The Ashland Children's Halloween Parade Thursday had plenty of the wacky, grotesque and adorable costumes it's famous for.
Constituents young and old swarmed through downtown from the public library to the Plaza, where ghosts and princesses chatted casually and a 10-foot-tall, skull-faced joker bounced on springy stilts above the cuddly and creepy alike.
It's not the terrifying Halloween masks or fake blood that scare 8-year-old Tyler Davis, who was carrying a corn stalk and dressed up like a scarecrow. It's the clowns, he said.
"The witches and ghosts are good, I like them. My mom is a witch," said Tyler, who was accompanied by his 12-year-old sister, Caitlin.
"Not the clowns, though. I am very scared of clowns. In every nightmare I have, there is a clown."
Caitlin, who was dressed as Pinky Pie, a pony with wings and sparkly hair, said trick-or-treating and getting in costume are the best parts of Halloween.
"I've been waiting to put on this costume for a while," she said. "I am glad we finally made it."
Parents Coley and Traci Davis helped the youngsters prepare their costumes and didn't leave out 20-month-old Nara, who was being pushed in a stroller dressed as a bat.
Thursday was the Davis family's first Halloween parade in Ashland, having just moved to town from Denver, Colo.
"It's the best holiday of the year hands down," said Joe Charter, 55, dressed in a blue pirate jacket and captain's hat. The colorful stuffed parrot on his shoulder was named squeaky, he said.
"I think people like that you get to act like a kid again," he said.
The festivities, organized by the Ashland Chamber of Commerce, kicked off with Halloween story time at the Ashland library before the parade started at 3:30 p.m.
Rat-a-tat-tatting down the parade route, Samba Like It Hot led the crowd with its explosive percussion sound, while the Ashland Middle School Jazz Band and the Ashland High School band kept smooth jams emanating from closed side streets.
ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum put on a mad-science show, and Tree House Books and Paddington Station hosted reading events for children, who could have their photos taken at the Ashland Art Center after the parade.
There was a little strawberry running around, sequined fish swimming on poles through the crowd, vampires, a monarch butterfly with a 6-foot wingspan, garden gnomes, cowboys. Elvis also made an appearance.
"We are a theatrical, artistic town, with Shakespeare and the Cabaret," said Katharine Flanagan, sales and marketing director for the chamber. "We really have a very intellectual, innovative community. All of that combined really creates a festive atmosphere during Halloween.
"We had a couple of thousand folks down here today and about two-thirds of everyone was kids and families."
Police on scene said the event went off without a hitch.
Dressed in a classic scream mask and robe, 10-year-old Vincent Heuberger of Ashland said the parade was great, but going door-to-door collecting candy — particularly Butterfingers — later in the night would be even better.
"It's just a fun atmosphere," said 77-year-old Edie Clark, visiting her son in Ashland from Beaverton.
In addition to her regular garments, Clark was wearing a oversized hairy nose.
"I picked this thing up a few years ago," she said, gently touching one of its many abnormalities with her fingertips. "It's nice huh?"
Sam Wheeler is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.