BY TOM LAVIS
Whether you are a spectator or participant, organizers want people to turn out for the 44th annual Johnstown Halloween Parade.
Everyone is invited to come dressed in their Halloween best and join the procession.
The two-hour parade will step off at 7 p.m. Oct. 24 as an array of spooky characters invade downtown Johnstown accompanied by an abundance of high school bands, costumed Scouting groups, floats and emergency vehicles.
Credit for the event goes to Forever Broadcasting, which organizes and presents the parade.
Terry Deitz, vice president and general manager at Forever, said 2012’s parade was one of the best-attended in recent years.
“Police estimated we had as many as 30,000 spectators to watch as many as 130 individual entries in the parade,” Deitz said.
For the first time in many years, the parade is on firm financial footing, which Deitz attributes to the participation of local businesses.
“We depend on community sponsors to put on the parade, and they have really come though this year,” Deitz said.
“This parade is the largest one-night event in Johnstown.”
The parade always features a variety of the hottest costumes of the season as well as the usual ghosts, zombies, ghouls, goblins and witches of every size and shape.
Whether it’s a Scout troop adopting a special theme or individuals dressing as Iron Man or Power Ranger, the parade route will be a sight to behold.
“We expect to have as many units as we did last year if the weather cooperates,” Deitz said.
“Eight local bands have committed thus far, and we are waiting to hear back from three more.”
Along with a variety of floats, Deitz expects a good number of fire and EMS vehicles to be interspersed throughout the lineup.
“We anticipate having Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and local dance groups taking part again,” he said.
Deitz said a welcome addition to the parade will be the participation of the Johnstown Tomahawks hockey franchise.
“We will be placing them in the first division so the representatives can get through the parade and get back to the arena for the game that night,” Deitz said.
Organizers are encouraging anyone interested in participating to submit an entrance form as soon as possible.
“Our deadline is Oct. 18, but we want people to register early so we can place them in the best spot,” Deitz said.
Cash prizes will be awarded in more than a dozen categories, and winners also will receive a plaque.
“Receiving the plaques has become a thing because businesses can hang them up in their offices and it demonstrates that they support the downtown,” Deitz said.
The parade route runs up Main Street from Point Stadium to Clinton Street, turns left on Clinton and concludes on Washington Street.
Children may bring a container to collect candy.
Deitz said there are rules governing the tossing of candy into the crowd.
“Parade participants may hand out candy, but they must do so by having people walk the parade route,” Deitz said.
“There also will be people handing out coupons for various things.”
“It’s a great family night that centers around one thing: fun,” Deitz said. “It’s an event that draws people to the downtown and it gives us an opportunity to showcase the city.”
Members of Cambria County fire police will help with crowd and traffic control.
“We also will have members of the Conemaugh Township Rotary Club helping with crowd control,” Deitz said.
“We are always looking for volunteer groups to lend a hand in that area.”
As part of the festivities, Forever Broadcasting also is sponsoring a special Safe Trick-or-Treat Night from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at The Galleria in Richland Township.
“We began this event to bring kids into a safe environment to trick or treat,” Deitz said.
“Last year, we had over 4,000 kids participate, so it’s proven to be a popular event.”
Over 20 different locations will be set up to provide treats for kids in the area, and the evening is open to children ages 12 and younger.
The event is made possible by local businesses that donate candy and help staff the event.
What: 44th annual Johnstown Halloween Parade.
Where: Downtown Johnstown.
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 24.
Tom Lavis covers Features for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter.com/Tom LavisTD.