Rainboots and Reese’s: 12th Annual Spooktacular Brings Halloween Festivities Despite Weather

By HAEUN PARK

Families dressed in costumes, posed for pictures, danced to live music and munched on bags of fresh-popped popcorn. A NASA toddler in a tinfoil hat and a painted cardboard rocket waited patiently in line for face-painting. A mini Evil Queen and a black fruit bat played a life-sized game of Connect 4. Multiple Spider-Men and one Spider Gwen chased each other in front of the bubble machine. In the meantime, parents holding umbrellas stood on the grass and waited for the parade, Spooktacular’s main event, to begin.

The Better Middlebury Partnership hosted its 12th Annual Spooktacular on the Town Green this past Sunday, Oct. 27. Despite a steady drizzle of rain, kids flocked to game stations and activity tables operated by volunteers. Visitors could enjoy games, face-painting, bubbles and a craft table, alongside dancing and halloween-themed treats.

Nancie Dunn, the primary organizer of Spooktacular, started the event 14 years ago and has been hosting it with the help of her husband, Bruce Baker, ever since. For Dunn, the idea for Spooktacular rose out of a need she saw for a community-based Halloween event.

“When my kids were little, there was a parade and a bonfire that the Middlebury Parks and Recreation put on, and then there was nothing,” Dunn said. “So I thought with this cute town we needed to make something.” That was when Dunn got the idea for Spooktacular, which she and Baker have been running ever since.

“We had good weather last year and saw about 500 kids,” Baker said. “Because of the weather, this year was the most challenging year out of the 14.” The covered gazebo in the middle of the Town Green served as not only a refuge from the rain but also as the center of activity from where Baker played live music.

“My favorite part is right here at the gazebo,” Baker said. “All the kids come up, and the ones that are gregarious dance with me and have fun.” 

Lauren Laberge, in charge of face-painting station, is one of the committee members who organizes the event every year.

“It’s cute to see the families come out all dressed up,” Laberge said. “I think they love it because you don’t always get an opportunity with your kids to be a part of something with costumes.” 

Sarah Stahl, who oversees the crafts, is another committee member.

“[Spooktacular] is different from trick-or-treating in the dark,” Stahl said. “This is a daytime event, and it’s free. Some mother even said to me: ‘Thank you for doing this. This is all we do for Halloween.’”

At 2:30 p.m., Dunn, dressed as the Spooktacular Witch, led the group in a parade through the town. All through Main Street, merchants, some in costume, stood outside their shop fronts with bowls full of candy ready to be dropped in the children’s waiting bags. Audra Ouellette has participated in Spooktacular for all the three years she has been an employee at Sweet Cecily, a local home goods retailer.

“My favorite part about the event are the little faces that come through with costumes on,” Ouellette said. “There’s almost no preparation the vendors have to do beforehand. Nancie supplies everyone with the candy. It’s perfect.” As kids walked past Dunn with bags heavy of sweets, they waved at the Spooktacular Witch and headed home.

“It’s a real nice community thing,” Baker said. “It gives people who might not be able to afford to do anything special on their own an opportunity to get dressed up with their kids and have a great time.”

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