The 24th Annual Haunted Happenings Grand Parade, presented by the Salem Chamber of the Commerce, ushers in the Halloween season for Salemites before the throngs of costume-wearing tourists arrive.

A previous iteration of this article incorrectly stated the parade's theme. The theme is "It's Our Future."

Halloween season looms.

Next week, Salem residents kick October festivities off when thousands of marchers and their floats depart Shetland Park on Thursday, Oct. 3 at 6:30 p.m.

The 24th Annual Haunted Happenings Grand Parade, presented by the Salem Chamber of the Commerce, ushers in the Halloween season for Salemites before the throngs of costume-wearing tourists descend upon the city.

The 2019 parade’s theme is “It's Our Future.”

“We hope all participants in this year’s parade, and especially the Salem schools, will use the parade theme ‘It’s Our Future’ to focus on what’s ahead,” said Salem Chamber of Commerce Assistant Director Jeff Swartz. “Inspired by Greta Thunberg, the Swedish [activist], climate change and how to deal with it immediately comes up as an idea, but there are many more topics that come into play such as technology, transportation, lowering the voting age,” among others.

The Grand Parade’s theme usually sets the tone for the Halloween season. Last year’s theme, “The Magic of Hocus Pocus,” was wildly successful. It celebrated the 25th anniversary of Disney's Halloween cult classic, a 1993 movie, in part, filmed in Marblehead and Salem.

Last October, one could find several Sanderson sister iterations and “Hocus Pocus” characters flooding the downtown streets of Salem.

Financial contributions from members of the Salem Chamber of Commerce defray a large chunk of the cost to stage the downtown party.

“Our long-standing Haunted Happenings Grand Parade is a special nighttime tradition for the city of Salem and visitors alike,” wrote the chamber in a press release. “Over 10,000 spectators (children, adults and those in between) enjoy the color, pageantry, music and enthusiasm of our annual parade.”

The 2018 parade comprised more than 4,500 people across 100 groups from Salem fire and police departments to public and charter schools and local businesses.

Before the start of the parade on Thursday, marchers will gather on Shetland Park’s sprawling parking lot at 5:30 p.m. and depart an hour later.

Mayor Kim Driscoll will serve as the grand marshal (the mayor is, by default, always the parade's grand marshal). She will lead the marching contingent alongside other elected officials behind a Salem Police Department color guard. Officials then sit atop a grandstand set up at the parade’s end point: Salem Common on Washington Square.

Thousands of spectators line city byways to witness all the revelry. The parade will start from Shetland properties on Congress Street and turn left onto Derby Street, then right onto Central Street, left onto Front Street, right onto Washington Street, another right onto the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall and finishes in the Salem Common.

To learn more, visit: http://www.salem-chamber.org/haunted-happenings-grand-parade