An estimated 50,000 spectators and more than 200 groups — some with more than a hundred members participating — were part of the 74th annual Toms River Halloween parade.
The annual downtown event saw paradegoers three to five deep cheering as everyone from rollerskating Scrabble pieces (that would be the Jersey Shore Roller Girls), to a smoke-firing cannon on a ship filled with hundreds of pirates (that would be Cub Scout Pack 70) rolled down Main and Washington Streets on a windless, 30-degree Halloween night.
It was spooky. There was the Parents of Autistic Children's car full of evil clowns.
It was cute. Hundreds of scouts from the Girl Scouts of America were dressed as birthday candles to celebrate their 100th birthday.
It was comical. In the baby carriage division, two babies dressed as Smurfs were caged to be sold by Gargamel as he pulled the jail cell down the street.
It was filled with local pride. Each of the three high school and three intermediate schools of Toms River Regional had their marching bands participating, with color guard and cheerleaders following close by. The Island Heights Elementary School marching band as well as Central Regional and Manchester marching bands participated.
Arts groups, local businesses, radio station deejays, non-profits, sports teams, scouts, Elks, mayors, emergency responders...Santa Claus: They all came down Main Street.
So did a 1916 Case steam tractor, billowing smoke that engulfed the antique farm equipment and the wide-eyed crowds down the parade route. The combustion engine turned wood and burned it into enough power to chug-chug-chug down Main Street.
The tractor is a part of the Rough and Tumble Engineers Historical Association, based in Pennsylvania, though tractor owner Alan Samuelson brought the item from his collection in Batso Village, N.J. It's been part of the parade for decades.
A young Cinderella, in a glittery carriage float that came before the tractor on the parade line-up, held her ears as the whistle filled the air. A tractor like that would have come with a simple "chirper," Samuelson said, only loud enough to call nearby workers to lunch, for example.
His tractor, however, is now fitted with a locomotive whistle. It can be heard for seven miles.
For our additional gallery of images from the parade, click here.