NEW YORK (AP) — Bloody zombies lumbered alongside superheroes, cowboys shared the road with villains and marchers in hazardous-materials garb evoked the Ebola crisis as the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade made its freewheeling way through downtown Manhattan on Friday.
Creativity was on display and current events were on marchers' minds as a costumed crowd of thousands flowed up Sixth Avenue on a windy Halloween night.
Dr. Jane Testa sported a "hammer out Ebola" costume featuring a hazmat suit, flashing lights, a large version of the virus — made of balloons — and a sign with a biohazard symbol and the message "Quarantine: Ebola outbreak. Deadly force may be used."
"Don't get too close!" Testa warned, holding a balloon hammer with a red cross.
Stressing that her heart goes out to those infected, she said she spent several days making the costume "to raise awareness."
"And laughter," added her friend Dawn Sickles, who also donned a hazmat suit.
As usual, the mood along the parade route was Carnival-esque, with eruptions of loud music and collective cheers. People backed up for blocks waiting to enter the route, while throngs of spectators snapped photos and took in costumes that included Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Pocahontas, Marilyn Monroe, assorted fruits, a 1980s-themed float and more.
Ben Goodkin folded his arms solemnly as he described why he chose to dress as Pope Francis.
"He's an inspiration to many people around the world," Goodkin said. "And it's humorous."
The 18-year-old, a first-year student at New York University, had never been to the parade before.
"I love it," he said.
Not far away, the ancient Egyptian monarchs Ramses and Cleopatra — also known as Erwin and Cassandra Dmello of Connecticut — were celebrating Halloween for the first time. The Dmellos, both 30, are originally from Bombay, India.
"We heard about this and wanted to be a part of it," Cassandra Dmello said.
The parade, which is open to anyone in a costume, prides itself on being an anything-goes spectacle. It started in 1973 with a puppeteer marching with his family and grew into a televised extravaganza that draws thousands of spectators.
But it's had a bit of a rocky road in recent years. The 2012 parade was canceled because of Superstorm Sandy. Last year, an emergency online funding campaign raised more than $50,000 to revive it.
Jordi Sole, of Barcelona, Spain, and Jose Manuel, of Madrid, looked pleasantly stunned as they took pictures of the parade Friday. Sole, 47, and Manuel, 51, are in town for Sunday's New York City Marathon.
"It's crazy," said Sole. "We knew it was Halloween, but it's absolutely different than Europe."