On Sunday, Oct. 30, Woburn will be invaded. By zombies and zombie hunters. Ninja and Batmen. Princesses and Strawberry Shortcakes. Floats. Bands. Clowns. Real Clydesdales. Lions, too.
Some will saunter, strut and stream down Main Street, from just south of Route 128 to the Winchester line, rain or shine, starting at 1 p.m., in what Bryan Murphy calls “the biggest well-kept secret in Woburn.”
Murphy should know. For the past 14 years, he’s chaired the Woburn Host Lions Club’s Halloween Parade. Murphy’s club organizes and funds the parade, which club members believe is one of only four Halloween parades in the United States.
“All I do,” Murphy told Woburn Patch yesterday, “is direct the confusion.”
This year, the club’s 57th annual parade will feature between 80 and 90 floats made by school, community, business and charitable groups and more than two dozen bands, including, for the first time in eight years, not just one college band, but four. Their competition schedule changed this year, Murphy explained.
The 2.2-mile parade drew some 80,000 people last year, according to televised reports and the state police, Murphy said.
The Host Lions Club’s parade “draws like a homecoming,” according to Murphy. It boosts reservations at local hotels, he said. The Friday before the event, you’ll see bleachers and chairs set up along the parade route, he said, to reserve viewing space.
The Lions started the parade in 1955, Murphy told Woburn Patch, to deter Halloween vandalism, including false fire alarms. The first parade, which was in the evening, drew an audience of 20,000, he said—and only 20 false alarms were pulled that night.
This year’s parade theme is “Celebrate Halloween.”
Lions from another district will award three prizes for parade floats that best show that theme.
When Murphy became parade chairman, the parade budget was, he said, $20,000. The Lions Club netted $9,000, he said, that year.
This year, the budget is $50,000. Money comes, he said, from local businesses and groups; most comes from “average citizens” who make in-memory-of donations.
All the money the Host Lions collect at the parade goes to the Massachusetts Lions Eye Research Fund, Murphy said. The fund provides seed money for Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, to prepare to seek grants, Murphy said.
The club will have contributed more than $500,000, Murphy said, including an estimated $25,000 this year, since the parade started.
Murphy got involved with the parade in 1974, when he worked with the WMHS Leo Club, “baby lions,” Murphy said, on a float for the parade. Then Murphy brought his own collection to the parade. He collects antique fire trucks. He joined the local Rotary Club, which had floats in the parade. When he left the Rotary Club, in 1990—he couldn’t make the daytime meetings—he joined the Lions.
First he agreed to help with the parade.
“The next thing,” he said, “I was running it.”
That means overseeing everything from traffic on Main Street and Route 128, which usually backs up “for about a mile,” Murphy said, when the parade marchers and floats gather at the cinema parking lot, to vendors of food and novelty items, like balloons. Now committees help.
Besides the parade, the Lions are another local secret, according to Murphy. Woburn has three chapters: Murphy’s, the Host Club; the Breakfast Club and the all-female Middlesex Club.
The organization’s focus, he said, is vision: providing eye exams, glasses and equipment to people who can’t pay for them. They provide large-print books to the library, he said and reading machines to students who need them if their insurance will not cover that equipment. They also collect eyeglasses. Lions also help a number of local groups and events, Murphy said, from the Boys and Girls Club to Horn Pond Day.
Here’s how much the parade has affected Murphy’s life. Bryan and his wife, Mary, a former kindergarten teacher at St. Charles School for 24 years, have two daughters: Laurie Green, who with her husband, Ryan, have three children: Steven, 3, and twins Michael and Morgan, 6 months; and Kerri Murphy.
Kerri was born, her dad said, the Saturday night before the 1982 Halloween parade. The Sunday morning of the parade, Murphy went to the hospital to see his wife and new daughter.
At the same time, a group of clowns—club members who were to dress and make up as clowns for the parade—went to the Murphy’s home. Murphy said he hadn’t told them that Kerri had been born the night before.
When he got home, one of the first questions one of the clowns-to-be, his hands covered with white cream, asked, Murphy recalled, was, could Mary help him with his makeup?
For more information about the parade or to donate, contact Murphy at P.O. Box 316, Woburn; or 781-933-8297; or email@example.com.
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