The coronavirus has disrupted one of Bay Ridge’s most beloved traditions.
The annual Ragamuffin Parade, which features floats, marching bands and costumed children, has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Organizers are already planning for the parade’s return next year.
“The entire Ragamuffin Parade Committee is heartbroken that we will be disappointing so many children and, of course, their parents by not having this big, fun event along Third Avenue this year,” the committee told this paper. “Our president, Rose Gangi, and all the members of the committee want to ensure everybody we will be pulling out all the stops in 2021 to make this colorful kiddie march bigger and better.”
Charles Otey, board member and co-publicity chair for the committee, discussed the importance of the parade.
“Ragamuffin parades have defined Bay Ridge in a very positive way,” said Otey. “It’s a community that cares about the kids. This creates the kind of ethos which makes young parents feel comfortable about moving here.
“People are upset [about the cancellation] and so is the committee, but our main goal is the kids and none of us wants to stage anything that will endanger them. There will be another Ragamuffin Parade. I’ve discussed it with other Ragamuffin board members and community leaders. All agree that in many ways Ragamuffin is Bay Ridge.”
Otey spoke about the origins of the parade, which was first held in 1967.
“My neighbor Cliff Scanlon came over to tell me a woman was being mugged across the street at Bay Ridge Parkway,” he said. “We armed ourselves with sticks or something and ran across the street in the direction of the screams. Just as we started through the bottom exposed hallway, the screams – coming from above – ceased. We went up and down the stairs and the residents wouldn’t talk with us. We were both out of breath and scared. One guy told me, ‘She’s OK. Some kid surprised her in the doorway.’”
Scanlon and Otey visited the captain of the 68th Precinct to report the incident. They were told Bay Ridge was a low-crime precinct and was undermanned.
“The following day, Cliff visited Father McKenna at Our Lady of Angels, and out of their meeting came the idea of Ragamuffin, giving the kids something positive,” said Otey. “Aware the ‘perp’ we had pursued was a young guy, Cliff determined to do something that the kids would enjoy.”
The first parade was held that November on Fourth Avenue from Leif Ericson Park to Our Lady of Angels. A thousand kids made up their own costumes and received prizes.
”It grew each year and we only missed one year, after Cliff got sick and had to retire,” said Otey. “It was picked up by the Third Avenue Merchant Association.”
The committee was unable to hold an in-person fund-raising luncheon this year. Donations to the 2021 parade can be made by check to Ragamuffin, Inc., 9728 Third Avenue, Suite 504, Brooklyn, NY 11209.