The annual Halloween parade in the Chapel Square community took on a special poignancy this year. The Annandale High School marching band has long had close ties to the community and has been the centerpiece of the celebration for decades. But due to a school boundary change approved by the Fairfax County school board in July, which was bitterly opposed by some residents, the community’s children have been shifted from Annandale to Woodson High School.
The Halloween parade has been a tradition for 44 years, since the community was developed, says Charles Hookey, president of the Chapel Square Civic Association. And the AHS Marching Atoms have been a part of the celebration since 1976.
As they have every year, neighborhood children gathered at the corner of Toll House Road and Duncan Drive yesterday dressed in Halloween costumes. They held orange and black balloons as they waited for the band’s arrival. When the band members arrived, were still dressed in the uniforms they wore in the Annandale parade Saturday morning – augmented with silly hats in a nod to the holiday.
After marching up Toll House, there was a band concert on the lawn of the Fairfax County Public Schools’ Sprague Technology Center followed by cookies and punch.
“Historically, many of the band participants have been from the Chapel Square neighborhood,” says Kim Pawley Helfgott. Several lucky children are selected to hold a banner that had been created for the first parade 44 years ago and lead their friends and neighbors down the street behind the marching Atoms.
It’s a fundraiser for the band, Hookey says, as a plastic pumpkin is passed around for donations. “The neighborhood gives generously to the band as a token of its appreciation for participating in this decades-long tradition,” adds Helfgott. The community usually raises about $600 for the Atoms band.
“For years, young people have grown up watching and idolizing their older brothers and sisters, neighbors, and friends who proudly march in the community Halloween parade,” she says. “The Halloween parade inspired them to one day be a Marching Atom, too.” He son Paul, has come to the parade since he was 2 years old and now plays the trombone in the Atoms band.
The Chapel Square community expects the tradition of hosting the Marching Atoms will continue—at least for several more years, Helfglott says. “But as a result of the school board's decision to move the Chapel Square neighborhood from Annandale to Woodson, the connection between the band members and the Chapel Square neighborhood will never be quite the same.”
|The original Chapel Square Halloween parade banner is 44 years old|