POUGHKEEPSIE – Hundreds of witches, clowns, and other costumed participants marched in the fourth annual Grace Pumpkin Parade on Saturday in Poughkeepsie.
With clear skies and a autumn crispness in the air, people of all ages gathered at Pulaski Park to march in the parade to raise awareness about domestic violence.
Poughkeepsie’s Grace Smith House (GSH), established in 1981 is a non-profit that provides residential and non-residential services to victims of domestic violence and their children.
According to Grace Smith’s Marjorie Smith, the parade is a way for GSH to make the community aware of the services it offers. Dressed in an elaborate witch costume, Smith, a former prosecutor for Dutchess County, addressed those gathered and stressed the message that “Home should not be a scary place.”
The parade made its way from Pulaski Park down to the city’s waterfront at Waryas Park where free food and beverages were made available by generous sponsors.
While many made the trek on foot, several floats were also involved. Countywide Towing provided a flatbed that served as a float for the John Flowers Community organization. Mike Hacksteiner, Countywide’s driver, called the parade “A great event for the city that also helps promote Grace Smith House.”
Several members of the Hudson Valley Horrors Roller Derby team donned costumes and skated the parade route. Team member Meagen Thiel called her team’s participation just another way to help. “We like to help out our local community whenever we can. We also are all about empowering women and being there for each other,” said the skater. Thiel and her teammates were also handing out flyers along the route to promote their Sunday derby event to benefit Hope On A Mission, an organization that helps women in need.
Several politicians joined the event including Dutchess County District Attorney candidate Rich Berube and Mayor Rob Rolison. Berube is recognizable by his large stature, who capitalized on it by dressing as Frankenstein’s monster, complete with platform boots and a mask. Calling it “A tremendous effort by Grace Smith House to educate the public about domestic violence,” Berube commended the parade organizers.
Rolison, dressed as Dr. Seuss’s Cat-In-The-Hat, served as one of the costume contest judges at the parade’s destination. Rolison’s wife Lori serves on the GSH Board of Directors. “This event is important for several reasons,” said Rolison. “It serves to raise awareness about domestic violence, and more importantly, it is a way to show support for the victims of domestic violence, the families of victims, and Grace Smith House,” proclaimed the mayor. Rolison was joined by Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro in Captain America attire, Poughkeepsie Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Rosser, and School Board President Dr. Felicia Watson in judging the costume competition.