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Mercersburg parade marches for 55th year

October 26, 1997

By RICHARD F. BELISLE

Staff Writer

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - Again Monday night, for the 55th year since 1942, the Mercersburg Halloween Parade will roll down Main Street, but, according to its chief organizer, it may be the final run for the historic event.

"Interest is starting to peter out," said Richard Kauffman, 67, a retired area school teacher who has been chairman of the parade for the last 25 years.

"This year we only have 75 entries," he said. "In 1988 we had 135. I'm thinking this may be the last year for it. The young people don't seem to be interested in it any more."

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From its beginning the parade has been sponsored by the Mercersburg Lions Club. By the mid-1980s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6241 added its sponsorship, Kauffman said.

He said local organizations seem more interested in setting up food and other concessions to make money off the estimated 2,000 people who show up each year to watch the parade than they do putting in a float.

It costs about $5,000 to run the parade, $3,500 of which goes into prize money.

Prizes are given for the best-dressed individuals, school bands, color guards, majorette groups, school and youth groups, Scout units, antique and classic cars, equestrian groups, fire trucks, ambulances and floats, Kauffman said.

Judges from the All American Judges Association pick the winners.

The parade begins at Main Street and Linden Avenue and runs more than five blocks to the intersection of Pa. 16 and 75. It takes more than an hour to pass, he said.

Kauffman also worries that the parade is losing its Halloween theme.

"That's what it's supposed to be about, Halloween and scary stuff. There used to be big scary floats and ghosts and goblins," he said.

It has always been Mercersburg's sense of community spirit and tradition that has carried the parade through so many decades, Kauffman said. The only year it wasn't held was 1992 when PennDot had Main Street torn up.

"They promised it would be finished in time for the parade, but it wasn't," he said.

He said PennDot gives the borough permission to close off Main Street (Pa. 16), the main route between Greencastle, Pa., and McConnellsburg, in Fulton County, Pa.

Kauffman said Franklin County sheriff deputies and fire police help detour traffic around the parade route. The parade has been part of Kauffman's life ever since he was a child. He remembers his father, Wilbur Kauffman, a charter member of the Lions Club, worked on the parade.

The parade is always led by a color guard followed by a convertible carrying the local VFW commander and Lions Club president. Following them, in alternating years, are the James Buchanan High School Band or the James Buchanan Middle School Band.

Nineteenth century president James Buchanan was born in Mercersburg.

This year's grand marshal will be former WHAG-TV personality Glenn Presgraves.

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