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FILE PHOTOOne of the many creative floats in the Emmaus Halloween parade delights spectators. FILE PHOTOOne of the many creative floats in the Emmaus Halloween parade delights spectators.

Volunteers needed to keep a community tradition alive

Tuesday, August 30, 2016 by April Peterson apeterson@tnonline.com in Local News

About two decades ago, Kathy Mintzer walked into her first meeting about the Emmaus Halloween Parade on the urging of friends.

“Someone nominates me to be the chair. The first meeting I attended,” Mintzer recalled.

And it is a volunteer job she’s held ever since.

Each year, Mintzer works with a core group of volunteers to coordinate marching bands, Scout troops, dance schools, school groups, community organizations and floats of various sizes into a parade through the borough.

And she will do it again Oct. 15. However, this year may be among the last for the annual spectacle without more volunteers, she said.

“If we don’t get the volunteers the traditions will go by the way side,” Mintzer said recently. “It’s time for people to step up.”

The annual Emmaus Halloween Parade covers 2.2 miles. Volunteers are needed to help corral participants at the staging area at Ridge and Keystone streets where the pedestrians in the parade assemble. Volunteers provide information to participants as to what division they are in and where to go within the staging area.

Meanwhile, larger, often motorized or otherwise propelled, floats line up toward Harrison Street. The floats must be woven into the parade, a task handled by a volunteer Mintzer calls “the float master.”

Floats and marchers begin arriving late afternoon parade day.

There are five divisions to the parade and each division needs a captain. Ideally, there should be three captains per division. Right now, there are eight to cover the entire parade, Mintzer said. Plus, the “float master” is in his 80s.

“It’s time for him to take a break,” Mintzer said.

Captains walk the full parade route with their assigned divisions while keeping an eye on those in the parade as well as those watching it. Parade rules must be enforced. A network of ham radio operators keep the parade connected from end to end.

Emmaus police officers are on duty along with fire police from the borough and surrounding communities and three ambulance crews, Emmaus Borough Manager Shane Pepe said by telephone.

The borough must apply for permits from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to close roads for the parade and the 5K race that precedes it, Pepe explained.

And the night of the parade, the borough nearly doubles in size, welcoming as many as 20,000 spectators.

“It’s a big operation for us,” Pepe said of the parade. “It’s something that the community really embraces.”

The streets are swept late afternoon parade day. Public works crews put up barricades. And the staging areas must be readied as well.

But preparations begin even earlier.

Mintzer and her committee begin meeting about a month before the parade. A saturation mailing of letters requesting donations are sent just after Labor Day. Mintzer estimates the cost of the parade at about $20,000, including prize money and band fees. Plus, every parade participant receives $1.

The parade is funded by donations and sponsorships.

“There is a lot more to it than people can imagine,” Mintzer said.

Over the years, Mintzer has tapped her friends to help with the parade. She’s also called upon her family, including her children, to lend a hand.

“It’s getting to the point I can’t keep stretching out the good people I have to do this,” Mintzer said. “It’s not fair,”

New and veteran volunteers are welcome to attend the committee meetings starting Sept. 15. The committee then meets every Thursday until parade night. All meetings are held in the community room on the second floor of Emmaus Borough Hall, 28 S. 4th St. Meetings start 7 p.m.

Those who may not be available for every meeting are encouraged to attend the Oct. 13 meeting, the last before the parade.

The committee supplies reflective vests for division captains. Other volunteer opportunities include parade judges and information coordinators to help parade participants navigate staging and other areas. Volunteers also may help with set up.

“They really have a challenge on their hands and a great need for volunteers,” Pepe said. “We certainly appreciate their effort,” Pepe said of the parade committee.

And the volunteers’ reward?

“They get to watch it on television like the rest of us do,” Mintzer joked.

For information about volunteering for the parade, contact Mintzer by phone at 610-965-6250 or by email at EmmausParade@aol.com.