70 Years of Scares in Irvington

The masked “witches” and “ghosts” partaking in a ghoulish walk in Irvington on October 31, 1927, led by the Indianapolis Military Band would never know the impact on Halloween tradition they would have in the community. This month, everything from horror-trivia games to a burlesque show to a Spooky Organ Concert will fill the streets of Irvington for a full week of fun from October 22 to 29.

Irvington’s first-ever Halloween parade was repeated for the next two years, and possibly into the early 1930s, according to the Indiana Historical Society. Local businesses awarded prizes ranging from two dozen eggs for the best animal mask, to a $25 car credit for the “best costume representing an auto or any of its parts.”

The Depression and ensuing World War II seem to have put a damper on the community’s October festivities, but in 1946, a full-scale Halloween Festival debuted thanks to the Irvington Business Men’s Association. A parade of some 500 costumed children drew a crowd of around 9,000 people, and local businesses painted their windows to get into the spooky spirit.


The Irvington Business Men’s Association continued to sponsor the festival for the next 19 years. By the mid-1960s, the event had dwindled to a kiddie matinee at the Irving Theater. But it came back with a vengeance in 1970, thanks to the efforts of local residents John and Becky Readle, aided by local school PTAs, clubs, churches, merchants, and others.

Today, Irvington is keeping it spooky by upholding tradition with a little modern flair. Now celebrating its 70th year, the annual weeklong Halloween Festival fills the eastside neighborhood with zombies, vampires, and witches. Events throughout the week are as diverse as a history tour and champagne brunch, a costume party, a night of storytelling in “Sleepy Hollow,” and the annual Vampire Run.

Kicking off the festival is the Monster’s Ball Co-ed Roller Derby bout on October 22 at 5:30 p.m. The festival then settles into the night with the annual Masquerade Ball fundraiser for the Historic Irvington Community Council; tickets are already going fast. In keeping with Irvington ritual, there will be a street fair on October 29 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., but that’s as traditional as it gets. This year, the celebration will come to a close with the Wicked Wonders Street Fair show for ages 18 and up featuring Blue Monkey Sideshow, the burlesque troupe Rocket Doll Revue, the 1932 movie Freaks, and fortune-tellers.

For other Irvington Halloween Festival activities, times, and dates, go to its website for more information.

A poster-contest entry:

#irvingtonhalloweenfestival #thehistoricirvingtonhalloweenfestival

A photo posted by Randi Frye (@fryerstudio) on