The Hamburg Jaycees canceled the 2020 King Frost Parade in Hamburg Borough due to the coronavirus.
The King Frost Parade has been sponsored by the Hamburg Jaycees every year since 1964.
“As all of you are probably aware, the King Frost Parade has been a staple in the Borough of Hamburg since its revival in 1964," the Jaycees announced on their Facebook page this summer. "Our parade has served as a homecoming of sorts for people far and wide and we have had tremendous success for years. We have NEVER missed a year since 1964. Some rain delays, yes, but have never missed a parade! This decision was not made lightly.”
The Jaycees also note that COVID-19 prevented them from hosting their annual Family Festival over Memorial Day Weekend in Hamburg, which is the number one fundraiser for the King Frost Parade.
“Without this income, we simply cannot afford to put the parade down the street, nor do we feel it is a guaranteed safe thing to do.”
The cancellation announcement was made via Facebook in July.
“We appreciate all of you for your support and enjoyment of the parade year after year. We appreciate your attendance, as well as your financial support. Without you, there would be no reason to hold this event. I assure you, King Frost has not contracted COVID-19 and he will not pass away from this virus. King Frost will reign supreme in 2021! Saturday, October 30, 2021 is the date of the parade for next year. We urge you to save this date.”
The committee started preparing for next year's parade and encouraged the community to purchase a 2020 King Frost Parade pin, which features a masked King Frost. The pin sold out quickly in its first sale in August and was followed by another pin sale in October. All proceeds from pin sales go directly to funding the parade.
History of the King Frost Parade
By Janet Barr of the Hamburg Area Historical Society
Reprint from Hamburg Item
If you needed one word that describes the spirit of King Frost, it would be enthusiasm. Here was a town of maybe three thousand people, back in 1910, and a group of guys who hung around the local hardware store got to talking about Halloween high-jinx, and one man (Jack Walker) came up with the idea of a celebration 'such as a big parade' to provide seasonal fun and perhaps draw kids from mischief into less destructive trickery.
The concept found its way into print in the Hamburg Item, and in a very short time the enthusiasm grew and produced more ideas and offers of help, not only from Hamburg but from surrounding areas.
"Who will be the spectators, if everyone is in the parade?" someone asked, as more and more people wanted to march. Every little town had a band, and they all wanted to be in on the fun. People thought of costumes to make, or dragged old ones from attics. The word spread outward like ripples on a pond. On parade day, people came by train, team and auto to see or take part in Hamburg's Halloween celebration.
Most of the floats were horse-drawn. The routes were dimly lit, but torches and extra lighting were provided here and there. There were plenty of spectators, and the line of bands, floats and masqueraders was awesome. Our fire brigade was a big hit ' the men "rescued" stuffed figures from second stories along the route, where red lighting gave the impression of flames. Everyone enjoyed themselves.
By 1911, the Halloween celebration had a name, King Frost. It consisted of three parades: an agricultural/industrial one in the afternoon, then a procession of decorated autos, and then the "fantastic" at night, with the torch-lit darkness adding to the spirit of things. Halloween was on a Monday that year, so King Frost was, too. Businesses closed for the day, or at noon. Special trains were run to bring in the crowds.
In 1912 it seemed that no idea anyone had was turned down. The celebration lasted from 7 a.m. to almost midnight, consisting of four parades, fireworks, foot races, a school choral concert, and a confetti battle at Fourth and State. At least 15,000 people from a 50-mile radius helped celebrate.
The King Frost Carnival was held each year until and including 1915, and they were pretty spectacular. The parade always formed around Second and State, a nice wide spot in the road, and handy to side streets and railways. The line of march was east on State to 4th, up to Port Clinton Ave., down Third to Windsor, up to Fourth, then to State, and back to Second Street. Some parts then countermarched back up State, then down Fourth until the end of the line was reached.
In 1914, war news from Europe darkened headlines every day, but people were still able to kick up their heels. The fraternal organization of Red Men planned a convention to coincide with King Frost, and they marched in our parade by the hundreds. Twelve special trains on both of our railroads brought people from north and south. Strings of lights were hung across main streets. Prizes included a silver fire trumpet for the best-appearing fire company in line. There were three parades, and many groups of school children marched in costumes they had helped to make.
These were heady times for Hamburg. The Sanatorium had its official opening east of town a week before the parade date.
Enthusiasm? You bet! People were urged to do something: decorate, join the parades, build floats, organize groups and clubs, encourage others, originate ideas. The area buzzed with preparations. On parade day, the post office and banks got permission to close early. Extra lights were strung along the route.
Some folks worried that the town couldn't hold all the people that were coming. They banned car parking on the streets of the parade route. Steps were taken to guard against pickpockets, who had found easy marks here the year before.
King Frost day was blessed with perfect weather and a full moon. In the 2 p.m. parade were nine fire companies, Company E of the National Guard, Burkey's Band, 10 public school groups, and 21 fancy floats, including a tally-ho coach and team of horses. The 4 p.m. parade featured 100 cars and a few trucks, all decorated. At 7:30, the "fantastic" included many bands, masqueraders of all description, floats, comic groups, and about 1,000 Red Men in full regalia. The crowd of onlookers was estimated at 30,000.
"The Item would have to be twice its size to do justice to all the excellent features of the day's activities," said the editor in the next week's issue.
This parade was one that lived in people's memories and photo albums for many many years.
The 1915 carnival consisted of an afternoon and an evening parade, lit by plenty of lights strung by the Gas & Electric Company, and enjoyed by about 15,000 people.
After all this glory, it seems strange that in 1916 no mention of parade preparations appeared in the paper. Then a short apologetic announcement said that there would be no King Frost, due to threat of war, a polio epidemic, Company E away at the Mexican border, and the State Street bridge over the canal closed off to be rebuilt. For the next few years there were only small processions of school children to greet the fall holiday.
Parade Revived in 1921
The parade was revived in 1921. Most of the original committee was gone or retired, but a new group took up the reins. Again the Red Men again scheduled a convention to coincide with King Frost.
In 1922 and '23, King Frost had a queen, as beauty pageants were held and the winners rode in the parades. A booster committee held "tag days" to raise funds. Extra trains brought crowds of people. The enthusiasm was building up again.
50,000 Come out for 1924 Parade
This was another outstanding one! Weeks before the big day, convoys of boosters drove to towns and cities for many miles around. Led by Burkey's Band, they spread the word of Hamburg's King Frost Carnival to be held on Saturday, Nov. 1. Medallions and lapel pins were sold as far away as New York and New Jersey, and could be obtained locally at Roy Gordon's barber shop. The beauty pageant rules were simplified, and Elda Dietrich was proclaimed queen at a special assembly at the Strand Theater. She would ride in a new Studebaker provided by Schlenker Motors.
Jack Walker, who had served so long as King Frost, was too ill to be in the parade, so Burgess Stephen Sousley took his place.
A crowd of at least 50,000 enjoyed ideal weather for the carnival. Thousands of costumed and masked people poured from the evening trains and joined the throngs already gathered along the parade route.
Highways were jammed with cars for miles around, and many people were never able to get here in time. All possible parking places were filled.
State police handled things as efficiently as they could There was little or no rowdiness. One participant from a coal region town was quoted as saying, "With such a crowd of people, we'd have a murder."
The floats and marching groups waited on State Street, west of Third for the parade to move out. Firemen's divisions formed on South Second, Washington and Pine Streets.
Outstanding floats in the afternoon's agricultural parade were entries of the Centerport Grange and the State Sanatorium.
Possibly the most famous float ever to be in a King Frost parade made its appearance. It was the Pennsylvania Railroad's entry, which had won first price at a pageant in Atlantic City. Our ticket agent, William P. Fisher, obtained permission to have it shipped by rail and unloaded, to be featured in Hamburg's parade. It was 18 feet long, depicting the Delaware River Bridge, with Philadelphia's City Hall at one end and the Absecon Light House at the other. Electric power provided lots of lights, and trains moved across the bridge, while boats traversed the river below.
A group of over 100 Burkey Underwear employees marched in blue outfits with red-lined capes. They were led by the Third Brigade band of Pottsville. Other marching groups also were accompanied by bands. A prize-winning group from Mahanoy City portrayed a southern farm, a cabin surrounded by cotton plants, followed by cotton pickers in costume carrying baskets of cotton.
Very popular were the Hamburg Frogs, who did leap-frog stunts as they moved along.
Hundreds of couples and individual masqueraders drew admiring applause. Peoples' imagination had been working overtime. Picture these entries 'a sight-seer's bus, a kitchen band, the Toonerville Trolley, the Cannibal Club, the Farmers' Corn Club, the Yama-Yama Girls, the Upside-down Man, Mutt and Jeff (a popular comic cartoon duo of the day), an organ grinder and his monkey, Charlie Chaplin, the North Pole Girls. The list went on. The Union Roller Mill produced "Ye Olde Mill," a faithful copy of the workings of the mill. Hahn Motors showed 10 trucks and two fire trucks. Other industries and businesses were well represented by attractive, elaborate floats.
Many floats were taken to the Sani after the parade, for the patients to view.
Traffic records were broken that night, on the railroads and highways. Someone counted 3,000 cars going south through Shoemakersville in four hours after the parade, and it was the same in other directions.
There was a good parade in 1925, with a new King Frost float built by contractor Lewis Raubenhold. More lighting was provided, to spread out the crowd, and traffic control was needed.
That was the last one for a while. The nation's Sesquicentennial, held in Philadelphia in 1926, was put forward as the reason for not having a celebration in Hamburg. There was a long quiet period, when people talked fondly of past parades, but no one put any effort into having one.
Strausstown applied the name King Frost to their Halloween parade in 1933.
In 1934, a committee organized a "Halloween Hilarity Parade," and the spirit of the old days began to take hold. There were 2,000 costumed, enthusiastic people in a line of march that was 12 blocks long, and prizes were awarded for costumes, bicycles, floats, marching units, bands, and decorated homes.
King Frost Held in Midst of Depression
A big banner across Fourth and State proclaimed that King Frost would return on Nov. 2, 1935. Committees had formed and fund drives were held in September and October. People were asked to increase illumination in their neighborhood along the parade route, and white bulbs were available free for use on front porches. The town also strung extra lighting along State, Third and Fourth Streets.
Publicity drew bands from Kutztown, Reading, Orwigsburg, Port Carbon, Lebanon, Saint Clair, Birdsboro, Laureldale, Pottsville, and of course from Hamburg. The carnival spirit grew, and entries were received from masqueraders from as far away as the coal regions and New Jersey.
There was a door-to-door appeal for funds. Floats were built, and a judges' platform was erected at Third and State. Prizes were offered for decorated houses and businesses.
The parade was 17 blocks long, and still took its original route, but extended south as far as Maple. There was no shortage of marchers and ideas for costumes and floats.
For instance, a live raccoon treed by dogs and hunters on the West Hamburg Game Association float; 283 Burkey employees in black and orange Russian Cossack costumes; Twelve Lost Souls and Satan; two different groups of Pajama Girls; 17 marching Wooden Soldiers; Peter Pumpkin Eater and his wife on a float; two floats of cows with milk maids; the Nine Nit Wits, the Man in the Moon, and the Cornstalk Man.
The Item building was built in miniature and mounted on top of a large automobile.
Easily recognized masqueraders were Shirley Temple, Jean Harlow, George Washington, Betsy Ross, and Aunt Jemima.
Small groups included the Ladies in Red, the Girls of 1776, and the Top Hat Girls. Original costume ideas produced the Cellophane Girls from Kutztown, the Tinsel Twins, and the Patent Leather Twins. A very popular group was a kids' division, "Uncle Sam's Nephews and Nieces," headed by H.N. Pakenham reprising his role of Uncle Sam.
Many of the industries and businesses again entered floats and marching groups. In the midst of the Depression, people found the means to put on a parade they could be proud of.
When all that had gone by, people knew King Frost had returned. However, there was a problem. Two main highways went right through Hamburg, using the streets of the parade route.
Motor traffic and the Depression provided the writing on the wall for the decline of the King Frost Carnival. During the late 1930s, fewer industries participated. It became necessary for the parade to halt every so often to let traffic through.
In 1940, the Keystone Social Club and some of the previous committee members made a valiant effort. With a crowd of perhaps 50,000 people, traffic was a nightmare, rowdiness reared its ugly head, and the enthusiasm died. King Frost was doomed, for the time being at least.
Hamburg Jaycess Rive Old Tradition in 1964
A generation passed. Sometimes there was talk of reviving the old tradition, but it wasn't until 1964 that anyone really stood up and did something about it. That summer, the Hamburg Jaycees decided to wake up King Frost from his long sleep. A committee was formed, with Donald Yocom Sr. as general chairman and William Gundrum as co-chairman.
Domer Leibensperger, head of the sales campaign, headed the drive to sell 5,000 King Frost badges. Yes, those pins that are worth such a lot of money on e-bay these days probably sold for a dollar back then, and helped raise funds for the parade.
Publicity drew entries from three Philadelphia string bands, 11 drum and bugle corps, at least five high school bands, 50 floats, several horsemen's clubs, and local community bands. Some outstanding entries were the Senior Buccaneers, the Hershey Chocolatiers, the Westshoremen Bonnie Scots, and the Hamburg Junior Buccaneers. Paul Heffner, who had been involved in staging the last parade in 1940, now ruled as King Frost.
The eight-division parade began at 8 p.m. on Oct. 31. Cheering them on were 30,000 people.
The two highways had been moved out of town in the 1950s. The wars and Depression were in the past. There were still plenty of local industries whose employees were eager to participate, and people willing to create masquerade costumes and walk the two-mile route. A dance was held at the Field House afterward, with music by The Triumphs.
The parades of the 1960s were outstanding. Cloaked in secret, local industries built floats, to be unveiled on the big night, and mill employees sewed their own costumes at work, on their own time, and when floats and marching groups were combined, it was spectacular. Clubs and organizations entered floats, too, each taking weeks of work, but there was enough enthusiasm to go around.
Many floats were masterpieces, but one that had people astounded was "The Flying Witch" from Alburtis. Someone rode on the end of a long pole that was somehow rigged to propel the "witch" up in the air, or so it appeared. She first appeared during a full moon on a windy night in the 1966 parade. That year, there were 32 bands, 45 floats, and 20 marching groups in a four-hour parade, led by the U.S. Army Band from Fort Dix.
The amazing variety of unique masqueraders over the years tells us that it is great fun to take on another identity and strut your stuff in a parade like Hamburg's King Frost Carnival. The view from the head of Third Street, the crowds and the lights and the noise, create more than enough energy and enthusiasm to complete the two mile route, and want to do it again next year.
There are fewer marching groups and bands these days. There are not many masqueraders either. The face of the parade seems to have changed. But it is still fun and exciting, and crowds line the route. Children scramble for the candy and treats that are thrown. Floats seem to get bigger every year.
The Jaycees still put on quite a production. They have it well-organized, though it is a tremendous amount of work. Raising funds, taking care of registration, traffic control, parking, safety, vendors, and the clean-up afterward, there are plenty of jobs for the Jaycees, their helpers, and all the volunteers.
The more people who take part by sponsoring a band, building a float, riding on one, marching in a group or a band, donning a costume and walking and waving, the more fun the tradition of King Frost is for everyone concerned.