• Love at first fright: Rutland Halloween Parade rouses spirits
    By KEVIN O’CONNOR
    CORRESPONDENT | October 27,2013
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    Think marriage is scary? Meet Barbara and Gary Spaulding, Rutland newlyweds who — as shown at Rutland’s 54th annual Halloween Parade on Saturday — take commitment to a whole new level.

    Ten Halloweens ago, Barbara turned her Bellevue Avenue home into a haunted house — a tradition she continues each Oct. 31. Just married this month, she had reason to take a break this year. Instead, the ghoulishly dressed bride and groom recreated their vows on a graveyard float in anticipation of decorating their residence for an expected 300 trick-or-treaters Thursday.

    “It’s our wedding, postmortem,” said Barbara, an 18-year employee of the Rutland Redevelopment Authority. “We took it very seriously — ’til death do us part.”

    The two weren’t the only ones in the spirit when almost 100 costumed bands and bulb-blazing floats wound through a downtown crowd of thousands in New England’s oldest haunted-holiday march.

    The city Recreation and Parks Department event kicked off at 6:30 p.m. with Drum Journeys of Earth skeleton drummers and dancers ushering in Pumpkin Princess Olivia Cacciatore, a Fair Haven Union High School senior who accessorized her crown with a 1976 Corvette Stingray convertible and umbrella to ward off scattered raindrops.

    Dozens of area businesses and organizations presented floats ranging from a green-skinned Frankenstein (Community Health Centers of the Rutland Region) to blue-faced Smurfs (Rutland Regional Medical Center).

    Fabian Earth Moving of West Rutland illuminated a 42-foot-long “Witch Doctor” island complete with flaming torches based on a suggestion by the owner’s 10-year-old granddaughter, Katelyn Schutt.

    The city’s Loretto Home — the last residence of the parade’s late, longtime leader, Tom Fagan — and neighboring St. Joseph Kervick facility participated for the first time, creating “Monsters University” with help of students from nearby Mount Saint Joseph Academy.

    Proctor High School band members dressed as crocodiles — make that “Proctor-diles” — to perform Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock” as freshman classmate Steven Goodhue, in rhinestone-white sunglasses, jumpsuit and boa, played a baby grand piano atop a 25-foot-long animated crocodile.

    Nine other student bands played everything from “The Phantom of the Opera” (Rutland High School) to Blue Oyster Cult’s “Don’t Fear The Reaper” (Castleton State College), all while escorting a Pumpkin Princess court that included Lina Bergamini of Long Trail School in Dorset, Rebecca Elrick of Proctor High, Grace Giancola of Mount Saint Joseph Academy in Rutland, Alexis Hill of Poultney High, Tegan Waite of West Rutland High and Kyle Weatherhogg of Mill River Union High in Clarendon.

    Amid the heights and frights, a few units aimed to comfort people. The Rutland County Democratic Committee, for example, wore scrubs and lab coats as they carried a message about the Affordable Care Act, known as “Obamacare”: “The ACA — it’s not a scary thing.”

    The NeighborWorks Home Energy Assistance Team welcomed “The Logger” Rusty DeWees, who broadcast his own sound bite to the local cable PEG-TV crew airing the parade live: “Save a mountain of green and be warmer in the winter.” (An average of $1,400 a year, the accompanying publicity people specified.)

    The “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Boo Bees,” for their part, hoped humor would promote a serious cause: “Get regular checkups and mammograms.”

    Halloween wasn’t the only holiday on marchers’ minds. Costumed characters walking alongside the Vermont Backroad Christmas Light Tour Bus handed out 5,000 candy canes to spectators in anticipation of driving about the region this December.

    The Killington and Pico resort promoted the upcoming ski season by rolling out snowmaking zombies riding on one of their mountains’ gargantuan groomers and gondola cars (equipment valued at more than $500,000, a handler estimated).

    Bigger dollar signs still, the American Cancer Society promoted its 25th anniversary Rutland County “Relay For Life” next June 21 and 22, noting this year’s event raised $200,000 to bring the fundraiser’s quarter-century total to $2 million.

    The parade’s masked Jack O’Lantern mystery guest ended the event by revealing herself to be Rutland Middle School instructor Bianca McKeen, Vermont’s most recent Science Teacher of the Year.

    “I’ve always wanted to be Jack O’Lantern,” she said. “For me, it’s a dream come true.”

    And for wide-eyed students lining the sidewalk, inspiration for marching into the future.

    kevinoconnorvt@gmail.com
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