Greencastle Halloween Parade hits a roadblock

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

It’s been more tricks than treats for the Greencastle Halloween Parade the last two years, and the third time is not the charm for the annual procession, which appears to have reach the end of its long road.

The Greencastle Exchange Club, which has spearheaded the parade for about 25 years, announced it is no longer able to sponsor it. Factors in the decision include a change in the day and time borough council would allow the parade, dwindling parade entries and lack of manpower.

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“As of now, the Halloween Parade will not take place unless another organization wishes to continue this tradition,” said an announcement from the club, which added anyone interested should contact the borough office.

This Charlie Brown float tied for second place with a Scooby-Doo one when the Greencastle Halloween Parade went virtual in 2021 due to bad weather. Both entries were by Greencastle Cub Scout Pack 13. The Greencastle Exchange Club has announced it is no longer able to sponsor the parade.

If another group comes forward, the Exchange Club is willing to give advice about parade logistics and provide prize money, according to President Marsha Coleman.

What’s been happening recently with the Greencastle Halloween Parade?

The parade was not held in 2020 because the club could not meet COVID-19 mandates, Coleman said.

It was back on for 2021 until a forecast of 100% heavy rain and gusts of wind as high as 30 mph forced the last-minute cancellation of the in-person event. The club pivoted to a virtual Facebook parade and gave out prizes for individuals, groups and floats.

The last year the parade was actually held, it drew 20 to 30 entries, compared to a high of 50.

Exchange Club membership also has declined from around 25 when it took over the parade from the VFW in 1999 to 11 today.

“Without 100% involvement of all our club members, we cannot logistically handle this project anymore,” Coleman said. “Most of our projects can be handled with four to five of our members.”

The parade is traditionally held the last Friday night in October. This year, borough council denied the request for Friday night, Oct. 28, approving the parade for noon Saturday, Oct. 29.

“The council’s concern was a potential conflict with the rain date for Trick or Treat being on the same night as the requested parade,” according to Borough Manager Emilee Little. Greencastle’s Trick or Treat night is Thursday, Oct. 27.

“This potential conflict was viewed as a public safety concern given the number of people attending the parade in addition to a substantial amount of pedestrian traffic related to Trick or Treat,” Little said.

It was another change by borough council that got the Exchange Club involved in the parade in the first place.

The parade was sponsored by Harry D. Zeigler VFW Post 6319 for decades, going back at least to the 1950s. It went from the VFW through the Square and back to the VFW, but in the late 1990s the borough wanted to change the route to avoid shutting down Baltimore Street, according to Mike Bock, president of the Exchange Club at the time.

With the borough and the VFW at an impasse, Bock said it was important to keep the tradition going for kids in the community and the Exchange Club stepped in.

What does the Greencastle Exchange Club do?

Kids in the community remain a focus of the Exchange Club today.

“The Greencastle Exchange Club is a group of volunteers working together to make our community a better place to live through programs of service in Americanism, community service and youth activities,” Coleman said. “We host a variety of activities throughout the year to give back to our community by investing in our children.”

Its biggest project is purchasing and delivering Christmas gifts for over 200 local children, and its biggest fundraiser is the Christmas in July Golf Tournament, according to Coleman. The club also benefits from the Mason Dixon Chili Cookoff or Steak Competition and donations from the community.

The club also:

  • Recognizes a middle school student each month with the “Young Citizenship Award”
  • Purchases and hands out flags at the Veterans Day ceremony
  • Gives out cookies and hot chocolate at Heritage Christmas
  • Creates personalized children’s books for all the first-graders at Greencastle-Antrim Primary School
  • Provides hot dogs and serves ice cream from Mikie’s at the Greencastle-Antrim Middle School social
  • Gives two $2,000 scholarships annually to Greencastle-Antrim High School seniors
  • Provides gift cards for Greencastle-Antrim High School English award winners
  • Purchases lanyards and certificate holders for fifth-graders at the Greencastle-Antrim Elementary School awards ceremony
  • Participates in Old Home Week by purchasing and handing out small flags during the parade and helping at Fun Fair at the Playground

The Exchange Club is seeking new members. The club has a dinner meeting at 6 p.m. the second Thursday of the month at Fireside Pub and a 7:30 a.m. meeting the fourth Thursday of the month. Anyone interested in joining can attend a meeting, contact Maggie Labutta, club secretary, at labutta@comcast.net or go to Greencastle Exchange Club on Facebook.

Shawn Hardy is a reporter with Gannett's Franklin County newspapers in south-central Pennsylvania — the Echo Pilot in Greencastle, The Record Herald in Waynesboro and the Public Opinion in Chambersburg. She has more than 35 years of journalism experience. Reach her at shardy@gannett.com