The weather was gloomy, but the mood was anything but at the 50th annual Ragamuffin Parade in Bay Ridge on Saturday. Hundreds of kids, dressed up in their best Halloween costumes, gathered to march down 16 blocks of Third Avenue in one of southern Brooklyn’s most beloved autumn traditions.
According to the official website, the first Ragamuffin Parade took place in 1966, when a Bay Ridge priest “rounded up neighborhood children from different parishes to put on a parade, just for fun.” Back then, instead of costumes, children simply wore their parents’ clothes “so they looked messy like little ragamuffins.”
Nowadays, the Ragamuffin Parade is a more official affair, with sponsors, bands, bagpipers, and children marching behind banners representing their schools. To mark the 50th anniversary, city officials even unveiled a new sign last month on the corner of Third Avenue and 76th Street, co-naming the parade route “Ragamuffin Way.”
The costumes, too, have gotten more involved over the years, like that of three-year-old Alejandro. “His name is Alejandro, but today he is ‘Gecko,’” said his mother. “He made sure I knew that this morning.”
Even with the added bells and whistles, kid-friendliness is still the focus of the Ragamuffin Parade 50 years later. With the exception of invited musical groups to keep the event lively, only children and the adults who accompany them are allowed to march in the parade. The rest of the community is left on the sidewalk to cheer the kids on and give them candy.
“This is what makes Bay Ridge so great,” said City Councilman Vincent Gentile, who presided over the parade as well as last month’s street-naming ceremony, “the fact that we have a tradition for kids that has lasted 50 years.”
People came from all around Brooklyn to participate in the event. Rebecca G., who only wanted her last initial used, brought her four-year-old and two-year-old from Bensonhurst to march in the parade for the first time. The Brooklyn Express Drumline, a faction of the Brooklyn Express Program, a community performing arts initiative based in Ocean Hill, also commuted in for the parade. One member, Karl Menard, said they enjoyed playing for the kids and the community, with whom they were visibly popular.
As the last ragamuffins arrived at the end of the parade route, Councilman Gentile got on a microphone and thanked the remaining crowd, saying that this was the start of “another 50 years” of the parade’s tradition.