Friday, October 19, 2001

Halloween takes new tone this year

Real life has become too scary for some

By Richelle Thompson, The Cincinnati Enquirer
and Sue Kiesewetter, Enquirer Contributor

        MONROE — The kids in clown suits or gussied up like Uncle Sam this Halloween won't beg for treats door-to-door in Monroe. Instead, children will go classroom to classroom.

        In response to anthrax scares and other terrorism-related worries, Monroe City Council decided this week to cancel “Beggar's Night,” traditionally the time when children trick-or-treat in their neighborhoods.

        Instead, a spooked-up Lemon-Monroe High School will open its doors Halloween night for a costume contest and to pass out candy for kids 12 and under.

        Beggar's Nights in most other Tristate communities are going on as planned, but parents face a difficult choice. Do they let their little ones trick-or-treat as they normally would? Or, fueled by scary news reports and Internet rumors, do parents keep their kids at home?

        This city along I-75 and the Butler-Warren county line decided to strike a compromise: kids can trick-or-treat in a safe environment without going door-to-door.

        Kelley and Brad Thorpe already decided their two children would not trick-or-treat in their Monroe neighborhood this year.

        “We felt with everything going on in the country that we'd rent a scary movie or do something as a family instead,” said Mrs. Thorpe. “I'm just afraid of all the copycats. So I think (the school event) is a wonderful decision.”

        Even for those going door-to-door, Halloween will be celebrated with a patriotic twist. Stores are running out of torches for shoppers eager to dress like the Statue of Liberty, and firefighter and police officer costumes are in hot demand.

        “The Statue of Liberty is a symbol for freedom and liberty. That's what people want,” said Kajy Parker, manager at Cappel's, a costume and decorations chain. She's also fielded a few Osama bin Laden costume requests. She points those shoppers to some long robes and headpieces.

        June C. Hedger dresses up as Mother Goose every year to lead a parade of costumed children down Edgewood, Ky. streets. This year's “Happy Faces Parade” is set for Oct. 28, a Sunday.

        “I'm hoping that they don't dress like terrorists,” she said. “I don't want them to dress like that. I want nothing to do with it. After what the terrorists did to our country, we have enough bad memories.”

        Beth Baltis' children haven't decided what they'll wear for Halloween, but it won't be gory. That's where the Liberty Township mother drew the line.

        “There are enough bad things going on in the world that they don't need to be in scary costumes,” she said.

        The Baltis family moved this year from a house on a busy street to a quiet subdivision. Her kids, 12 and 9, are excited about trick-or-treating. Mrs. Baltis said she will let them go. But she plans to pitch Pixie Sticks and other powder-based candies into the trash.

        “My husband's an airline pilot, so there's not a lot you could do to scare me right now,” Mrs. Baltis said.

        The city of Cincinnati and other communities, including Florence, Deerfield Township in Warren County and Union Township in Clermont County, are cautioning parents to take appropriate safety measures and to be on higher alert: examine the candy more closely, walk with your children from house to house and stay in familiar neighborhoods.

        But they said trick or treat will go on.

        “We all could stop living in light of the recent things that have gone on,” said Cincinnati Police Sgt. Julie Shearer, commander of the District 4 neighborhood unit. “We have to keep living our lives. If not, we become hostages in our country.”

        Even New Yorkers have refused to let bioterrorism threats dampen the holiday. A Japanese animation costume party the weekend before Halloween is expected to draw 2,500.

       Enquirer reporter Susan Vela contributed.



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