Trenton’s Historic Halloweens

Posted in Exhibits, Past Exhibits

On Display Now

Photos and Memorabilia

from the days when Trenton went all out for Halloween


From the Days when Trenton Went All Out for Halloween

Halloween Exhibit 1
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The Halloween Parade  Trenton’s first Annual Halloween Parade was held on October 31, 1954, at which an estimated 30,000 watched the hour long parade. There were eight bands, floats and hundreds of costumed marchers.

The parade began at Stacy Park and proceeded along Willow to State Street with a reviewing stand and bleachers for 1,000 onlookers in front of City Hall, and ended at Clinton Avenue. The Parade’s sponsors gave out prizes to 15 costumed marchers in 15 classes. After the Parade and presentation of awards in the Commission chamber of City Hall, two solid hours of dancing – both square and modern – were provided on the Arnold Constable Department Store’s parking lot.

In future years thousands of orange balloons would be given to kids throughout the city to remind them of the parade. Five thousand costumed paraders would participate. Participants would be divided into three divisions: Small Fry Division (1-12 years old), Teenage Division (13-19 years old) and the Adult Division. Costumes could be store bought or original costumes. The original costumes usually stole the show, with 3 prizes in each of the divisions

Using traditional orange and black motif, pumpkins, corn, etc. the City Hall custodial staff decorated City Hall. A Halloween mural would hang from the City Hall balcony, and special spotlights would be erected on the City Hall balcony to provide additional lighting for the area near the reviewing stand. Art students from Trenton Central High School would assist in the decorating of City Hall for Halloween, which included painting decorations and cutting faces into pumpkins.

Here’s a recap of the 1966 parade found in the Trenton Evening Times:

The stream of humorous horrors included strange misshapen heads, bulging eyes, huge hands and feet, a trio dressed as a “hot dog,” “roll” and “mustard,” a portable shower stall, “IT” from a well known television program a couple of inhabitants from Sherwood Forest.

First place for floats was awarded to the Cadwalader Park Senior Citizens, the Batman float came in second and the YMCA and YWCA floats came in third and fourth. The Sacred Heart Drum and Bugle Corps of Manville, was first in the bands division. The Fireball Rangerettes of Levittown, PA marched off with first prize in the twirler section.

Tommy Pelke, 3, of 370 Ewingville Road was selected as the first place winner in the Small Fry Division for his Rip Van Winkle costume.

In the Adult and Teenage Division, the top award went to the Edward Green family of 328 Columbus Avenue for their appearance as fully-filled Christmas stockings.

In October 1968 Trenton’s Halloween Parades sadly came to an end when the 14th annual parade was canceled due to tensions at Trenton Central High School. Trenton had already been under a curfew for the past month, requiring persons under 17 to be off the streets by 10pm.   The city had called for a limited state of emergency for mischief night and Halloween.

Halloween Painted Store Windows  It is unknown when the painting of downtown Trenton’s store windows began or ended. The “Halloween in Art” project was spearheaded by the Heart of Trenton Businessmen’s Association. The Halloween window paintings were done by students from Trenton Central High School and the five Junior High Schools.

The Halloween displays were originally painted on the store front windows and the more elaborate would take two to three days to complete. In 1962 it was decided to have the paintings done on fiber boards, each 32 by 48 inches in size and were completed in classrooms as part of the regular art classes. That year there were 60 Halloween paintings created by eighty-one students.

The Trenton City Museum’s Halloween display features black and white historic photos from the Trentoniana Collection of the Trenton Free Public Library documenting Trenton’s Halloween parades and window contests, antique Halloween decorations from the collection of the late Thomas A. Benson and antique diecut Halloween wall decorations from the collection of Karl Flesch.