HAWTHORNE, NJ - Cars gathered in droves Monday evening at the Value Village parking lot before taking to the streets for a "support parade." When organizer Arielle Rutzler heard that the popular "Zombie House" on Lafayette Avenue had removed their Halloween decorations because of complaints from locals, she felt an obligation to take action. "There were lots of people talking on social media, but no one was doing anything to show their support of [Rodrigues'] dedication to entertaining children and adults during the Halloween season," she said.
Rutzler has a 6-year-old daughter with sensory issues. Her daughter told her that she finally wanted to face her fears and visit the Zombie House this year, but when they arrived, there was not a zombie to be seen. Her daughter has been terribly upset since, and that was the catalyst to push Rutzler to organize this event. She was shocked at the turn out, but happily surprised by the amount of cars who were already gathered in the parking lot when she arrived.
Resident Kali Rendino shared with TAPinto Hawthorne that local Jay Goodrich was a key organizer with his planning and executing of the parade on short notice. He actively recruited at least half of the participants to join in and, because of him, it was a "huge success."
Vehicles drove slowly up Lafayette Avenue, honking and playing festive songs like Michael Jackson's "Thriller" as they passed the now dark and unadorned house. There were crowds of people on both sides of the street, some dressed in zombie and other costumes, waving and cheering to drivers and their passengers. There were so many cars involved in the parade that at one point a Hawthorne Police Officer began directing traffic.
Rutzler was very clear that she wanted this parade to be peaceful and respectful, and the participants were. Their message was clear: show your support, but be respectful. "This year has been hell for all of us with the pandemic. We all enjoyed seeing the decorations--that was one of the few joys that we had left for this year. Just because people like to drive past, slow down and take pictures doesn’t mean that he should have been forced to take down these beautiful decorations." The Hawthorne Fire Department Tower 2 truck made an appearance, shining their lights and sounding their sirens in support as they drove by.
Rodrigues has made quite the impression on residents in the town, and tonight, he truly felt all the love and support. "Normally, people say thank you when they pass by. But today, I really saw the heart, and it really made me very happy." Rodrigues said. He was so moved by the amount of residents who came out to show their support that he decided to put the decorations back up, just in time for Halloween.
Ashley Charest is new to town. "I just moved here from Boston a month ago and couldn't wait to see the Zombie House I heard so much about. I was very sad when we heard about it being taken down, so when I found out there would be a parade to support him, I came right down." Charest was among a large crowd sharing the same sentiment, who felt that Rodrigues' display was providing light-hearted family fun, rather than causing problems with traffic as the local complaints had stated. In fact, many of the attendees shared Rutzler's feelings that the regular traffic is actually worse than it is around Halloween. "I'm more concerned about the cars that speed down Lafayette when it isn't the Halloween season. That, to me, is way more dangerous than cars slowing down to admire the Zombie House," she said.
Rodrigues hopes to have his zombie display back up by Wednesday evening, and is excited to provide more Halloween fun for all the residents who came out to show their shared love of Halloween
Hey there, reader! Do you want to chime in? Submit a letter to the editor of TAPinto Hawthorne
Sign up to receive FREE TAPinto news in your email inbox: https://www.tapinto.net/subscriptions/new