5. The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade Started at Westbeth
A Ralph Lee puppet that was part of the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade, on display at Westbeth
The iconic Greenwich Village Halloween Parade was started by a Westbeth resident. Ralph Lee, a puppeteer who is an original and current tenant, launched the parade in 1974 as a “wandering neighborhood puppet show” for his children and their friends. The parade started in the Westbeth courtyard and made its way along West Street to Washington Square, a mile-long route. The parade featured over 100 giant puppets and masks that were created by Lee, as well as performers and musicians. The parade continued as an unofficial tradition until 1976 when it became an official nonprofit organization and a production staff was hired. The next year saw a route change and the first appearance of the giant spider at the Jefferson Market Library. Ralph Lee acted as the parade director until 1985 when the position was taken over by Jeanne Flemming who still manages it today.
The Greenwich Village Halloween parade is the largest event of its kind which has attracted over two million spectators and 60,000 participants! Untapped Cities Insiders got to meet Ralph Lee on a recent tour of Westbeth and also saw some of his puppets on display. In March 2018, Lee was honored as a Westbeth Icon. You can watch a video about his life and work here.