But, a sweet side effect is the connections that are made with neighbors and strangers.
One local church employs the holiday as a way to spread its message and build community.
“We use Halloween to emphasize a love of the lord and a love of God,” said Pastor James Heard of the Church of Life and Praise.
It helps that Heard lives in a neighborhood that draws hundreds of children every Halloween with its one-way streets and elaborate decorations.
“It’s considered a safe neighborhood,” said parishioner Deanna Leathers, who organizes the event at the pastor’s house on Holt Drive. Nearby Brae Drive and Argonne Street are equally festive.
Leathers describes the event as a “big party.”
The church sets out cider and cookies, which is a nice break for parents who have been chasing their trick-or-treaters.
The parishioners set up a big television screen in the yard and play “Veggie Tales” children’s movies with bales of hay and chairs for resting.
“We decorate and we fill bags of candy for each of the kids and we try to hand out a DVD or a video to each child that comes,” said Leathers.
The church began hosting the Holt Drive celebration about seven years ago, Leathers said. “And it’s grown every year.”
The idea originated with parishioner Ken Sprague, who passed away from cancer shortly after. He really just enjoyed meeting the trick-or-treaters and talking to them.
“Before he passed away he’d mentioned there’s so many kids who come to this neighborhood, maybe we could do something for them,” Leathers said. One year, Leathers recalls that the church “toned down” its efforts and people missed it.
“They really look forward to it and they come and a lot of the kids sit and watch the shows,” said Leathers.
“It’s a good way to meet some people in the community and let the kids enjoy the night,” she continued. “There’s so many people unfortunately who if they don’t like Halloween shut their lights off and that’s too bad.”
Just down the road is a yard full of inflatable, lighted and moving Halloween decorations at the home of Al and Lori Goodrich, who operated a home daycare center.
“It’s grown quite a bit,” Lori Goodrich said of the neighborhood Halloween celebrations. “Last year, we had over 300 trick-or-treaters. This year, I’m expecting more.”
For the past decade, the Goodriches have held an annual Halloween party every year for their young charges and their families.
“It’s really fun,” said Lori Goodrich. “It’s kind of tradition now.”
“Usually, if it’s a weeknight, I always make spaghetti pie and kids eat dinner and they go trick-or-treating,” she said. Parents come after work with their costumes in tow to change and trick-or-treat themselves, she said.
She and Al spend an entire day setting up their elaborate display.
The Ellsworth schools’ physical education teacher, Dave Norwood, and his wife, Kathie, hand out treats over on Brae Drive.
“It’s a holiday that Dave looks forward to, and it’s a good opportunity for him to connect with his students,” Kathie says. “It is a lot of fun and we hope that all the neighbors participate.”
Norwood wants to remind people about safety because there are no streetlights on Brae Drive and lots of young children running around.
Much has been written about Halloween, its origins and popularity.
Essayist Richard Seltzer, speaks of the holiday’s value as a community builder in his essay “Why Bother to Save Halloween?”
“Nowadays people often don’t know their near neighbors, much less the neighbors a few blocks away,” Seltzer said. “For little children these strange houses and strange people are a source of fear and anxiety. Children have been taught not to trust or talk to strangers, to beware of them.
“But on Halloween that prohibition is lifted; and, with fear, but impelled by curiosity and greed for candy and other loot, little ones ring doorbells at houses of strangers to find time and again that these strangers are really friendly people like the people they know well.
“In the course of the evening they gain confidence in themselves and in their neighborhood and come away not only with bags full of candy to be enjoyed for weeks after, but also a warm feeling about their neighborhood and people in general.”
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