Ragamuffin Parade in River Vale, New Jersey

by Tamiya King

If you live in or near the township of River Vale, New Jersey, and want to find a Halloween-themed activity for your kids to enjoy, the Ragamuffin Parade is a suitable choice. The celebration allows children to dress in their favorite costumes as they walk through a section of the city, and has a history specific to the East Coast.

Ragamuffin Day History

Ragamuffin Day dates back as far as 1870, according to an article published by the "New York Tribune" in 1909. Ragamuffin was actually Thanksgiving Day, although in modern times the day that children dress up and ask for treats is Halloween. The practice of wearing masks and clothing resembling a child's favorite cartoon or movie character, however, didn't become a regular practice until the 1940s and 50s. On Ragamuffin Day, children would don ripped and oversized clothing to look like Charlie Chaplin's character "The Tramp," and asked adults in the neighborhood for treats; they were often given items such as coins, fresh fruit or a piece or two of candy. These days, communities in New York and surrounding areas like River Vale, New Jersey celebrate Ragamuffin Day with a parade, where children can dress in their favorite Halloween costumes.

Time of Year

The Ragamuffin Parade in River Vale usually takes place on a weekend near Halloween. For instance, in 2010, the event was on the day before Halloween, which fell on a Saturday; in 2003, Nov. 1 was the day of the event, which was the Saturday immediately after Halloween.

Parade Schedule

The township of River Vale often begins the Ragamuffin Parade in the morning, around 9:15 or 9:30. Parents line up with their costumed children at a pre-determined location, such as a gas station, school or retail establishment by the start time, and walk to the end location together. The parade is free of charge, and children of all ages are welcome; the event usually lasts a little more than an hour.

Additional Activities

During the Ragamuffin Parade, there may be a magic show to entertain the children, or a costumed "special guest" may arrive to walk part of the route with the children. For instance, magician Stretch the Silly Man participated in River Vale's 2010 Ragamuffin Parade and the 2003 celebration featured popular Nickelodeon cartoon character Spongebob Squarepants. Once the kids reach the end of the parade route, they receive refreshments such as juice or doughnut holes, and coffee is provided for the adults as everyone engages in more socializing.