A Halloween parade that has provided more than 30 years of loud and whimsical celebrations in Portland’s West End has been canceled – because it became too popular.

Shoestring Theater director Nance Parker said the decision to call off the event this year was tough to make, but necessary because the parade had become so big it was hard to ensure the safety of the hundreds of revelers who would show up.

“There is a great deal of sadness,” Parker said. “It’s been a whole generation, if not two, raised on this Halloween tradition.”

The parade had a humble start three decades ago as a small neighborhood gathering to provide children a fun and safe way to celebrate the holiday, and grew into a larger and louder event as the years passed.

Joined by Shoestring Theater performers on stilts and wearing oversized puppets, costumed children and their parents would wend their way through the neighborhood at dusk, waving to neighbors and dancing before heading off to trick-or-treat. Some participants carried drums to provide a boisterous sound track as the crowd flowed through narrow West End streets, and a stilt walker would spook residents by knocking on second floor windows.

As more people heard about the celebration, Parker began to see busloads of people arrive from other communities. In recent years, she’s fielded calls from people all over southern Maine who wanted to take part.

Parker said there weren’t any specific incidents that led to the decision, but with more people came growing concerns about how to keep everyone safe.

“For me, it was nerve-wracking,” she said. “I have to step back so the community will step forward.”

Parker hopes other community groups will step in to help with the parade in the future.

“I can’t wait for some group to take it on,” she said. “I”ll be right there to help.”

The organization announced the decision in an open letter to the neighborhood in the West End News.

“After over 30 years directing the event, the theater feels it can no longer fulfill the safety conditions the city requires,” the letter says. “And as it has now grown to include participants from all over the city and surrounding areas, we cannot provide the security and structure needed for such a large event. … So we regret to say: No more Halloween parade.”

The parade had become an anticipated neighborhood tradition and is sure to be missed by longtime residents.

Rosanne Graef, president of the West End Neighborhood Association, said the parade was a great family event.

“It really brought people together,” Graef said. “It’s too bad it’s not continuing, but I certainly understand how these things can take over people’s lives.”

Jessica Grondin, a city spokeswoman, said organizers last year hired two police officers for the event – one to lead the parade and one to follow. The city charges $300 for one officer for four hours, which is the minimum amount.

Grondin said police officers were pleased with the success of last year’s event because about 15 volunteers helped staff intersections during the parade.

Parker said Shoestring had great support from the city, but that she shared the concerns of police officers about how to control the crowd on public streets. It also had become difficult to recruit enough volunteers, she said.

Grondin said city officials want to make sure people know the tradition is ending so crowds don’t show up anyway and create issues this Halloween.

“The officers are concerned if word doesn’t get out, they’d have people showing up for it this year,” she said. “Then we’d be left with people doing it with no officers or volunteers staffing intersections.”