BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — After 17 years, the city’s Haunted Happenings Grand Parade has gone to the dogs, cats and countless other animals.
The theme of Thursday’s parade is “World Animal Day” and everyone from schoolchildren to elected officials will be coming dressed as animals.
“We have fun with this parade,” said Rinus Oosthoek, executive director of the Salem Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the event.
In keeping with the theme, three special guests will join Mayor Kim Driscoll as grand marshals — the Police Department’s new K-9 dogs, the German shepherds Turbo, Kruger and Thor.
The parade kicks off at 6:30 p.m. at Shetland Park, heads down Congress and Derby streets, turns at Central Street and weaves its way down Front, Washington and Essex streets before ending up at Salem Common.
Back by popular demand is the Beverly Lawn Chair Drill Team. “I heard rumors they have a new routine,” said Oosthoek.
The parade of schoolchildren also features the Irish-American Police Officers Pipes and Drums, a man on a unicycle, a bunch of Segways and marching bands from Salem High and several area high schools.
A bucket brigade from the Salem YMCA will be collecting donations to help the chamber defray costs.
The chamber still needs volunteers. Anyone who wants to help can contact the organization at 978-744-0004.
In other events this week, there is a Mayor’s Night Out for Salem residents tonight from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Peabody Essex Museum.
There are tours at 6 and 7 p.m. and free gifts from the PEM shop for all Salem residents who attend. The event is being held on the first week of Haunted Happenings and the final week of the museum’s exhibit of photographer Ansel Adams.
There is a second Mayor’s Night Out on Friday with free admission for Salem residents to participating attractions.
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.