I live in a cohesive community that reminds me in all the best ways of Orange Hunt, the neighborhood where I grew up. As in good ol’ O.H., neighbors here know one another and people take care of each other. But my current neighborhood has something O.H. didn’t: a community-owned park at the end of a street. That’s where I once again judged the annual Halloween costume contest, which took place today.
My neighborhood brought me back by popular demand, if we count as a demand last night’s neighborhood-wide email blast seeking people who are “interested and highly qualified. Or reasonably qualified.” I volunteered before they lowered their standards to “reasonably alive.” But I did it with some reluctance because my 13 year-old niece, Emily, couldn’t come. She had joined me last year in a zebra outfit and under the pretense of taking notes, but really, I wanted her there for backup in case things broke bad.
Though I didn’t have my backup zebra this year, I didn’t have to go it alone after all. As I was walking out the front door, I ran into Sue, my neighbor’s mom. She had come to town to see her granddaughter walk in the parade and nobly answered the call to the reasonably qualified. I was happy to see her. I like Sue a lot, but more importantly, she’s smaller than I am and was wearing a homemade ghost costume whose eye holes tended to rove. I felt certain I could outrun her if the crowd turned on us.
At 10 a.m., the parade got underway, led, as your better parades are, by a Jeep-driving Captain Hook. Behind him walked an inflated T-Rex, princesses, a ballot box with legs, Kraft Macaroni-n-Cheese, superheroes, a donut, George Washington, Greek goddesses, a punk rocker, french fries, a president, a farmer and his barnyard animals, Harry Potter and Hermione, a UPS crew, the entire cast of Toy Story, owls, a cheeseburger, and scores of other costume-clad revelers. The Arlington County police lent their support by dressing up as themselves and clearing traffic from the parade route. The parade culminated in the park, where the other judges and I circulated to get a closer look at the costumes that piqued our interest. Forty-five minutes later, the judges huddled to determine the winners.
As in Olympic figure skating, we scored based on presentation, required elements, and the ability to stay vertical while wearing an absurd outfit. After three minutes of agonizing deliberation–twenty seconds of which was spent rearranging Sue’s eyeholes–we had our winners
Captain Hook took to the dais (French for “unoccupied picnic table”) and silenced the crowd so the head judge could announce our results.
The winners I remember are:
- Kraft Mac-n-Cheese: Were the creators going for irony with a homemade costume depicting America’s favorite processed powdered cheese side dish? We didn’t know and we didn’t care. Like most people, we love mac and cheese in any form.
- The cast of Toy Story: they had it all, and it looked like they’d made it all. Or at least most of it. It’s hard to get close enough to inspect for “Made in China” labels without committing a serious personal space violation.
- A family of monkeys: This looked to me like a faithful rendition of life in a zoo, or family mealtime. Either way, a few hurled bananas would have upped the authenticity.
- The farm: We overlooked the fact that this farm’s chicken was strapped into a stroller –so much for free range eggs –because the cow and pig were so darned cute.
- A graveyard bride: dressed all in grey and black, I imagine this is how I look when I haunt my ex-husband’s dreams. Mwahahaha.
- The UPS crew: On person’s Amazon trash is another person’s UPS truck, loaded up with all kinds of cargo and a pig in the passenger seat. The driver, a toddler who lives on my street, refused to get into the truck. I don’t blame him; I’d be grumpy about working Saturdays, too.
- The ballot box: By the time we announced the results, she was nowhere to be found. Either she’d gone off to stuff herself or she’d walked off with the election. We’ll never know.
And though he didn’t win, my personal favorite was this one:
Yep, that’s an “A” that flashes on and off, making him…A-blinkin’.
I texted this pic to my family, eliciting responses that reflect the national mood right now.
L.J.: “Is he running for President? Because if he is, I’ll write him in!”
Lynne: “Me too! He has my vote!” She didn’t even ask about his email protocol.
Suzi: “At this point I would even vote for the UPS truck or the mac and cheese!!” Perhaps she thinks the mac and cheese would better represent us than the current orange candidate. I cannot disagree.
L.J.: “UPS delivers the goods!”
Like this annual event, that slogan is a real winner. Now if only we could find the ballot box.