By Bethany Bray STAFF WRITER
The Salem News
---- — Lions, tigers and bears — and just about everything in between — marched through downtown last night in the annual Haunted Happenings parade.
The rain held off for the hour-long procession, which officially kicked off Halloween in the Witch City. This year’s theme was “world animal day,” and costumes ran the gamut: from jellyfish and dinosaurs to zombies and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
At the head of the parade were the three newest members of the Salem Police Department: canines Turbo, Kruger and Thor.
The weeknight parade is a family-friendly, hometown event for Salem, the start of a season that brings thousands of visitors to the city. Each of Salem’s public schools had a band, float or group of students in the parade.
“It’s a great way to start Halloween, a great family night,” said Salem resident Claire Anderson, who watched the parade on Essex Street with her husband, John.
Anderson, a retired Salem school teacher whose children and grandchildren have marched in the parade, said she loves seeing all the schools participate.
The Collins Middle School band wore tie-dyed T-shirts as they marched last night. Eighth-grade trombone player Sophia Blake completed her outfit with elephant ears and a tail — as well as zombie makeup.
Sophia said she looks forward to the parade because it’s fun playing her instrument and being with her friends, as well as checking out all the other costumes.
Last night’s parade had a little bit of everything, from the East Beverly All-Star Lawn Chair Drill Team, who did choreography with folding chairs as they marched, to little league players and youth cheerleaders riding on trolleys and throwing candy.
The procession included a range of floats, fire trucks, several hearses, pedicabs, a man on a unicycle and folks dressed as bats riding Segways. Mayor Kim Driscoll marched at the head of the parade, along with several members of the city council and school committee.
Students from Carlton Elementary wore penguin masks and followed an Antarctica-themed float; Bentley Elementary students wore bird hats. Horace Mann students carried stuffed fish they had made, Witchcraft Heights students dressed as pandas and Bates Elementary had a yellow submarine float in the parade.
Representing Salem Academy Charter School was a band of students playing plastic bucket drums.
Collins Middle School Principal Mary Manning rode in the back of a pickup truck decorated as a mouse. Riding on the Lion’s Club float was — of course — a person in a lion costume.
Salem Access Television broadcast footage of the parade live on the Internet and local cable last night.
Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.