Since moving to Marblehead in May 2008, I’ve made it a point to head down to Pleasant Street every July 4th at 10am for the Marblehead Horribles Parade.  We didn’t know what to expect that first year but, once the candy started flying, my kids were hooked.  Between that and the parade of kids dressed up in one of three categories – Current Events, Historical or Original (that covers just about everything) – the parade has become a perfect way to celebrate the Fourth.  This is one of the many Marblehead Traditions that make this coastal New England town so special.

A Parade of Horribles

Handtub Fire Engine in the Marbleheads Annual Horribles Parade

The origin of the Horribles Parade dates back to the mid-19th century as a way for local to get dressed up in silly costumes and poke fun at those in power.  The original target of early parades was the “Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts, with ‘the ancients and honorables’ transmogrified into ‘the antiques and horribles.”  While the parade of horribles seems to have originated in Lowell, MA in 1851, the tradition soon spread throughout New England.

[source: Visual Thesaurus]

Marblehead’s Horribles Parade


A stormtrooper digs into his bag of candy while taking part in the Marblehead Horrible parade

Our local parade began in the 1930s and, at least since 1949, has been organized by the local Gerry No. 5 Veteran Fireman’s Association.  It begins with registration held on July 3rd each year at the Gerry 5 VFA as well as before the parade begins at the National Grand Parking lot.  The parade typically has 400-700 children participating each of whom receives an ice cream sandwich, a half-dollar and a bag of goodies.  Cash prizes are awarded in various categories.  The history of Marblehead’s Horribles Parade was very well documented in a book by Rick Ashley.

This year’s Horribles Parade will take place on July 4th at 10am.

View a Gallery of Images of the Annual Horrible Parade