As the leaves begin to change color, and days grow shorter, Brooklyn children know that a day devoted to them is just around the corner.
The annual Ragamuffin Parade, a Bay Ridge tradition that is now 43 years young, will take place, this year, on Saturday, October 3rd, beginning at 1 p.m.
As they do every year, to mark the beloved event, thousands of children will take to the neighborhood streets, garbed in elaborate costumes, to strut their stuff along Third Avenue.
As many as 25,000 or 30,000 spectators are expected to line the route of the parade, to watch the children march by, beginning at Bay Ridge Parkway and ending at 92nd Street. The reviewing stand will be at 90th Street.
“We hope to have as many kids as possible from the local public, private and parochial schools, as well as the nursery schools and day care facilities,” noted Ted General, the event’s publicist.
“There are no age requirements,” he went on. “Parents are encouraged to bring their toddlers and babies,” who can be pushed along the parade route in strollers or pulled in wagons, General said.
The excitement doesn’t end with the kids. Along the way, they are accompanied by marching bands, bagpipers and costumed characters out of favorite TV shows and movies, as well as the Brooklyn Cyclones’ mascots, Sandy and PeeWee, General said. Bringing up the rear, he added, will be Santa Claus, riding %u2013 as he does every year %u2013 on a fire engine.
“The kids always love that,” General remarked.
But, the real star turns are delivered by the youngsters, whose costumes often reflect hours and weeks of hard work on the part of loving parents.
Every child who turns out gets a prize, with those whose costumes are judged the most creative receiving a bicycle.
There are six grand prizes in all, with one boy and one girl winning in each of three age groups, 0-3, 4-8 and 9-12. The youngest winners get tricycles, and the winners in intermediate age group and the oldest age group get bikes.
Today’s spectacular event grew out of considerably more humble beginnings. Back in 1967, the Reverend James McKenna, the associate pastor of Our Lady of Angels Church, and Bay Ridge resident Cliff Scanlon came up with the idea of having neighborhood kids dress up and parade around the block where OLA was situated.
Because many of the kids wore over-sized duds %u2013 their parents’ cast-off garments %u2013 the pair dubbed the children who participated in the very first parade ragamuffins, a nickname that has stuck for over 40 years as the original participants in the parade may now watch their own children and grandchildren donning fancy dress and taking part.
Given how long the parade has been an autumn staple in the neighborhood, many of those who participate represent the third generation in their family to take part, General noted.
Attorney Chuck Otey said that his daughter, now a mother of two living in Minnesota, still fondly remembers her own participation in the very first Ragamuffin parade, back in 1967. Given her nostalgia for the event, which is replicated thousands of times over, he went on, it’s no surprise that venues beyond Bay Ridge should have adopted the concept. Otey said he had contacted a couple, some years back, and found out that, “They both learned the Ragamuffin tradition from Bay Ridge.”
While Ragamuffin reaches out to public, private and parochial schools within the District 20 area, distributing applications through them, and registers children in advance, kids can still sign up on the day of the parade. Registration is free, General stressed.
Children who have not previously registered should be taken to Third Avenue and 67th Street between 11 a.m. and 12:15 p.m., for last-minute registration. Judging takes place before the parade begins, between 11:30 p.m. and 12:15 p.m. so the parade moves smoothly.
One week prior to the parade, a luncheon will be held in honor of the parade’s grand marshal, Laurie Windsor, the president of the District 20 Community Education Council, and Jim McHugh, the manager of TD Bank on Fifth Avenue and president of the Cathedral Club, who is Ragamuffin’s Man of the Year.
The luncheon %u2013 proceeds from which help pay the expenses of the event -- will be held on Saturday, September 27th, at 12:30 p.m., at the Bay Ridge Manor, 476 76th Street. Tickets are $65 per person, and checks should be made payable to Ragamuffin, Inc.
This year’s parade is dedicated to the memory of Jim Sempepos, a community activist who died earlier this year, General said. Sempepos, a longtime member of Community Board 10 and a former president of the Bay Ridge Community Council, was involved with Ragamuffin for many years, serving as the parade’s commentator for nearly two decades.
For further information on either the parade or the luncheon, call 718-307-7855.