11th Annual Spooktacular Captures Halloween Spirit in Middlebury

By MICHAEL FRANK

Middlebury got an early taste of Halloween last Sunday, Oct. 28, when the eleventh annual Spooktacular popped up on the Town Green. A project kicked off by Better Middlebury Partnership (BMP), the town Spooktacular set out to capture some of the seasonal spirit that has always been a beloved town tradition.

The event hosted an array of family friendly activities that stretched across the green from 1-3 p.m. Families of Middlebury participated in a costume parade around Main Street and were even welcomed to some early trick-or-treating at surrounding local businesses.
“This is the oldest ongoing town wide trick-or-treating event,” said Nancie Dunn, one of the event’s three organizers. Dunn is the owner of the store Sweet Cecily on Main Street and is on the board of the Better Middlebury Partnership. She hoped the Spooktacular would recapture a sense of town-wide enthusiasm for Halloween.

“When my kids were little, the rec department had a parade and a bonfire in town, but that was decades ago,” she reminisced. “When that didn’t happen anymore I thought there should be a Halloween event. So I got [the festival] going and now it’s been going on for years and years.”
Families hopped between activities set up across the green in coordinated group costumes. Typically, a number of area businesses set up interactive booths and stations. This year, for instance, Happy Valley Orchard provided cider and donuts to attendees. “It all has to do with children,” Dunn said. “It’s not about just advertising your business to a lot of parents walking around.”
Participants enjoyed a bean bag toss, face painting station and craft table while a live DJ underscored the event with a festive soundtrack. The age range of children in attendance is usually between three and ten, according to Dunn.

“Our clients here are three-and-a-half feet tall,” she said. “We have to keep it pretty simple.”
While many of the festival’s activities may have been simple, the organizational process behind Spooktacular was anything but. “It’s a small event, it’s a short event, but, like everything else, it takes months and months to plan,” said Dunn. However, she added that after eleven years of Spooktacular, planning has become much more efficient.

In the past, Dunn has been the sole organizer of the Spooktacular, but this year she was joined by Lauren Taddeo and Sarah Stahl. The team’s work on the festival didn’t end at the organization phase. “I’m the witch,” Dunn said, referring to her role as the costumed line leader of the parade, complete with staff and black, pointed hat. During the Spooktacular, Taddeo and Stahl stayed involved by working as a face painter and a craft table attendant, respectively.

The festival was aided by a number of volunteers from town, who lent a hand running games and activity stations. The festival would also not be possible without support from sponsors like Neat Repeats Resale Shop and the National Bank of Middlebury, said Dunn.

The parade capped off the event at 3 p.m., as a line of costumed youngsters and parents marched down Main Street. On their way, they stopped at businesses along the route to enjoy an early helping of trick-or-treating.

By the parade’s start time, several hundred participants were ready to march. Included in the ranks of the Spooktacular parade was a replica Middlebury Regional EMS ambulance, a pirate ship that fit three people and many, many skeletons.

Nearly every business along Main Street took part in the trick-or-treating portion of the parade, handing out candy and other goodies to participants. Tinker and Smithy Game Store handed out Magic: The Gathering cards to passing parade members. Some businesses that were not located along the parade’s path sent representatives to hand out treats as well.

“We’re ready to give out lots of healthy treats for the parade,” said Addison County resident Penny Larrow, who was waiting along the parade path on behalf of the Middlebury Shaw’s. At the supermarket’s booth were several dozen bunches of bananas, as well as a collection of brand new lunch boxes and coolers for participants. We think it’s important to have some healthy options, Larrow explained.

Though the green was buzzing with numerous costumed families, volunteers and businesses in attendance were happy to take part in the Middlebury tradition.

“We’ve been doing this for a long, long time,” said Mary Pratt of Happy Valley Orchard. “I don’t remember it ever not being busy, even when it was really raining. They do a good job organizing it.”

“There are a lot of things that happen in events like this behind the scenes,” said Dunn. “That’s how it is, though. It’s like any other performance you put on. It appears seamless when you arrive.”

As the parade wrapped up, the green was already being cleared of all of the day’s activities. Volunteers were packing up games and collecting trash as business owners returned to their stores, signaling the end of another spooky and spectacular Halloween celebration.