Around the Island

The Island’s take on Halloween

All Hallow’s Eve, a night when miniature ghosts and goblins flood the streets in search of tricks or treats, is a time-honored tradition on Shelter Island.

This Thursday afternoon, Oct. 31, many residents will gather in the Center  and walk the familiar route of the annual parade from the firehouse to Wilson’s Circle and back before heading to the library for spooky fun. Then it’s on to Smith Street with friends to gather candy and show off this year’s costumes.

Islanders prepare for this much-anticipated holiday in many ways. Tracy Gibbs and Laurene Meehan enjoy decorating their houses “inside and out,” they said, with Ms. Meehan going so far as to “painstakingly cut out templates of rats so they appear as if they’re dashing all over, creating a spooky cemetery walkway.“

Others have started a new tradition of “ghosting” during the weeks leading up to the holiday. “Ghosting” is when people get to “act as a Halloween ghost and leave treats at the houses of friends and neighbors under cover of night,” said Lora Lomusicio.

Decorating, ghosting, pumpkin patches, corn mazes and jack o’lantern carving are all fun ways to celebrate the fall and prepare for Halloween, but the anticipation surrounding the costumes lay at the heart of holiday.

My son Wilson will start talking about his costume for next year before this year’s candy is even unwrapped, and we usually land on something solidly by September.

The Morehead family also “starts talking costumes in September,” Paige Morehead said, whereas the Gibbs family “talks about costumes, but usually waits until days before Halloween” to commit to one, according to Tracy Gibbs.

Planning and timing are critical when it comes to costumes, especially when you live on an island and may need to order or shop for particular pieces and resources. Islanders seem to be split evenly on the “to buy or not to buy” costume question, with many folks in the store-bought costume camp and others passionately holding the DIY fort.

I grew up wearing homemade costumes and loved them, but I think the creative buck may have stopped with my mom. We have always either purchased new costumes, found great options at thrift stores, or were gifted fantastic hand-me-down options when my son was younger. The Gibbs family dabbles in both, either making a costume with clothes and items they already have or buying one that strikes their fancy. The Lomusicio family “definitely makes their own” as well as the Moreheads, who use Pinterest to come up with fresh ideas and DIY directions.

We’re fortunate to know most of our neighbors here on Shelter Island, so parents don’t seem to have safety concerns about children trick-or-treating on Smith Street or other designated streets for candy collection. Some families venture off-Island with friends to large trick-or-treating areas like Sag Harbor’s Mount Misery neighborhood and Southampton’s Elm Street area.

Most families budget around $20 to purchase candy for the collection the school provides to distribute to Smith Street residents.

I was surprised that not many children have fears about the holiday, and some parents even want to “up the creep factor” by adding “Haunted Houses” to their traditions. However, there was one year when well intentioned grandfather Cliff Clark dressed up as Clifford the Big Red Dog for his grandchildren. Apparently it backfired a bit. According to Paige Morehead, the kids are “still getting over it.”

Too bad we don’t have a photo of that one for the history books.

“Because our community embraces Halloween, we have been walking the parade and candy route since our kids were in strollers,” Laurene Meehan said.

Paige Morehead added, “I don’t think you can ever be too young or too old to dress up.”

“Once kids are around 10 or 12 I’d say they can go by themselves — as long as they check in with parents at key points,” Lora Lomusicio commented.

If you don’t dress up like your grandkid’s favorite big red dog, even the youngest of trick-or-treaters will enjoy the evening and have memories to last a lifetime.

Wilson Lones sporting his store-bought costume with his proud dad in 2016.