EXCLUSIVE: WeHo’s Halloween Parade is Canceled Again

A city official said on Friday that L.A.’s biggest and most famous parade might be gone for good

Three years after West Hollywood was founded in 1984, the fledgling city kicked off its first Halloween parade. Over the next three decades, the annual fright night event grew into one of L.A.’s largest and most anticipated celebrations, drawing hundreds of thousands of revelers from around the globe to a two-mile-long stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard. In 2020 and 2021, WeHo’s City Council canceled the event. Now, Los Angeles has learned that the city is nixing the event for the third year in a row, and one city leader says the iconic parade may be permanently on ice.

According to West Hollywood Mayor Lauren Meister, the city decided to scrap this year’s “Carnaval” on June 27, after a vote by the Special Events Subcommittee of the City Council. The city was in no rush to publicize its decision. An undated post announcing the decision was discreetly tucked into the community section of the city’s official website, explaining that the event was being shelved because of concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic. While the city’s official announcement only specified 2022, Councilman John D.Amico, a veteran City official, told Los Angeles on Friday that the parade may be banished permanently.

“We canceled it two years in a row. So it sort of doesn’t exist anymore, in some way,” D’Amico said. “Many of us experienced, in some way, a kind of a sense of relief. As much fun as it was, it was incredibly nerve-wracking to make it happen.”

D’Amico cited the safety concerns that come with massive amounts of revelers pouring into the city while closing down a half-mile of a major West Side road. Overseeing the security and logistics of this sprawling event had become too problematic for the cash-strapped city, D’Amico says, adding that in his view, the event has jumped the shark, anyway.

“We used to be on an open stage, give out awards, celebrities would come, but by the end, it was this very discreet thing with a DJ booth,” he says. “So shaking it off and seeing what organically grows in its place is where we landed.”

While the parade and the influx of visitors it attracts has always prompted grumbling among some locals, not everyone will be pleased with the council’s decision. Over the Halloween season, the National Retail Federation predicts more than $3 billion in spending for 2022. For the third year and perhaps moving forward, West Hollywood will be dark rather than generating business for hotels, bars, and restaurants along the event route.

“It’s like New York canceling the Macy’s parade!” groused one Santa Monica Boulevard bar owner, who asked not to be named because of their dealings with the city. “It’s a monumentally bad decision. Some of the businesses on this street earn 20% of their annual revenue on that one night.”

West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval 2016

Photograph courtesy of Jon Viscott / City of West Hollywood

While the city says its decision was spurred by health concerns, it did not allow those concerns to cancel several other high-density celebrations. In fact, most of the city’s most popular annual events returned to WeHo this year. WeHo Pride in June even featured singers Janelle Monae and JoJo Siwa, and Cardi B spraying whipped cream at onlookers from a parade float. Asked about the different standards, Mayor Meister noted that “the crowd on Halloween is much, much larger and packed shoulder to shoulder on that one night than it is on any given night of Pride.” 

The real reason behind the cancellation might be as simple as D’Amico suggests; the event requires months of advance planning, with a considerable investment in public safety, at a time when the city’s budget is still recovering from the pandemic. “My memory is that when we discussed the special events, we basically came to a consensus,” says Meister of the decision to eliminate the parade. “Our budget was not as great as it has been in prior years and you have to prioritize.” 

The city will support a Women’s Leadership Conference and the Russian Cultural Fest later this year, but unless the city council changes its mind, the world-famous parade might be forever dead in the water. 

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