Photo taken from the official Haunted Happenings Facebook page
They won't be quite ready to patrol the streets on Halloween this year, but the newest additions to the Salem Police Department are getting involved in the festivities.
Thor, Kruger and Turbo, the new German Shepherd police dogs that the city acquired last month, have been chosen as the Grand Marshall's of Salem's annual Haunted Happenings Grand Parade this Thursday night.
The parade, now in it's 17th year, has a different theme each October, chosen by the Salem Chamber of Commerce, and after the decision to recognize World Animal Day, the choice for special guests to lead the parade alongside Mayor Kim Driscoll was obvious.
"We have already, a long time ago, picked World Animal Day as the theme because October 4 is World Animal Day," said Rinus Oosthoek, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce. "It's not celebrated much in the U.S. We figured that would work here and the kids would have a ball dressing up as all kinds of animals.
"Someone came up with the idea of why don't we make the dogs the Grand Marshall's of the parade, which fits perfectly."
Photo courtesy of the Salem Police Department
Driscoll serves as the official Grand Marshall every year, but Oosthoek says that adding special guests to lead the procession is nothing new, depending on the theme in a given year and who happens to be in town at the time. Grand Marshalls in recent years have included Chris Rankin, the actor who plays Percy Weasley in the first three Harry Potter films, Salem State University President Patricia Maquire Meservey, and Robert St. Pierre, the longest-serving police chief in city history.
Fire Department Chief David Cody and current Police Chief Paul Tucker were front and center last year.
Police Captain Brian Gilligan says the dogs will ride in a truck, decorated by members of the Mack Park Neighborhood Association (MPNA) and others who led the effort to raise the $30,000 for two dogs, which was so successful the city was able to afford three when all was said and done. At last count, the Project K-9 group has raised $53,000 according to Rose Mary O'Connor, chair of the MPNA.
The dogs entered 14 weeks of training today in Boston, which should have them ready for duty sometime in mid-January. After training on Thursday, they will head back to Salem with their handlers - Patrolmen Ryan Davis, Jon Bedard and Tim Salvo - for the parade, which kicks off at 6:30 p.m. from Shetland Office Park.
"It's exciting," Gilligan said. "It's a good thing for the city/ It's a great thing for the department."
According to Oosthoek, the parade is geared towards children, and the chamber tries to make sure it is a collaborative effort between organizers and the school system. This year, the chamber offered an opportunity to march in the first section of the parade to the school that sold the most tickets for the Salem Education Foundation's "Food for Thought" raffle, which went to the Saltonstall School.
Another new addition to the parade this year is bagpipers.
"I have no idea what that will sound like in the parade, but I'm sure it will be fun," Oosthoek said.
The parade will depart from Shetland Office Park on Congress Street, cross the Congress Street Bridge, and follow a route along Derby Street, Central Street, Front Street, Washington Street, the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall, and end at the Salem Common.
A grandstand will be set up for the mayor and all other dignitaries on the common, and DJ Doug will be on hand to provide entertainment.
The parade, a spectacle that falls on the first Thursday of October every year, marks the unofficial start of the city's month-long Haunted Happenings celebration and, according to Oosthoek, is a must-see for anyone looking for a taste of Salem's Halloween tradition.
"If you haven't seen it, you've seen nothing yet," Oosthoek explains. "It's so much fun."
As always, costumes are encouraged. Parents, this means you! For more information on the Thursday's festivities visit the Salem Chamber of Commerce website or contact the chamber at 978-744-0004.
For information on Halloween events throughout the city this month, visit the Haunted Happenings website or check boston.com/salem at the beginning of every week for a breakdown of that week's events.
Ryan Mooney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mooney_ryan.