Editorial: Locally, Halloween both safe and creative

November 2, 2011

Safe Halloween.

Those are welcome words to all parents, and they hold true as we look back on the event-filled Monday night in Hood River County.

Community groups help make it happen. Heights and Downtown business associations, community groups, local churches, and Providence Health System, are just a few of the groups that work every year to create a wide variety of choices for kids and families for celebrating Halloween.

Kudos also to Paul Henke and his crew of scaremeisters at the annual MDA haunted house, who transformed a soon-to-be demolished home and former business into a popular attraction for a good cause.

With all the community trick-or-treats, haunted houses and gentler community events such as carnivals, there was so much to chose from it was like, well, like being a kid in a candy store.

Halloween comes with nefarious underpinnings rooted not only in the superstitions of traditional ghosts and witches but in urban legends of poisoned candy and apples laced with needles. Few such incidents have ever been documented, but modern worries including "stranger danger" and nighttime motor traffic have fueled an enduring and understandable public nervousness over Halloween.

Perhaps what has gradually saved Halloween is its commercialization: the modern marketers' transformation of Halloween into an adult celebration, from "sexy pirate" costumes to yard décor akin to Yule displays, has reconnected many adults to the Halloween joys of the past. With Dad dressing up like Dumbledore, it's a lot safer for little Harry Potters to revel in the pleasant and vicarious autumnal chills with less worry about real-life Voldemorts.

But at its base, Halloween remains chiefly child's play and the community deserves credit for creating such a plethora of fun, safe events.

The schools must be included in this. Some adapt to Halloween costume wearing, as seen Friday in Cascade Locks. Others use Halloween as a way to tap into students' creativity regarding literature, giving students the opportunity to select a favorite character and create a costume and parade it, as Westside Elementary does each year.

At Cascade Locks, teachers forged an interesting blend of the two approaches. The kids wore costumes, and a carnival on Friday afternoon featured games of skill, with books for prizes, organized by the PTO. It came on the last day of the school's Book Week, and tied in well, even featuring scary stories done in readers' theater by sixth graders, to the great entertainment of the primary kids.

In the Cascade Locks carnival, anyone wanting to try the softball toss had to tell teacher Laurie Wheeler a story. It needed be simple, just two or three lines; students either looked at a photo or a special book with text prompts and stood and delivered pieces of their own imagination before tossing a ball.

That kind of teachable moment is far sweeter than any bite of Halloween candy.

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