Upon first moving to South Lake Tahoe, we rented a small place in a neighborhood surrounded by vacation rentals and steep streets. The resulting Halloween trick-or-treater turnout was not very impressive.

“I guess Halloween isn’t that big of a deal in Tahoe,” Wifey said as we chowed down on the surplus candy.

Like many aspects of this town, first impressions are not always accurate. A couple years later, we purchased a home in a neighborhood with flat streets and lots of kids running around, thinking that this would be a great location for starting a family. When Halloween rolled around again, Wifey and I didn’t reconsider our strategy in terms of candy procurement and distribution: this was a grave tactical error on our part.

“Is that another van load of kids?” I asked.

“Yeah, it looks like they’re lined up on the neighboring streets too.”

“OK, mayday! Only one piece per kid.”

We watched with a mixture of shock and awe as throngs of little goblins, princesses, ninja turtles, and superheroes laid siege to our neighborhood. Dutiful chaperones escorted from safe distances and a fire engine decked out with spooky sounds and costumed mannequins circled our streets.

“This is unreal,” Wifey commented with wide eyes.

“We’re almost out of candy.”

“What should we do?”

“Do we have anything else in the kitchen?”

“I’ll go check.”

“Make it quick. There’s a group of twenty just one house away.”

By the time the evening was over, we had distributed not only every small piece of candy there was to be found anywhere in our house, but also frozen burritos, bags of tea, canned vegetables, and dental floss. The culminating event of the evening came when a group of high school age trick-or-treater appeared at our door as the little ghosts and ghouls were all heading back to their vans and to sugar-crashing bed comas. The high-schoolers, dressed in miniskirts, fake-blood spattered tank tops, and little else, as if it was a mid-summer holiday, looked at our pitiful offerings of cream-of-corn in a can and Irish Spring bar soap and said, “Hey can we have your pumpkin instead?”

“Why?”

“To smash it.”

“Just take the soap, kid.”

With that, we turned off the lights, locked the doors, and hid in the deep recesses of our home in hopes of evading discovery. What we failed to do was bring our three pumpkins inside, which expectedly ended up flayed across the street bearing evidence of repeated encounters with the underside of a teenager’s size eleven sneaker.

Since that fateful evening, we have prepared for Halloween like the French prepared the Maginot Line for Hitler’s Blitzkrieg. A bare minimum of three massive bags of Costco candy must be on hand. Sufficient decorations should be in place and now that we have little munchkin superheroes of our own, we call for reinforcements. We’ll take grandparents, friends, distant relatives, whomever we can bribe into helping. Halloween in our neighborhood mandates that a couple brave souls walk our children, herding them from house to house and a minimum of two other adults must remain posted at the revolving front door. A couple years ago we actually had a dry erase board by the candy pot and counted nearly 800 costumed visitors. Really.

As a community, Halloween is one of those magical times when the sub-sets of our little town all comingle with ease. All of us full-time residents get dressed up or decorate our homes. Kids, regardless of background, run with candy-induced delirium from house to house, and that feeling of being part of a community somehow becomes more tangible, like cheering for our Olympic athletes or praying for a good winter this year. I’m glad that Wifey and I were wrong, Halloween is a big deal in South Lake Tahoe and that’s a good thing. Our community needs more reasons like this holiday to bring us together, irrespective of income, race, and agenda, of course a bit of sugar and adorable high-pitched calls for “trick-or-treat” help too.

 

Halloween in Tahoe, Do: (Reverse the “Do” and “Don’t” lists if you live in a quiet neighborhood with steep streets.)

  1. Buy lots and lots and lots of candy.
  2. Dress yourself and your children warmly; Winnie the Pooh is always a good option.
  3. Ask for details when your neighbors inquire as to whether or not you are “ready for Halloween?” “When you say ready, how much candy are we really talking?”
  4. Bring your kids to a busy Halloween neighborhood; just follow the spooky fire engine and looks for lines of minivans.

 

Halloween in Tahoe, Don’t:

  1. Leave unaccompanied jack-o-lanterns out past 9PM.
  2. Binge-eat Halloween candy… OK, that might be unrealistic.
  3. Once you retire for the night, leave on any lights to give away that you are “still awake.”
  4. Underestimate Halloween in Tahoe.