Trick-or-treating keeps evolving

A crisp autumn evening with leaves crunching underfoot. Jack-o’-lanterns flickering fro window sills and porches. The streets alive with Star Wars characters, mummies, princesses, vampires, superheroes, and bug-eyed monsters from outer space.

Trick-or-treating is a highlight of many people’s childhoods. Halloween meant dressing up, getting your first taste of independence as you and your friends went door to door in the dark without adult supervision, trying to gather as much candy as your plastic pumpkin pail–or once you’re a little older, that pillow case–will hold.

But times change.

It’s not unusual to overhear local residents on Nov. 1 lament the fact they had fewer trick-or-treaters than last Halloween. While some residents in a few parts of town do still see hundreds of little ghosts and goblins darken their doors, many more people say they only got a few dozen–or even none.

What happened?

While the first reaction of some folks might be to blame community events–such as tomorrow’s “Trunk or Treat” at the public library–for drawing trick-or-treaters away from their neighbourhoods, they’re not looking at the whole picture.

“Trunk or Treat,” now in its sixth year, has been popular since its inception. But the event has popular predecessors including the haunted house at Tess’ Kitchen, Sandra McNay’s “Scott Street Scare” in downtown Fort Frances, and Doug Kitowski Trucking Ltd.’s Halloween tractor trailer setup at McDonald’s which was supported by numerous businesses. The latter two date back to the late ’90s.

Over the years, these events have provided a safe, convenient alternative for parents and guardians, especially those with very young children who wouldn’t be up to going to door to door.

What’s more, the fact that this type of community event has been going on here for over 20 years indicates that they are what many people–most pertinently, the parents or guardians of young children–want these days.

Even if there was no “Trunk or Treat” this year, it’s likely another Halloween event would materialize in its place.

The world has changed. Many parents are uncomfortable sending their kids out on their own at night. Candy also seems more commonplace around many homes and less of a special treat that children used to get two or three times a year.

And not only is an event like “Trunk or Treat” very convenient for today’s busy families but it’s a chance for community members to collaborate and have spooky fun.

On the other side of the coin, society has changed.

Fewer and fewer people know who their neighbours are or talk to them on a regular bias–if at all. That lack of communication makes it nearly impossible to make a concerted effort to attract trick-or-treaters.

If I elect to keep my lights on and hand out candy on Oct. 31 but no one else on my block does, none but the most diehard candy hunters will bother to venture down my otherwise darkened block.

On top of it all is simply the fact that our population is shrinking. The overall number of children of trick-or-treating age in our district is far fewer than 20 years ago.

And of course, there’s always exceptions to the rule. As in years past, there’s still certain areas of town, like Lyndy Place or Patcin Avenue, which are perennial hotspots, drawing hundreds of costumed kiddies each Halloween.

Trick-or-treating isn’t dying out, but like a not-so-scary creature making its return in movie sequels, it is evolving each year.

–Duane Hicks