Oklahoma Gazette will no longer organize the annual Halloween Parade, which began in 2007 as a way to promote artistry, creativity and diversity among the city’s arts and cultural organizations, said Gazette Publisher Bill Bleakley.
When the event began seven years ago, an estimated 14,000 people came out to witness the inaugural parade. The next year, attendance was estimated at 34,000 as the parade grew each year in number of entries and visitors to the downtown area.
“It has been an enjoyable endeavor,” Bleakley said. “It’s been fun and we think the community had fun too, but as an organization, it’s time to move on to other things.”
As part of the Gazette’s plans in anticipation of its 35th anniversary in 2014, the company will focus on its core mission of news and information delivery with a particular emphasis on its interactive digital products.
“You would not believe the amount of staff time it took to make it happen,” Bleakley said.
Securing sponsorships and parade planning often began as early as January or February each year.
“It wasn’t just a matter of saying we’re having a parade and inviting everyone,” said Linda Meoli, vice president of corporate affairs. “There were a lot of permits to get, volunteers to recruit, barricades to obtain while also hiring off-duty police officers to work security. It was arduous, tedious and time-consuming.”
‘Give it a try’
The idea for the parade originally came from Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis after a trip to New York City in which he and wife Ann watched the annual Halloween parade in The Village.
Burns Hargis was a member of Creative Oklahoma at the time and sought to find a primary organizer for a similar event in OKC.
“Nobody wanted to do it, so after meeting with employees to get their input, the Gazette made a commitment to give it a try,” Bleakley said.
An integral part of the parade the first four years was the Flaming Lips’ March of 1,000 Flaming Skeletons. The image of hundreds of marchers in skeleton costumes bearing flaming torches and Lips frontman Wayne Coyne rolling down the parade route in a plastic bubble became an early icon of the event.
Mickey Clagg, president of Midtown Renaissance and a supporter of the parade, complimented Bleakley and the Gazette on its work.
“It’s a great event, and I’m disappointed it may not happen again,” he said. “Bill has done a good job with it. It’s a very difficult task with all of the logistics that are involved.”
Two local groups reportedly have approached Clagg about taking control of the parade, but those talks are in the preliminary stages.
The parade has received enormous support from businesses, arts and cultural groups and interested OKC residents. Presenting sponsors included Automobile Alley, Midtown OKC and St. Anthony Hospital.
Bleakley said sponsorship support was not the reason for the decision.
“We were not doing the parade to make money,” he said. “It was for community service.”
Since its inception, the Halloween parade was billed as a nighttime event for adults, but in recent years, it was perceived among many guests as a family-friendly parade.