Halloween may be about a lot of things, but, when it comes to parents and their young trick-or-treaters in this town going about the business of accumulating candy, when did it become an exercise in efficiency?
Growing up in Sampson’s Addition, Halloween was a fairly uncomplicated concept. My crew of buddies and I would don some type of mask and costume combination, grab an empty pillow case and head out into the neighborhood. We went from house to house, yelled “Trick or treat!” and got some candy tossed in our waiting receptacles.
We’d come across the scattered dark house here and there. With no lights on inside or out and no sign of activity, we’d simply move on.
We never cherry-picked. It wasn’t like the depressing smart phone commercial that aired this Halloween season, featuring the costumed parents and kids digitally mapping their neighborhood – using their wireless devices, of course – to determine who’s giving out the best candy, and what houses should be avoided at all costs. In our neighborhood, we maybe knew where some elderly woman lived that gave out only a Tootsie Roll or two, a miniature brick known as a piece of Dubble Bubble gum, or Sweet Tarts, but we still took the time to visit her house.
Not once did it occur to us to ask our parents to abandon our stomping grounds in favor of driving us to some other neighborhood in town to trick-or-treat. Not once did it occur to our parents to volunteer to make that jaunt, either. In those days at Halloween, the scope of the parental role extended to financing the purchase of a mask and costume, and nabbing a snack-sized candy bar or two from their offspring’s highly caloric take when we returned home later in the evening and dumped out our sugary loot on the living room floor.
Today in Crookston, Halloween is different. In the north-end neighborhoods, it’s a traffic jam. Countless vehicles driven by mom or dad loaded with a cargo of costumed kids park on the frontage road in front of Golf Terrace Drive, or they bob and weave from curb to curb along Groveland Avenue or anywhere in Evergreen Estates while their kids hop in and out to load up on candy. A friend this Halloween shut her lights and escaped her home in Crookston’s northeast subdivision in favor of grabbing a couple drinks elsewhere with some friends. Why? Because in 2012 on Halloween, she was swarmed by, she estimated, around 200 trick-or-treaters. “It got to be too much,” she said. “It was insane.”
Page 2 of 3 - I’m afflicted. I suffer from an irrational fear of running out of Halloween candy before all the trick-or-treaters have come and gone each Halloween. My malady, I figure, dates back to the late 1990s, when we bought our first house in Crookston, which happened to be the very first house on Groveland. At dusk on Halloween that year, headlights from vehicles parking on both sides of the street in front of our house lit up the whole block. Vehicles pulled into our driveway and costumed kids poured out of the back seats. By around 6 p.m. I was in full panic mode, loading up on more candy at Hugo’s so we wouldn’t have to suffer the indignity of shutting off all of our lights and hiding out in the basement.
Since then, even as we’ve moved a few blocks to the north, I’ve been preoccupied with making sure we have a more than ample supply of snack-sized candy bars and, my favorite, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. About a week before Halloween this year, my wife walked in the door and announced that she’d taken care of this year’s Halloween candy purchase. She bought eight bags, which, she figured, would be “more than enough.”
I concurred, until I came home from work on Oct. 31 and started ripping open the bags and dumping their contents into our huge plastic bowl. My wife may have bought eight bags, but the candy bar companies seem to be manufacturing smaller bags than ever before. After I dumped the eighth and final bag into the big bowl, the chocolate-covered extravaganza didn’t quite reach the top, and I started perspiring.
I half-jokingly mentioned that we wouldn’t have enough candy, then said something about us almost being out of milk, too, as I scrambled for an excuse to fortify our candy inventory. Off to the store I went. I returned with four more bags of candy, and the milk. And a party-sized bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.
Then...we had around 70 trick-or-treaters. To some who live in other, less-than-hugely-popular trick-or-treating destinations in Crookston, that may sound like a lot. But, for us, at least compared to those frenzied Groveland days, it amounts to a smattering.
But then it hit me. We live on a hill, for one thing. And there are a lot of big home lots on our street, which means kids, and the parents who are carting them around, get less return for their efforts. So, basically, they’ve made a business decision: It’s inefficient to spend 10 minutes trick-or-treating on our street, if spending a similar amount of time on a flatter street nearby with more houses results in more candy for the kids.
Page 3 of 3 - To that, I say bah-humbug.