greenwich Village, New York. This cultural event draws two million in-person spectators and a worldwide television audience of one hundred million.

Since 1973, this annual holiday parade has thrilled audiences. It’s hard to believe it all started with one Greenwich Village puppeteer and mask maker, Ralph Lee, and his family. Now the annual holiday tradition is one of the largest public Halloween celebrations in the nation and has grown into a three-hour long spooktacular featuring marching bands, floats, musical and performing acts including ThrillerNYC.

I alway get super excited to see the zombies do the choreographed Thriller dance to adoring fans every year at the West Village Halloween Parade which was started by Thriller NYC back in 2004. This year I decided to join these dancing zombies as a fun and healthy way to celebrate Halloween! It’s an awesome workout!

Actually, I was originally waitlisted. Thinking that was the end of my dancing zombie aspirations, I was surprised to get an email from the Thriller NYC organizer Erin Early stating that they had six spots available for this year’s parade and I received the last one. Her next email was a request for volunteers to do GingerTV and a Halloweenthemed wedding. Of course, I agreed to participate in both events thinking it would be great practice for the big day.

A few hours later, I’m at my first rehearsal in a dance studio with 70 strangers learning the Thriller dance. Gulp! No time to second guess that decision. Choreographer Carolyn Kelly, coached us zombies-in-training on how to do Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance. The rehearsal was a lot of fun but I was two left feet. Thankfully, Erin and Carolyn gave us an instructional video to practice our steps outside of rehearsals.

Practice makes perfect, and I need a lot of practice! Over the next fourteen days, I went to their rehearsals and danced all the time in my apartment. I even danced on my building rooftop. People in neighboring apartments must’ve thought I was crazy. When I wasn’t practicing my dance moves, I was watching the instructional video in the grocery store line, on subway platforms and anytime I had a few moments of down time in my schedule.

Photo by Carli Choi

Once I mastered my zombified graveyard moves, I had to decide on a costume and learn how to do theatrical makeup. Luckily, we collaborated on a DIY Halloween Costume article so I used one of the suggested white button down shirt hacks. Building on this wardrobe basic, I added a schoolgirl plaid skirt, blazer, slashed and bloodied Dosha Pops t-shirt (hey, I sell candy after all) and socks. As for makeup, I got a few tips from one of the zombie dancers and learned a few things watching the Birchbox makeup artist do my makeup the week before for GingerTV and wedding events.

On the big day, with a freshly scar-painted face and bloodied clothing I was appropriately zombified for the Halloween. Heading over to the parade was a lot of fun. My subway ride was very colorful. Once I arrived at the float with the group, I had a chance to relax while we waited to start. Saying everyone looked amazing was an understatement! We started late so we got a chance to see the other floats go by including Dos Equis carrying this year’s grand marshal, Bronx-born actor Jonathan Goldsmith, who is “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” His commercials always make me laugh.

After a long wait, our time to perform finally came. I excitedly danced in synchronicity with my fellow zombies up the mile-long stretch of 6th Avenue. My bundle of energy started to dwindle as we repeated the dance over and over. Sweaty and parched from lack of water (nowhere to store water), my lollipop saved the day giving an extra burst of energy and helping with my dry mouth! The fans cheered us on from Spring Street all the way up to 16th Street. Our zombie bouncers did a great job holding off overzealous onlookers. To my surprise we reached the end of the parade route faster than I expected.

The night was still young and we were ready to celebrate a successful performance. We headed up to a bar where the group annually gathers for drinks, dances and participates in a Halloween costume contest. We even did a few more performances for family and friends who attended. Our beloved Pope Yamil won best costume this year of course! Who can resist a zombie Pope in an Irish Catholic bar!

On my walk home with a fellow zombie, we got a chance to check out lots of costumes and talk to a few revelers. We even stopped by a friend’s Halloween party. Since I worked up an appetite it was lucky for us we could perform our trick for their treats, meaning we did the Thriller dance for partygoers in exchange for food! I guess you could say that I created the tricks and the candy treats this year!

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