Williston Park residents and their children gathered on Halloween night as they have for about the past 50 years for the annual village Ragamuffin Parade.
Children dressed as superheroes and ninjas – this year’s most popular costume themes – along with others dressed as pirates, firemen, Indians and princesses in the parking lot of American Legion Post 144, gathered in groups or ran around the parking lot awaiting the parade step-off time at 6:30.
Many of them marveled at a sled laden with presents led by a resident dressed as the Christmas Grinch, with his St. Bernard patiently pulling the load. A steady wind and a light rain didn’t appear to dampen anyone’s spirits.
Dave Voyer, a new resident in the village with his wife and two children, said he came out “for a little community involvement and to let the kids run around and have a good time.”
Members of the Williston Park Fire Department and the village Auxiliary Police were on hand too, along with village officials, including Village of Williston Park Mayor Paul Ehrbar, Deputy Mayor Kevin Rynne and Trustee Bill Carr.
“The best part about it is the enjoyment on the kids’ faces,” Ehrbar said.
He said the village tradition of the Ragamuffin Parade was started by former Williston Park Mayor Roger Fey.
“It’s a nice Williston Park tradition. I love it,” Carr said.
He said he has been a regular participant over the past few years with his two young children.
“I like these little small town traditions,” said Rynne, who added the point of the parade is to bring the village’s children out to enjoy Halloween.
A Williston Park Fire Department truck led the parade south on Willis Avenue, turning east after a few blocks to proceed down Broad Street and ultimately bringing the line of march to Hillside Avenue where it turned west and then north back onto Willis Avenue to Williston Park Village Hall. A few luck ragamuffins got to ride on the lead truck.
At Village Hall, a display of a dozen jack-o-lanterns carved or painted by some of the parade participants rested on two long tables, awaiting judging by the mayor. He awarded the four winners prizes from local pizzerias.
“It’s community oriented. It’s a fun activity for the kids,” said Daniela Sleeper who was there with her three sons – one dressed as a superhero and the other two as ninjas.
Tim Miller, a member of the Williston Park Fire Department, was recognized for one of the best jack-o-lantern renderings – a large pumpkin with articulated teeth that held a smaller pumpkin between those teeth. His daughter Sarah, who collaborated in the carving, excitedly grabbed his hand and dragged him up to receive their award from Ehrbar.
“It’s great,” the elder Miller said about being among the winners for the second straight year for what he called a “zombie” pumpkin. “It’s in the spirit of Halloween,” he added , laughing at his creation.
Ehrbar had taken his time, examining each of the entries very deliberately as their creators stood behind them before rendering his decision.
“It was a very tough call. They were all great,” Ehrbar said.
The ragamuffins were taking their pick from treats volunteers carries on trays around the lawn in front of Village Hall and despite the continuing light rain, no one seemed in a hurry to go home.