A neighborly Halloween: Residents around South Street are restoring favorite traditions

  • Emily Stein, 5, watches as her father, Michael Stein, lifts the top from a pumpkin during a pumpkin-carving party, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019 at the home of Jane Fleishman in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Wade Wofford carves a pumpkin beside Cailyn Agnew, 7, left, and Logan Agnew, 9, during a pumpkin-carving party, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019 at the home of Jane Fleishman in Northampton. It was Wofford’s idea to have the party. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Sandra Navarro, right, with her husband, Dominique Trembley, and their son, Noam, 4, carve a pumpkin beside Helena Pagar, 9, and Clara Barnhart during a pumpkin-carving party, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019 at the home of Jane Fleishman in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Clara Barnhart and her daughter, Helena, 9, center, carve a pumpkin beside Sandra Navarro, right, and others, during a pumpkin-carving party, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019 at the home of Jane Fleishman in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

For the Gazette
Published: 10/30/2019 4:13:49 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Residents of one neighborhood are making a concerted effort to revitalize Halloween, restoring the tradition of trick-or-treating at homes rather than at businesses and hosting family-friendly events like pumpkin carving to get to know each other better.

When Wade Wofford took his family trick-or-treating around their South Street neighborhood last year, many homeowners didn’t appear to be home or weren’t ready for trick-or-treaters. Dakota Wofford, 8, said her 3-year-old brother didn’t get enough candy, and only about one in every 10 houses answered the door with treats, she said. 

She generously shared with her brother at the end of the night, but this year, she hopes there will be more than enough to go around.

“I feel like Halloween is dying because it’s becoming so commercialized,” her father said. “And it’s such a notion of Americana. I don’t want to see the death of the (trick-or-treating) tradition ... there’s a magic in the glowing jack-o’-lanterns and crunching leaves.”

This nostalgia prompted Wofford to organize with other residents to bring back Halloween traditions.

“I remember when our kids, who are now in their twenties, were participating in trick-or-treating in the neighborhood, we were the neighborhood to come to for the best candy, the best pranks, and the best houses,” said Munroe Street resident Jane Fleishman, who hosted a pumpkin-carving party with her partner, Joan, at their house Tuesday night. “Over the years, that’s really changed. I’m very excited we’re going to revitalize the Halloween spirit in our neighborhood.”

Wofford and his family, along with a couple dozen other nearby residents, were all carving together Tuesday night, despite a slight drizzle that didn’t stop anyone from enjoying pizza, popcorn and cider while listening to a mix of music, from pop songs to Halloween favorites like “Ghostbusters.” And since Wofford is a filmmaker, he provided the speakers and lights, which looked like they could have come straight from a movie set.

“I wanted to get to know more people in my neighborhood,” Dakota Wofford said of the party, where she was carving a vampire face into a pumpkin. She said she’s excited to dress as a unicorn on Halloween this year. 

Neighbors have been communicating through an email Listserv for residents around South Street and have even started a street-by-street competition to see which one can get more houses to sign up to participate in trick-or-treating. So far, nearly 100 houses have signed up to participate, Fleishman said.

Most people at the carving party Tuesday said they’d heard about it through the Listserv and through signs Wofford posted. Stephanie Agnew, who has lived in the neighborhood since 2006, was there with her kids, Cailyn and Logan, who were busy carving.

“I love being a part of this neighborhood,” Agnew said. “This is a really fun way to celebrate together and to get to know our neighbors better.”

“We’ve been having a great time ... it’s good to get everyone together from around here,” said Lyman Street resident Dominique Tremblay.

Five-year-old twins, Oliver and Emily Stein, and their father, Michael Stein, were carving at the same table as Tremblay’s family and said they were having a great time. Oliver was creating a “terrifying face” with his handiwork, while Emily said she was having fun seeing her neighbors and planned to carve a “scary face.” 

“It’s festive, and it’s nice to have something fun in the neighborhood,” Michael Stein said.

He said he and his kids were also looking forward to trick-or-treating around their home this year, since downtown trick-or-treating has been “cannibalizing” the tradition recently.

“We have a very interesting neighborhood,” Fleishman said. “We have a block party ever year, we have an amazing communication device through Listserv where people are constantly thanking each other for helping out. It’s a very warm and loving neighborhood, and this is just an extension of that.”

Despite the potential for rain for Thursday, Fleishman said she and Wofford are hoping this year will be the “best Halloween ever.”

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