Witches, pumpkins, superheroes, dinosaurs and ghouls alike paraded through downtown Ann Arbor Sunday afternoon for the city’s annual Trick-or-Treater Parade which starts at Main and William Streets and moves south. Following the short parade, local shops opened their doors to offer candy to those in costume and hosted a variety of activities.
Sandra Andrade, executive director of the Main Street Area Association, said the Halloween parade has been around for two decades, though it has evolved over the years. After downtown block closures starting in 2020, the parade expanded from a trick-or-treating event to an official parade in recent years. Andrade said MSAA plans to continue expanding the parade each year, incorporating new businesses and activities into the event.
“It’s a free and inclusive event that anybody can get engaged in and included in,” Andrade said. “The businesses get to interact with the community in a fun way.”
University of Michigan alum Alicia Talbot attended the parade with her son. Talbot grew up in Ann Arbor and told The Michigan Daily she has observed the parade becoming more inclusive of different types of costumes and diverse identities over time.
“I really like that so many of the shops are gender-neutral, costume-neutral and they’re including everybody in here — more languages now,” Talbot said. “We’re a multilingual family, so my son was very excited. It wasn’t like that when I was little.”
After the costume parade, participants could trick-or-treat at various downtown businesses, picking up free candy, toys and hot drinks from participating shops and restaurants. Some businesses also offered interactive activities for parade participants.
Drawing inspiration from Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” Addison Foote, owner of One Eleven Salon, created a Willy Wonka-themed world inside the salon, which is located on E Ann Street, right off of Main Street. Foote said he previously organized a Willy Wonka golden ticket scavenger hunt, which took place before the parade and awarded the winners $250 for each ticket found. Foote said he also participated in the Halloween parade last year and was excited to be able to go all out for this year’s event.
“We just put a table out front last year,” Foote said. “And I was like, ‘Oh, let’s maybe do a spooky walkthrough or something for the kids. And then that evolved into ‘Oh, if we’re going to decorate the salon that much, let’s host a Halloween party the day before.’ ”
Cherry Republic is another one of the businesses that participated in the parade this year. In an interview with The Daily, Cherry Republic manager Rita Dudek said she appreciates the foot traffic the parade brings into the store, especially as the small business continues to recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We just love to see all the kids dress up and have fun,” Dudek said. “It brings people downtown and fills the streets. (With) how much has happened over the years, it’s always nice to have events again and be a part of that.”
U-M representatives also handed out candy to paraders Sunday afternoon. Ava Rooney, research technician associate in the Warneken Lab, which researches sociality and human behavior, told The Daily she was at the event to talk with participants about her lab’s research. She said she believes it is important for U-M community members to connect with the Ann Arbor community whenever the opportunity presents itself.
“It’s so awesome that they do these kinds of things and allow the University to be intertwined with the community,” Rooney said. “There’s so many people that don’t know about research opportunities for their kids and for families that are in their own backyard, and so these kinds of things are super helpful for us and also for making people more aware of the research that’s happening here.”
Although there were not many U-M students at the parade, Andrade said she hopes the parade reminded students of the vibrancy of the community and encouraged some of them to explore Main Street a little bit more.
“We are always trying to connect to the University campus more because a lot of times students, faculty (and) staff get so busy and wrapped up that they don’t go beyond State Street,” Andrade said. “So anytime we get to bring that U-M community to Main Street, we’re super grateful.”