Clad in hard hats and carrying brightly colored banners, over 1,000 children from 22 New Haven schools marched up Chapel Street Tuesday in the Mayor’s Annual Halloween parade themed “Building New Haven.”

New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr., the Parade Grand Marshall, and Superintendent of Schools Dr. Reginald Mayo led the parade, which began on the corner of Chapel and Temple streets. Various middle school and high school marching bands performed followed by elementary school students carrying signs with sayings such as “Kids at Work” and “Caution: First Grade Readers Ahead.” The theme of this year’s parade was designed to teach students about construction in the New Haven school district.

New Haven Board of Education member Carol Smullen said the outfits this year were the best she had seen since the parade was developed in 1995.

“These costumes are a riot,” Smullen said. “Last week in school, students discussed the elements involved in building and construction, which is appropriate timing because the mayor is virtually reconstructing New Haven, and then they were ready to dress the part of the builders!”

The children were not the only ones embracing the theme. DeStefano dressed as “Bob the Builder” in overalls and a hard hat, a costume similar to the one Mayo wore. The parade leaders were transported down Chapel Street in the front of a cement truck.

New Haven resident Rochelle Gold said she could not stop laughing at the image of DeStefano in overalls.

“No matter how you feel about the mayor, you have to admit he loves this city,” she said.

The Mayor’s Halloween Parade was developed in 1995 by DeStefano as a way to showcase New Haven school children and to celebrate the holiday with a safe, unique event. Judy San Angelo, a member of the New Haven Office of Cultural Affairs, said the event has become a source of pride and excitement for New Haven schoolchildren and residents alike.

“The Mayor had a great idea to start this tradition, and I am glad it has carried on for so long,” she said.

The parade lasted about 40 minutes, proceeding up Chapel to High Street, then to Elm Street and back to Temple. All New Haven residents were invited to cheer on New Haven’s youth as the parade passed. Local daycare groups and parents with video cameras lined the sidewalks and observed the various costumes.

Freddy Stone — who was cheering on his younger brother, a member of the Hillhouse marching band — said he was glad to see that the children were acting for a positive cause and that so many people were supporting them.

“There are huge construction projects going on all over New Haven, and this parade is a response to that,” Stone said. “These kids are going to be getting state-of-the-art facilities so they will be able to perform to the best of their abilities.”

The parade was presented by the city of New Haven, the Office of Cultural Affairs and the New Haven Board of Education and sponsored by Comcast, Tyco and New Haven Reads. Gilbane Construction donated 1,200 hard hats to participants in the parade, and each child in the parade received a free book donated by the New Haven Public Schools’ reading department and by New Haven Reads.

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