Celebrating Halloween in Rutland

[Originally published in the Rutland County Express on 10/28/10]

Halloween. Is there another holiday that is so thoroughly ages? Others have their charms, but let’s face it; Halloween takes the cake.

Sure, kids love Christmas, but as you grow up, it just becomes expensive, over-commercialized, and, for many, rife with familial anxieties.

Double that for Thanksgiving, whose main custom forces families around the table for an entire day of potentially feigned pleasantries and passive aggressiveness sublimated by gravy and football. And how excited do kids get over turkey, anyway?

So Halloween it is. It’s the one day a year that adults can play pretend without drawing concerned looks from their coworkers.

For kids, the day is full of surprises and thrills (and candy).

As you grow up, the day is still an occasion for fun – dressing up with friends and maybe cutting loose a little. Halloween, like Mardi Gras, is one of those temporary autonomous zones where social norms can be bent or suspended, depending on how far you want to take it.

And even as an adult, Halloween still maintains that tinge of eeriness – those vestigial feelings from an earlier time when we believed that all those haunting mythologies were real.

It’s not news to anyone around here that Halloween is a big deal in Rutland. The area has a history of the weird and paranormal – Chittenden, home of the storied Eddy House, has no shortage of ghost stories (just ask someone who lives there); Proctor’s Wilson Castle has seen reports of the paranormal; and more than a few houses in Rutland have had reports of ghost sightings.

Whether or not you believe any of this, it makes for fun conversation around this time of year. It puts some extra strangeness in the air and gives us some good material to scare the kids with.

For my part, my friends and I are planning on making the most of the weekend . Like the annual Rutland parade, we too will be observing Halloween on Saturday (it just makes more sense, and I hope the Recreation Dept. keeps it there).

This year, we decided to go for the group theme costume. We picked the early 1990s, a time from our childhood characterized by fluorescent clothes, fanny packs and bad television shows that, at the time we thought were good, but looking back realize were really, pretty awful (I’m looking at you, “Perfect Strangers”).

With our costumes more or less set, we’re looking forward to what the weekend will have in store. A trip to Pittsford is planned for Friday night, and Saturday we’re heading out in downtown Rutland to catch the parade and check out some of the local weirdness.

My friend Kate is on board: “I love Halloween in Rutland. There are so many fun traditions,” she said, noting the parade and the Pittsford Haunted House, as well as the perennial mystery of Mr. Jack-O-Lantern.

In recent years, the time around the parade has been increasingly packed with seasonal activities – there’s Hathaway’s Corn Maze, the Haunted Wilson Castle, and even a 5K run (in costume) on Saturday morning.

Indeed, the Rec. Dept. has taken the lead in affirming Halloween’s place as Rutland’s holiday.

“We want to make Rutland a destination for Halloween,” said Cindi Wight, recreation director of the Rutland Recreation and Parks Dept., who acknowledges that the parade has already done a fine job of earning the city a spot in pop-culture history through its numerous appearances in Marvel and DC comic books.

Of the decision to switch the parade to the Saturday before Halloween, Wight said the feedback so far has been “overwhelmingly positive.”

“Families have said they are happy to have the parade and trick-or-treating on different nights,” she said. “They feel less rushed.”

A Saturday parade is also good news for downtown restaurants and bars, which will likely enjoy large numbers all night long, especially if the weather cooperates.

As the weekend approaches and I make the final adjustments on my costume, I’m once again looking forward to finding out what this Halloween has in store for Rutland.


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