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Middletown Halloween parade in jeopardy as Kiwanis no longer will be in charge of it

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 7/1/20

If there is to be a Halloween parade in Middletown this year — and from then on — someone other than the Kiwanis Club of Middletown will have to do it.

Kiwanis has put on the parade …

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Middletown Halloween parade in jeopardy as Kiwanis no longer will be in charge of it

Posted

If there is to be a Halloween parade in Middletown this year — and from then on — someone other than the Kiwanis Club of Middletown will have to do it.

Kiwanis has put on the parade for the last 66 years. Increasing responsibilities and costs associated with the parade, coupled with the declining and aging membership of Kiwanis in Middletown, mean that the club is no longer able to put on the event, Melody Wilson of the Kiwanis Club of Middletown told the Press & Journal on Friday.

Word of Kiwanis no longer holding the parade was put out to borough council by Manager Ken Klinepeter during the May 19 meeting, after Klinepeter spoke with Wilson.

The main factor in the decision is increasing requirements for liability insurance that Kiwanis International has begun imposing on its member clubs for the events they put on, Wilson said.

For example, Kiwanis for the 2019 parade had to begin obtaining copies of liability insurance policies for every vehicle that was going to be in the parade, including all the fire trucks from all the participating fire departments.

These requirements have created “an expensive workload” that Kiwanis in Middletown can no longer bear, given its own membership challenges, according to Wilson.

Another factor is the need for more police presence during the parade, something also being driven by the increased liability requirements coming out of Kiwanis International.

“They were mandating police at every intersection point” throughout the parade. “We understand that’s not an expense the borough can have,” Wilson said, while adding she appreciated efforts Middletown police undertook last year to try and get assistance from other police departments in the area to help staff the parade.

Half of the current membership of the Kiwanis Club of Middletown is older than age 69, Wilson said. The entire club had just seven members as of February 2019, including Melody and her husband Marlin, Wilson told the Press & Journal at the time.

Wilson said the club has made a promise to preserve all of its records from the parade, so that these records and documents can be passed on to a suitable organization if one steps up to take over the parade.

Wilson said she does not have access to these records, but they are in the trust of a third party that she would not make public.

She is not aware of any organization that has made a serious offer to take over the parade.

However, Wilson said she was encouraged by the parade of classic and antique cars and hot rods that was put together with little advance notice in Lower Swatara Township in the middle of a pandemic May 16.

She sees it as a testament to the power of social media, and to the ability of what folks can do if they put their minds to it.

Along those lines, maybe the new version of a Halloween parade — if there is to be one — doesn’t have to be the same and on the same size and scale as what Kiwanis has been putting on, at least not at first, Wilson said.

The new version may be different, and that’s OK with her. Wilson and Kiwanis don’t want to see this tradition die. But it’s up to someone else to make it happen. 

Wilson said she thinks a lot of area residents don’t even realize that Kiwanis puts on the parade. They think the borough puts it on. That’s not the case, although the borough provides a great deal of assistance to Kiwanis each year.

Kiwanis Club of Middletown started holding the Halloween parade in the borough in 1954. Before then, a group known as the Mothers’ Congress Circle was responsible for holding the parade in Middletown.

The Circle held the first Halloween Parade and Street Carnival on Oct. 30, 1916, according to information provided by Jack Still, a Middletown resident whose mother, Pauline, was active in the Mothers’ Congress.

The Middletown Odd Fellows Lodge began assisting in putting on the Halloween “carnival” in 1952, but in 1954 Kiwanis took charge of the event, according to the history.

Kiwanis took over the parade because the membership of the organizations that were putting it on were getting older, and they could no longer handle it, Wilson told the Press & Journal in 2019.