By Bethany Bray
---- — SALEM — From a skeleton driving a hearse to zombies dancing to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” last night’s Haunted Happenings parade kicked off Salem’s monthlong Halloween celebration in grand style.
The nearly two-hour procession had more than 70 participants, from marching bands and floats to fire trucks and all types of vehicles, including Segways, pedicabs, three hearses, Salem Trolleys and the Ecto–1, the iconic car from the movie “Ghostbusters.”
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.
This year’s parade theme was “books coming alive,” so many of the floats and costumes were based on books, from “The Cat in the Hat” to “The Little Mermaid.”
Students in an oversized caterpillar costume led the group from Carlton Elementary, which based its float on the children’s classic, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” Students and parents followed with large cutouts of fruit the caterpillar had eaten, true to the book.
Saltonstall School’s float was a reproduction of Hogwarts School’s great hall from the “Harry Potter” books, complete with floating candles.
Witchcraft Heights school’s float was a giant pirate ship, followed by students and parents in pirate garb. A group of Salem State University students, dressed as everything from Peter Pan to penguins and cowboys, followed a vehicle with a banner that read “Once upon a time ...”
A mix of community groups, schools, businesses and nonprofits marched in last night’s parade. The warm weather drew large, enthusiastic crowds.
The East Beverly All-Star Lawn Chair Drill Team dressed as zombies this year. Members of the group groaned and staggered as they did choreography with folding chairs as they marched.
Roughly 50 people marched with HP Salem, a Salem-based “Harry Potter” fan group. They all wore costumes, from Hogwarts uniform-clad student wizards to a very convincing Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody, complete with magical eye.
“People get really excited and cheer (when they) recognize the characters,” said Jenna Collins of Salem, who dressed as a Hogwarts student from Slytherin house. “This year, I think we had the biggest (HP Salem) group yet.”
Bethany Bray can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.