So are we robbing our children of the precious, time-honored tradition of going door to door in neighborhoods on dark, chilly Halloween nights to ask people, many of them strangers, for some candy to put in their sacks or pails...because we continue to schedule more events every Oct. 31 that have the kids getting their treats in environments controlled by their parents?
That's what a Times reader thinks. She digs Halloween, but says her family won't buy candy and will keep their lights turned off at their Woods Addition residence next Oct. 31 because they hardly get any trick-or-treaters anymore. She blames events like "trunk or treat," which are being scheduled with greater frequency on Halloween. These events are usually organized and coordinated by parents and take place in a controlled environment that features vehicles with their trunks or rear hatches open, and treats inside for children.
"Have fun in your parking lots," the Times reader and frustrated Halloween fan said in a post on the Times' Facebook page.
She has a point.
But before we do a deep dive into some bigger-picture examinations of what's happening to traditional trick-or-treating on Halloween in Crookston and elsewhere, let me offer a couple of smaller-scale rebuttals:
1. While a lot of Crookston kids might be partaking in trunk-or-treat-style events, it's not like they're calling it quits and going home without doing any traditional trick-or-treating. Parents who accompanied their children to trick-or-treat at our house last week said they'd started their annual candy-quest by attending busy trunk-or-treat events earlier in the evening. So you don’t have to pick; you can do both.
2. We had more trick-or-treaters this year than we've had in years. We live on the north end. Many parents in Crookston load up their kids and their kids' friends in their vehicles and head to north-end neighborhoods to trick-or-treat. For a couple hours, our street is lit up like Times Square from all of the vehicle headlights parked up and down both sides.
Now onto the bigger picture...
If these parents and schools and service clubs and churches are scheduling more of these trunk-or-treat events, the question is, why? If a fundraiser is involved that's one thing, but one can assume that these events are being scheduled because parents want their kids to be in a sheltered, safe and secure environment while they're all costumed up and seeking candy. So that means there is something about traditional trick-or-treating that is unsavory to them. It's not that it's lacking in any way, it just seems as if more parents want to optimize the safety factor when their kids are out and about, and letting them put on costumes and roam neighborhoods in search of treats is apparently compromising their safety and well-being.
We can argue until we're hoarse over whether or not this is an unfortunate turn of events courtesy of a generation of helicopter/bulldozer parents - it is, to a degree - but it won't change the fact that traditional trick-or-treating is up against increasing competition. Halloween is changing.
But so is society. Generations ago, homes were built with porches in the front because that's where people hung out. These days, patios and porches are typically built on the rear of houses, so people can grill out and relax in private, away from passers-by in the front who might want to infringe on their relaxation time by stopping for some neighborly small-talk.
There were more sidewalks in front of houses back then, but they’re becoming a relic, too. City of Crookston Public Works Director Pat Kelly years ago came up with a "sidewalk plan" that would, as various street improvement projects were undertaken over time, gradually increase the number of sidewalks. The city council liked the idea, but when the first street project was proposed that included new sidewalks, impacted homeowners freaked, the council retreated, and Kelly’s plan shriveled up and died.
People don't come by our houses like they used to. And if they do, they're in the street making sure their kids don’t get run over. If they do happen to venture toward our doorstep, we have them on camera via our digital security doorbell, just in case they're thinking about stealing some Amazon boxes or maybe knocking over some flower pots.
Halloween and trick-or-treating allow us a chance to open our front door to our community. During the massive Ox Cart Days Festival last August, I looked around while attending some of the events and couldn’t believe all of the young families, and how I recognized barely any of them. I wasn’t despondent over my realization; in fact, I was OK with it. I live here, but I’m getting older and the town is turning over to the next crew of families.
I didn’t recognize most of the kids who walked up our steps last Thursday evening and, through masks or painted faces, said “Trick or treat!” and then offered a sincere thank you upon having candy dropped in their sacks.
But that was fine, too. They live in our town with us, and my wife and I were more than happy to welcome them and contribute generously to their sugar high.