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Wilson honored for Halloween Parade efforts with Kiwanis, but event’s future is in doubt

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 2/13/19

Together, Melody Wilson and her husband, Marlin, make up just more than one-fourth of the membership of the Middletown Kiwanis Club.

Melody and Marlin and the club’s five other members are …

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Wilson honored for Halloween Parade efforts with Kiwanis, but event’s future is in doubt

Landon Miller and Danielle Henry wait for candy during the Halloween parade on Oct. 16, 2018.
Landon Miller and Danielle Henry wait for candy during the Halloween parade on Oct. 16, 2018.
staff photo by laura hayes
Posted

Together, Melody Wilson and her husband, Marlin, make up just more than one-fourth of the membership of the Middletown Kiwanis Club.

Melody and Marlin and the club’s five other members are responsible for putting on the popular Halloween Parade that takes place in Middletown each year.

But without Kiwanis getting more members, it becomes more uncertain with every passing year whether the parade will continue.

“I don’t know if we are going to be able to pull it out for the upcoming year,” Melody told borough council on Feb. 5.

She had been asked to be at the meeting, but she didn’t know why. It didn’t take long to find out.

Mayor James H. Curry III invited Melody to the front of the council table, to present her with a plaque from himself and council, thanking Melody for her efforts over the years in making the parade happen.

“We think of you as an absolute treasure to the Middletown community, for everything you have done for the Halloween Parade for so many years,” Curry said. “It is something that every aspect of the community looks forward to, from the children to the old.”

“Now raising kids of my own here in this community, I see how much they really enjoy it, and if it weren’t for people like you and your leadership … it just wouldn’t happen. So we really appreciate everything you have done. Your value cannot be overstated,” he said

Wilson isn’t one for limelight. She hates having her picture taken. When she does come to a council meeting, it’s often to offer the assistance of Kiwanis for a project — such as funds to help replace Kids Kastle in Hoffer Park.

Or, as she usually does after each year’s parade, she comes to publicly thank the borough for its help making the parade happen.

Months before each year’s parade, Melody reaches out to Borough Manager Ken Klinepeter to set up a meeting with staff, including police and Public Works Director Greg Wilsbach, to start planning for the route, street closures, and everything else on the municipal side of things.

Klinepeter noted “the enormous time and effort” that Melody puts into the parade each year. “I don’t think the average person realizes what effort and time it takes for one parade on one night.”

Wilson was gracious in accepting the award, saying that the honor belongs to all Middletown Kiwanis, including those whose shoulders Melody has been standing on since she took over the parade in 2010.

“There’s a lot of great people that came before me that have built this,” she said.

Melody has been in Kiwanis for a little more than 25 years. She said she joined just a few years after Kiwanis began accepting women as members.

She recalled a story from before then, about a woman who showed up at a Kiwanis meeting somewhere. They asked if she was the speaker. She said no, she was just interested in joining. In that case, they told the woman she had to leave, Melody recollected. Things have changed since then.

Marlin and Melody were members of Kiwanis in Linglestown until 15 years ago, when they moved to Middletown.

Marlin transferred his membership to Middletown Kiwanis. Melody waited a year, until she got tired of driving to Linglestown for every meeting.

In 2010, the Middletown Kiwanis secretary who ran the Halloween parade moved away.

“I kind of stepped up to the plate,” Melody said. She’s been running it ever since.

A lot has changed in just those years. Registration is done online, and since 2014 advance registration has been made mandatory in response to increasing concerns coming down from Kiwanis International over insurance liability.

Melody also changed the policy regarding parade vendors. Before, many were from outside the area, some even out of state. They’d make hundreds of dollars from the event, and take their money and leave Middletown.

Melody thought that money should stay here. Now, the vendors are area nonprofits groups. Kiwanis doesn’t make them pay to work the parade, so all the money they make can go back into the community.

She gets a lot of help from other Middletown Kiwanis members, especially Marlin.

This past year, Melody couldn’t get to as many businesses for parade sponsorships, because of her health issues.

Marlin, now “semi-retired,” stepped up to make the sponsorships happen, Melody said.

Come parade night, all but one of the seven Middletown Kiwanis members are there assisting with the event. The Kiwanis member who provides tech support moved out of the area, but he remains involved and assisted in this year’s parade with fixing any online issues.

After all the months of effort, seeing the smiling faces of  children during the parade is “a treasure that makes all the hard work worth it,” Melody said. She wishes more people would sign up their children to compete in the parade.

Today, Melody and Marlin and the rest of Middletown Kiwanis keep a tradition going that started back in 1954, when Kiwanis took over the Halloween parade.

Kiwanis has held the parade ever since, with 2018 marking the 65th year.

Before 1954, a group known as the Mothers’ Congress Circle was responsible for holding the Halloween Parade in Middletown.

The Circle held the first Halloween Parade and Street Carnival on Oct. 30, 1916, according to information provided by Jack Still, a Middletown resident whose mother Pauline was active in the Mothers’ Congress.

The Middletown Odd Fellows Lodge began assisting in putting on the Halloween “carnival” in 1952, but in 1954 Kiwanis took charge of the event, according to the history.

“The membership got older and they could no longer handle it. They dissolved,” Melody said of the congress. “Close to what is kind of happening to us.”

Now, she is hoping that history does not repeat itself with the Middletown Kiwanis.