Tag Archives: Halloween

Trick Or Treat With Teal Pumpkin Project

You can tell Halloween is coming.  CVS, Walgreens, Party Harty and pop-ups are chock full of ghosts and skeletons — plus Kit Kats, Hershey bars and other fine foods, most of them the size of small planets.

It’s a great time to be a kid.

Unless you’re allergic.

When Blake Hofmeister was 3 1/2, he ate an M&M. In a delayed reaction he broke out in hives, and could barely breathe. Tests showed he was allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and shellfish.

His mom, Lisa, learned to scrutinize food labels. Now a 1st grader at Kings Highway Elementary School, his life — and his family’s — has never been the same.

The Hofmeister family.

A year ago Lisa heard about FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education). The non-profit works to improve the quality of life of people with food allergies.

Last month, she helped organize a charity walk/fun day at Sherwood Island. The event drew hundreds, and raised over $150,000.

Now — as Halloween nears — Lisa is focused on her next effort: the Teal Pumpkin Project.

The national initiative promotes the inclusion of all trick-or-treaters in a holiday that excludes some.

Participation is simple. Parents are encouraged to buy inexpensive toys, rather than candy. They place a teal pumpkin or sign from FARE outside the home, indicating there are non-food treats inside.

“Parents are surprised how easy this is,” Lisa says.

Blake (Chewy) and Paisley (Minnie Mouse) Hofmeister enjoy Halloween last year.

Kings Highway has gotten on board. A “Pumpkin Palooza” fundraiser the Friday before Halloween includes magicians, music and other non-candy fun.

“Halloween used to be my favorite holiday,” says Lisa. “I loved the costumes, the candy, everything about it. Now I’m so nervous.”

She loves welcoming trick-or-treaters to her Old Hill neighborhood home. Last year, participating for the first time in the Teal Pumpkin Project, she was excited that many children — even those without food allergies — chose toys over candy.

“I want Blake to enjoy Halloween, like other kids,” she says. “I don’t want him to feel like an outsider.”

FARE makes it easy to take part. The website provides links to resources, including flyers, yard signs, ideas for non-food treats, and a trick-or-treat bag.

The Teal Pumpkin Project is not the food police. Giving candy is still okay.

But for kids with food allergies — as well as celiac disease and other issues — it can be a life-saver.


A Compo Halloween Houseboat

In the Compo Beach neighborhood — where densely packed houses draw chauffeured trick-or-treaters from across Westport (and waaaay beyond)* — Halloween is not orange.

It’s black or white. You either love it (and embrace it). Or you hate it (and go dark).

“Dark is for wimps,” Betsy Kahn says. “We completely go with it.”

“Completely” is right. Here’s what her Danbury Avenue home looked like before the hordes of Halloweenies descended.

Betsy Kahn house

This is the 3rd year in a row Betsy and her husband Dan have “decorated” their house with a theme. In 2011, the “ship” was buried in snow. Last year, Hurricane Sandy’s surging seawater made the “ship” a little too realistic.

But Betsy and Dan loved the boat so much, they dismantled it and saved it for another (non-rainy) day.

“Halloween at the beach is our favorite night of the year,” Betsy says. No word on whether she and Dan dressed up. If they did, I’m sure they were pirates.

*There’s a reason this story is running the day after Halloween. If I posted this yesterday, Compo would have been even more overrun than usual. Neighborhood holiday-haters would have spewed their venom on me.

How To Talk To Your Kids About Halloween

It’s been 3 years since Westport has celebrated a proper Halloween.

Last year’s holiday was knocked silly by Superstorm Sandy.

The year before, it was a big-ass late-October snowstorm.

Halloween, 2011

Halloween, 2011

When you’re a little kid — say, 5 or 6 — 3 years is a long time. You can’t remember to tie your shoes or where you put your juice pack, so recalling what Halloween is like — forget it.

Today, Westport children may need a little ‘splainin’. You know: the hows and whys of this peculiarly American holiday. Tell them:

  • It may not seem like it, but Halloween is for kids. Once upon a time, parents’ involvement was simple. Mom sewed a goblin costume, while Dad checked the loot for razors hidden in apples. Nowadays, it’s much more complicated. Mom buys intricate costumes, while Dad sets up a bar to serve all the other moms and dads as they accompany their kids everywhere. It’s a stress-filled day.
  • Oh, and all those decorations in the yard? Cobwebs, skeletons, witches’ brews? They’re not real. They’re not even there to scare the crap out of anyone. They’re just to impress the neighbors.

Halloween decorations

  • Speaking of neighbors, the reason we pile into cars is not to go over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house. It is to maximize the time/candy ratio. Studies have shown it is far more efficient to drive a couple of miles to neighborhoods with densely packed homes (email “06880” for a secret map!) than to trudge walk drive from house to house in otherwise highly regarded 1- and 2-acre-zoned areas.
  • “Trick or treat” once meant, “give me candy or I will throw toilet paper on your trees.” As trick-or-treaters morphed from tweens to teenagers, it meant, “give me candy or I will smash your pumpkin.” Now it means simply, “Give me candy. And it better be good.”

All of which explains why Mommy and Daddy need those drinks.

First Halloween Post Of The Year

With Christmas decorations already spotted in Walmart — it’s true, I saw them on Facebook! — today is definitely not too early to be thinking about Halloween.

So: The Westport-Weston Chamber of Commerce has announced its 1st-ever Halloween Window Painting Contest.

Eytan painting a store window for HalloweenAlone or in groups of 2 or 3, students in 3 categories — grades 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12 — can show off their artistic abilities by painting the windows of local businesses.

(Not just any businesses, of course. Stores pay $25 for the privilege.)

Painting takes place on Sunday, October 20. Winners will be announced that evening.

In addition to the store fee of $25, participants pay too ($15 for individuals, $25 for groups of 2 or 3). Part of the proceeds benefit Staples Tuition Grants.

Sounds like a cool idea. Though not as great as the decorating I did on Halloween, back in the day.

Of mailboxes, parked cars and trees.

(To register, click here.)

The Ghost Of Halloween Past

On the long list of early-adolescent activities I participated in, and of which I am not particularly proud (though nonetheless willing to share with thousands of “06880” readers), few rank higher than the true tale I am about to tell.

It is Halloween. I’m in 8th grade. I’m also desperate for acceptance by the hundreds of 8th graders clogging the halls of Long Lots Junior High, all of whom know telepathically how to dress (chinos and penny loafers), talk (“groovy,” “outasight,” “hey man”) and walk (coolly), while I have to work at such things as if they’re a full-time job.

Me, in 7th grade. A year later I was tossing mailboxes into ponds.

I am part of the in crowd, which is merely the most important thing in the entire universe to me, but I am fully aware that my position there is tenuous. I can be cast out at any moment by the queen bee, who has the power to do such things and often does, just on a whim (or perhaps simply to watch her fellow 8th graders squirm).

So naturally I am willing eager frothing to do anything it takes to stay cool.

Including tossing my own parents’ mailbox into the pond across the street.

I do not, mind you, set out that Halloween night to vandalize my mother’s and father’s mailbox. That is the furthest thing from my mind. The nearest thing is  to follow along with whatever the rest of the in crowd does.

This, I quickly determine, is tossing other people’s mailboxes this way and that.

Now, I do not have anything against these folks. In many cases, I do not even know them. I have certainly never noticed their mailboxes.

And I should emphasize that I am not exactly a major player in this juvenile delinquency gang. I am not the person — Ricky, let’s call him — who cunningly determines which mailboxes will live, and which will die.

I am not the one — hmmm, Glenn sounds like a good name — who physically uproots the mailboxes Ricky has selected for extinction.

I am only one of many mindless drones who haul the mailboxes to the places our leaders decide will be the final resting places: The woods. The fields. The middle of the road.

Or, in the case of my parents’ mailbox, the pond across the street.

It was not easy being in the in crowd at Long Lots Junior High.

Let me say, in my defense, that I do not think trashing my parents’ mailbox is a particularly wise idea. I wonder whether they will be able to replace it in time for tomorrow’s postal delivery.

I hope they will not see me.

I pray the cops will not come racing down the street.

But like a good 8th grade follower, I keep my concerns to myself.

Part of my brain waits for my friends’ peculiar code of honor to kick in. The one that will enable them to say, in the middle of demolishing this particular mailbox, “Hey, wait a sec. That’s Dan’s parents’! Lay off, guys. This is wrong!”

Another brain part waits for someone to gracefully put his hands over my eyes while the dirty deed is being done.

I might as well wait for them to start discussing the use of imagery and allusion in Lord of the Flies.

See ya!

Rather than letting me off the hook, my friends maliciously egg me on. To get me in exactly the right vandalistic frame of mind, they use the key phrase guaranteed to propel any insecure 13-year-old into action: “Come on, man. Everybody’s doing it.”

So I do it.

I help yank the mailbox out of the ground. I toss it in the air.

I hear the splash as it hits the water. I watch the ripples as it sinks slowly, s-l-o-wl-l-y, to its watery grave.

I feel ashamed, giving in so easily to my friends.

But I feel elated too, as my “buddies” slap my back. They congratulate me for trashing yet another mailbox.

For one more day, my place in the in crowd is secure.

There is, of course, a moral to this story. I am now many years older, and perhaps a bit wiser.

This Wednesday is Halloween. I know what it’s like to be a kid that night, and try like hell to fit in with the crowd.

So here is a message, especially to all you socially insecure 8th graders out there:

If you even think about tossing my mother’s mailbox into the pond, I’ll kill you.

A Cruel Trick (No Treat)

A friend told me about a 3-year-old boy down the street.

For weeks, he’s been looking forward to Halloween. It’s all he’s talked about. He had his costume and everything.

Now — for the 2nd year in a row — it looks like the holiday may be canceled.

Think of it: 2/3 of all his Halloweens might be snatched from his little hands.

At this rate, he’ll believe in Santa Claus a lot longer than in trick-or-treat.

Long ago, children dressed up in costumes on Halloween, and went door to door asking for candy. Those were the days!

Copping Candy

For the (few?) kids whose parents heeded the strong suggestion not to trick-or-treat Monday night, the Westport Police Department has your back.

Tomorrow (Saturday, November 5, 4-6 p.m.), the cops invite Westport trick-or-treaters who stayed home on Halloween to come down to headquarters (50 Jesup Road) for a do-over.

Members of the Police Department, Fire Department, Emergency Medical Services and Police Athletic League will hand out treats to costumed visitors as they travel around the Police Building complex.  Prizes — donated by local merchants — will be given to the best costumes.

But kids, remember:  no “tricks” after the treats.  Those security cameras are everywhere.

Kids: Don't try this at Police headquarters!

“Ship Of Dan” Sails On

Though town officials “strongly urged” that trick-or-treating be postponed until Saturday, November 5 — citing downed wires, branches and other safety hazards from the weekend storm — many parents and kids are disregarding the message.

There’s plenty of action already at always-crowded Compo Beach, where homes are close together and the candy-to-walking ratio is great.

This neighborhood house — on Danbury Avenue — is all decked out for Halloween:

I was very impressed that the home houseboat owners had named their decorative creation after me.

Until I learned that “Dan” is that guy’s name too.

Boo (hoo)!

Ghosts And Goblins And Concorde Pilots, Oh My!

Nearly 20 years ago, Gwen Campbell and Brie Garrison were Westport moms and friends.  Each had a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old.

Their kids were too little to trick-or-treat.  But Halloween was coming, so the women approached First Selectman Joe Arcudi with an idea:  have a costume parade up Main Street.

Gwen and Brie printed flyers.  Stew’s donated cider and cookies.  The Bedford Middle School band played.

The Westport News was there.

Writer Harold Hornstein described “the panorama of precious little people.”

He described 3-year-old Michael Friedman, dressed up as Mets star Bobby Bonilla.

Ryan Fazio — also 3 — was an airline pilot.  He said he wanted to take Concorde to California.

Johnny Fable, 2, was a kitty cat.

A scene from last year's Halloween parade. (Photo courtesy Matthew Vinci/The Hour)

“I can’t believe this many kids showed up,” said Gwen (dressed as a witch).

Police Department inspector Steve Smith — “I came as a cop” — estimated 150 children paraded from the YMCA to The Limited (now Vineyard Vines).

“This is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” added spectator Nina Morse.

Writer Harold Hornstein predicted, “From the amount of tots, it might well become an annual fixture.”

It has.

The organizers’ kids grew older.  They moved on to actual trick-or-treating (and, perhaps, Mischief Nighting, then high school — and now college — partying).

The Garrisons moved to London.  The Downtown Merchants Association, PAL and Parks and Recreation Department took over the event.

This year’s event got rained out.  (It was not the 1st time.)  Still, tons of kids — and camera-wielding parents — gathered at Town Hall, for the traditional cider and cookies.

No one was dressed as a Concorde pilot.

Then again, in 1993 no one came in a Kim Kardashian costume.

There’s no telling what the cool outfit will be 18 years from now, in 2029.

Hopefully though, kids will still parade up Main Street a few days before Halloween.

And today’s participants will look back at photos of their then-3-year-old selves, and look forward to the day their own children will dress up for their own Halloween parade.

Boo Y’all!

Alert “06880” reader Betsy Phillips moved to the Compo Beach area from North Carolina.

One of the 1st warnings she heard was that the neighborhood’s close-together houses attracted “1500 to 2000” kids every Halloween.

“Buy a closet-load of candy,” she was told.

She did.

Last year, starting around 6, Betsy watched in amazement as hundreds of costumed children poured down the street.

“It’s spectacular,” she has the grace to say.

As residents are flooded by non-beach people (even out-of-towners) attracted by the easy pickings, they have 2 choices.

“Either you go with it, and hunker down awaiting the goblins witches and superheroes, or you go dark and don’t answer the door,” she says.

Betsy Phillips' Halloween decoration, at Compo Beach.

Betsy not only enjoys the influx — she embraces it.  This evening she and Dan Kahn will host a “Boo y’all” party — remember, she’s from the South — for plenty of adult friends.

“I love the decorations,” Betsy says of Compo at this time of year.  “And I love all the old-timey neighborhood fun.”

I’m sure there are some Crabby Appletons nearby.  If they can’t get in the Halloween spirit like Betsy does, I’ve got 3 words:

Move to Weston.