by Geoff Fox
After a two-year absence in 2019 and 2020 due to weather and a pandemic, the Hancock Rotary’s Halloween Parade made a triumphant return to Main Street last year and this year’s parade is already shaping up as a big celebration. This year marks the 75th anniversary of the holiday parade.
Dan Murphy, chairman for the parade committee, said everything is on schedule with the soliciting and the collecting of local business and professionals who have supported the parade over the years.
In getting ready for the parade, Murphy said it’s a chance for the Rotary to review the list of businesses in town and see which have been lost and which have been gained.
With a two-year absence due to a storm in 2019 and COVID in 2020, there was some interruption in contact with businesses and donors making 2021 a little bit of a challenge.
“The town has always been so generous in supporting this parade,” Murphy said.
He said the planning started early in September, followed by getting the permits to close Main Street (MD Rt. 144). Murphy said the Town of Hancock and the Hancock Police Department take care of that aspect.
“They do a great job for us,” Murphy said.
When school gets back in session, letters start going out to the local bands inviting them to participate in the parade. It also lets the bands know the schedule and if the Rotary can build the parade around the number of bands in the lineup.
In 2021, Washington County Public Schools made the decision not to allow middle school bands march in parades. This year, it’s up to the individual music department at each school, Murphy said.
The schools that have marched in the parade previously will be contacted to march this year.
Later in September, those who have participated would also get invites sent to them.
Once those invites have gone out, Murphy said there would be ads placed in The Hancock News and Morgan Messenger for people or businesses who would want to participate.
In those ads, Murphy said the contact information would direct them to his vet office.
This allows Murphy and parade organizers to know exactly how many entrants are going to be in the parade.
“We have to have a handle on how many applications we have, we have to know who we haven’t heard from,” Murphy said.
He added everyone who enters the parade has to have an entry form filled out before they are allowed to line up on Blue Hill on October 26.
Entry forms, which are going to be available only at Murphy’s veterinary office, are due the week before the parade.
Murphy’s office hours have changed since COVID, he said. Those hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
There have been a couple entries already returned, Murphy said.
There is an election coming up in November, which means there will be political candidates marching in the parade.
Murphy said a couple years ago, there was a disclaimer in the entry forms stating there were to be no political statements made in the parade.
Most of the candidates, Murphy said, have been for county races.
“I don’ t think we want to encourage any polarization on the night of our Halloween Parade because of a red state, blue state argument,” Murphy said.
Murphy added any other entrant that would have political flags flying would have the flags or messages pulled off the vehicle or they would not be allowed in the parade.
“We don’t want controversial stuff,” Murphy said. “This is a fun parade.”
Murphy noted pamphlets are not allowed to be handed out as is participants are not allowed to throw candy.
This has been a long-standing rule in the parade due to the parade being at night and there being limited visibility. No one wants a child running in front of a vehicle when they spot a piece of candy on the street.
The parade is a forward-moving parade, which means bands and dance groups can’ t stop and do a performance in front of the judges’ stand.
Murphy said by keeping the parade moving, it prevents gaps in the parade.
There had been an inquiry about having horses in the parade, which would be at the end of the parade.
Murphy said they don’ t have horses in the parade due to the lighting and noises from along the parade route that could spook the horses.
One thing that keeps popping up at the Halloween Parade have been the vendors with their carts walking up and down Main Street.
Murphy said those vendors have “never ever been invited” to the parade. He added they have a “sixth sense” about when the parade is taking place and show up that afternoon.
Murphy’s going to remind Town Hall, those vendors had to have a permit and need to get that permission before hand. It also gives police an idea how many there are.
There have been issues with the vendors over the year such as from people complaining of vendors blocking the view of the parade.
Murphy said he’d be working with the Hancock Police Department prior to the parade to make sure the vendors are licensed and paid up.
Murphy said there was some worry if there would be enough entrants and people to put on a parade last year.
“You don’t know what the public wants anymore,” Murphy said. “Everything has changed so much.”
He noted a few events over the years that have disappeared from the Hancock landscape such as Barge Bash, Winter Festival, and Canal Apple Days because attendance kept dwindling.
Murphy did say the smaller parade last year made it easier to manage and organizers gave out bigger cash prizes to entrants.
“Hopefully we’ll get a good turn out this year,” he said.
Should there be rain on October 26, Murphy said the rain date would the following night, October 27.