I am a Halloween junkie- I don’t think I can possibly stress that enough. I adore everything about this season, and I always have. As I get older I find myself falling even more in love with the atmosphere, the camaraderie, the general excitement that buzzes through the air. I have a soft spot for scary stories that you read by flashlight under your covers (although I will admit, I have upgraded to reading by the light of my kindle in more recent years). I love horror movies that keep me awake long into the night, forcing me to cuddle closer to my German Shepherd for safety. I adore the candy, the costumes, the hot drinks and cold days. I am also a deeply nostalgic person- I love traditions, which means that every year my dad has to sit down and watch The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown with me. And if we can’t be in the same place when it’s on tv, he always remembers to send me a text so that we can still watch it ‘together’ even when we are far apart.
I am fortunate enough to live in a beautiful place that is close to many holiday adventures. We are only a few hours from Seattle (they do haunted underground tours every year- taking you through the city hidden underneath the city, telling you all the spooky stories as you roam through a world of yesterday). Portland is only a few minutes away- they have some famous pumpkin patches (to include the Roloff farm) and amazing haunted houses this time of year. And then there is a hidden gem that spread through the internet like wildfire last year.
If you grew up in the 90’s you will probably remember the Disney channel movie Halloweentown, a place that I will shamelessly admit I always wanted to go visit. It’s no secret that every child has a fascination with magic- we all wanted to learn that we had special powers, that we could befriend werewolves, and dine with vampires (with the specific stipulation that we were not on the menu). I grew up and my dream to visit the realm of fantasy faded, though it never completely disappeared.
And then, to my complete wonderment, I learned that I could actually go there in real life. I could see the place that inspired so many childhood fantasies and stories. As it turns out, the movie had been filmed in St. Helens, Oregon. A mere hop, skip and a jump from where I live. And, to make this story even sweeter- they recreate their famed fictional town every year.
Last year I hopped in the car with a couple of fellow Halloween-enthusiasts and we trekked out to the little town- along with about 5,000 other people. It was a record setting turnout, considering the hype that social media started (after all, that was how I learned about it). We got to watch Marnie (actress Kimberly Brown, the star of the movie) light the pumpkin in the town square surrounded by some of the buildings featured in the film.
Now, normally I am not a big fan of crowds- and 5,000 bodies crunched into one little town square is a bit overwhelming under normal circumstances. But it is an altogether different experience when you are all sharing the same buzzing energy, it’s like a concert, the atmosphere is contagious. As we all chanted the ‘magic words’ together, I couldn’t help but smile- in a world that is so often polarized and easily divided between vastly differing opinions; there we were, 5,000 strangers standing in solidarity over a mutual love for something so simple- an old movie and an oversized pumpkin was all it took to bring us together, if only for one night. You see, it is usually the simple things in life that bring us the most joy, and it is the love of these things that give us a common ground to stand on. It is these little moments that we cannot simply brush aside. In a society where a single sentence can spark a wildfire of aggression and hate- we need to find our common roots and remember the importance of small moments. Little events like standing in a crowd on a rainy October night and counting down to light a pumpkin. Sometimes the simplest answers can be the most poignant.
Sadly, I missed the event this year (my brother made the tragic mistake of planning his wedding for the same day as the event- I know, the horror of this miscalculation is not lost on me). But I plan on still making the trek out there in the coming weeks. Why? Because what is life without experiences? Even simple ones like going to a fictional town to visit a pumpkin. Growing up is vastly overrated, and I don’t think I am quite willing to join those zombie ranks just yet.