Denise Hurd, Actor/Stage Fight Choreographer

Resident at Westbeth since 1970

My story is about the first Halloween Parade in 1974. I remember it as a series of images. I was 12 years old, my sisters were 10 and 8. We were excited about the idea of a parade. We always did trick-or-treating in the building, but a parade was something new.

It started in the courtyard. Our parents took us downstairs in the cool crisp air. There were swirling puppets, courtesy of Ralph Lee, witches flying in the sky, skeletons dancing, and snakes swimming. People in costumes danced and whirled around us, and yet they seemed elevated. Maybe they were on a dais. Maybe they were dressed as skeletons. Maybe. Actual magic was happening. There seemed to be light on the fountain that we usually ran around, and the air was filled with wonder. We marched, moved and flowed toward the park at Bank and Bleecker. At the time, there wasn’t a slide or toys, just a stone tugboat in a sea of sand. Now it was filled with witches! We continued on. My last impression was of a giant spider’s web covering the church at Sixth Avenue and Waverly Place. I don’t remember how we got home, but I remember the night as mystical and fantastical and oh so special.

Skip forward some forty years. I am sitting in the courtyard. Westbeth is having a party; maybe it is an anniversary. It is warm. My young nephews are running around the converted fountain, which is now a garden. Suddenly Ralph Lee brings out some of his giant puppets, descendants of those from long ago. My nephews laugh and jump, chasing the dancing creatures. I am thrown back to the magic of the first time I saw these puppets and danced with them—and I smile that my nephews and I are sharing an experience over the decades.

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