BELLOWS FALLS -- There were so many tiny vampires, zombies and monsters roaming the village streets Thursday, police officers had to be brought in.
But not to control them -- to escort them.
The Bellows Falls Police Department lead the roughly 185 children of Central Elementary School on a miniature parade as part of the school's traditional Halloween celebration. It's an event that stretches back ages and it allows young students in kindergarten through fourth grade to show off their creative costumes in a safe and friendly environment.
"This is a pretty big deal," said first-year principal Keith Nemlich. "It's been going on for quite some time."
Led by their teachers and paraprofessionals, the cast of characters included countless witches, princesses, skeletons, vintage video game characters and Transformers. The parade started on George Street at about 1:30 p.m. and looped around to Atkinson Street -- which was blocked off for the costumed guests of honor -- before taking a left onto Oak Street and another onto Church Place, back to the school.
"It's funny that they blocked off the whole street for us," Nemlich said.
The temperature was brisk and the rain was cold as ice, but that didn't stop scores of spectators, mostly proud parents, from lining Atkinson Street and taking photographs. Most smiled and awed at the ensemble of cuteness strutting in front of them. Some members of the Bellows Falls Middle School Marching Band provided the soundtrack for the creatures in the parade, which also featured a fire truck from the Bellows Falls Fire Department. Each classroom held its own little Halloween party once all the students got back to the school.
David Taylor, who has a son at Central, said the parade is a long-standing tradition that goes back to at least when he was a student at the school.
"I'm 40 now and they had it when I was in kindergarten," he said after the event. "(The kids) love it. And you know it's safe to get them outside and enjoy the festivities. It's not late at night. Nowadays, you've got to keep an eye on them and this is good to let them walk and then a small amount of trick-or-treating at night and they're happy."
Taylor said he carried his 3-year-son Leviathan, dressed as a Transformer, through the parade while his older son, Liam, dressed as Optimus Prime, walked it.
Nemlich said he is not sure how long the parade has been a tradition as Central but he has been told it is several decades old. He said the administration considered holding the parade inside this year but decided the weather was sufficient.
"We got through it. It wasn't too bad," he said. "The kids loved it. Though, some of them are dressed for it and can handle it and some of them are wearing very thin things. But they'll learn -- they'll be better tonight as they go out."
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.