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A monster smash
Halloween is not only a humongous industry but a full-fledged family scare affair.
300 dpi 4 col x 6 in / 196x152 mm / 667x518 pixels Chris Ware color illustration of a house decorated for halloween and filled with trick-or-treaters and their parents
the trick-or-treaters spill out onto the sidewalks. Lexington Herald-Leader 2002.
KEYWORDS: krthalloween halloween tirck or treat trick-or-treat trick-or-treater holiday candy party fall autumn pumpkin children child parent home house decoration jack o lantern jack o'lantern diversity youth costume
Monday, October 22, 2012
I was Dick Van Dyke last Halloween.
Actually, I was Bert the chimney sweep from “Mary Poppins.” Our family trick-or-treated up and down the street dressed as the cast from the Disney movie. My wife dressed as Mary and our daughter dressed as Jane, the poor little rich girl entrusted to Mary’s care.
It was my wife’s idea, as are all other creative projects in our household. Her friend Cindy owns a vintage clothing shop in Frederick, Md., where we found the old dresses, coats, shirts and jackets that transformed us into an Oscar-winning team of candy hoarders.
Don’t think that the neighborhood didn’t notice.
“Hey, it’s Mary Poppins! And … and … uh … Dick Van Dyke!”
Holy chim-chim-cher-ee, you’d think they would remember Bert!
Anyway, we looked great, especially my wife and daughter, who seemed to have stepped from the pages of P.L. Travers’ classic children’s tales. I smudged my face and hands with charcoal and wore an old-timey flat cap to look the part of Dick. I mean Bert. We were quite the spectacle.
The point of all of this is not to brag about how cool we looked (did I tell you about my flat cap?), but to acknowledge how much times have changed.
An $8 billion industry
My parents, for example, did not dress as the cast from “Mary Poppins” or “Star Wars” when they drove my brothers and me around the countryside to trick-or-treat.
They also did not hang little orange lights on the porch, build scarecrows, drape orange-and-black crepe paper from the banisters or make witches that appeared to have crashed into light poles.
Sure, we carved jack-o’-lanterns. We wore the best Spider-Man costumes money could buy at Kmart. We watched “Frankenstein” and “Dracula” during the Halloween “Spooktacular” on Channel 12 from Winston-Salem, N.C. We bought Zagnuts and Fifth Avenues for the trick-or-treaters who never showed because, in the sticks, your neighbors live acres — not steps — away.
We loved Halloween. But we did not spend $8 billion on Halloween, something Americans will do this year.
The National Retail Federation reports that a record 170 million Americans will celebrate Halloween, spending about $80 per head … or should I say per headless body! Wah-ha-ha-ha!
A good-sized chunk of that $8 billion appears to come from my street, where folks have hung ghosts, planted tombstones and inflated ginormous pumpkins for their yards. Orange lights have become increasingly popular in recent years, my family has noticed. Soon, The Roanoke Times should start a Halloween lights display contest.
Everybody is into Halloween these days. Especially adults.
A treat for the economy
When I told my wife I was going to write about how popular Halloween decorations and costumes have become for adults, she urged me to check out “all those pop-up stores that seem to be just for adults.”
“You might visit one of those stores (as I did) and try to find something for a woman to wear that isn’t totally sleazy,” she recommended.
OK, everybody saw that. So, when you see me at the mall checking out a French maid costume or eyeing a Catwoman body suit, I am just following orders and doing research in the name of journalism.
She also mentioned she has a catalog of matching mother/daughter Halloween costumes that are beautiful. I had no idea.
Getting adults interested in Halloween has been good for the economy. U.S. News and World Report published this sentence in its story about Halloween spending: “Anyone looking for evidence that the economy is rebounding need look no further than neighbors’ front porches.”
Translation: Don’t feel guilty about buying 1,800 mini Snickers bars, hanging orange lights or dressing up as Wonder Woman. You’re saving the American economy.
Halloween has become the new orange-and-black Christmas of autumn.
“Without the pressure,” my wife added.
Ralph Berrier Jr.’s column runsevery other Monday in Extra.
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