'WHOSE STREETS? OUR STREETS!' -- La Conner students owned First Street 3:30 p.m. Halloween day, as they followed in their parents and greandparents footsteps and marched in the annual Halloween parade. - photo by Ken Stern
TREATS IF NOT TRICKS – At the Fire District 13 hosted neighborhood "Trick or Treat" staff lined up their rescue rigs along First St. They were joined by Swinomish Police Departments Service Officer Brian Geer. The departments teamed up and gave out candy to the costumed children and their families – it is a very special treat for all involved. From left to right (back row): Fire District 13 crew: James Martin, Sara Wilkinson, Zach Cleave. Trick or Treaters: Kellie Lockrem, Cary Bobb, in wagon, Katie Cayou. – Photo by Robin Carneen
For one day a year La Conner is a literal ghost town. Or, almost literally That day being Halloween. There’s no way, of course, that historic First Street – one of the state’s more popular destination points – would ever be completely vacant. Even at the end of October when the summer tourist season has long since passed. It turns out Halloween is actually among those times downtown La Conner is at its busiest, filled with ghosts, goblins, ghouls, pirates, space travelers, dinosaurs and assorted other colorful characters reveling in a favorite local celebration. This year was no exception. A large walking serpentine of festive and costumed trick-or-treaters covered the length and breadth of First Street last Wednesday afternoon to partake of goodwill and a giant candy haul at La Conner businesses. And while the costumes and masks might’ve been scary, there was no hiding the fact that Halloween in La Conner is a boo-tiful event. And has been for a long time. Before then, however, it could provide more tricks than treats. Merchants would awaken Nov. 1 to soaped and broken storefront windows and occasionally even more costly evidence of mischief. That eventually gave rise to an indoor Halloween Party, still a point of pride among La Conner natives and longtime residents, and a tradition revived this year, after a brief hiatus, by Beth Schmittou Bowles and members of the La Conner Parent-Teacher-Student Association (PTSA). “Since it was such a cherished memory for so many of us who grew up in La Conner,” Bowles said last week, “I wanted to spearhead an attempt to bring it back. You know, these community traditions make small towns special.” Many who were part of the parade gathered immediately afterward at La Conner Elementary School for the new PTSA carnival, enjoying a variety of games, costume contests, a photo booth, pizza, a cupcake walk and more. For most, it was just like old times. A 16-page La Conner Chamber of Commerce publication from the late 1950s cites 1933 as the start date for what it billed as “One of the Oldest Prankless Halloween Parties in the Nation.” It was also large in scope, especially for a small community. “Hundreds of children have the time of their lives at these parties,” the Chamber brochure proclaims. “Many parents who participated as youngsters now bring their children to the parties.” After a new gymnasium adjoining the school cafeteria and auditorium was built in 1948, the party morphed into a major fall festival making use of every available square inch of floor space. There were costume contests, cakewalks, carnival games, haunted rooms, a witches’ brewing area and, at one point, rides on hover boards. “The annual party stopped maybe in 2013 when it just became too much for the PTSA at the time,” said Bowles. The enthusiasm and numbers were right for a renewal this fall, in part due to a commitment by middle school and high school student volunteers, who pitched in alongside adults to run the various carnival booths and games. La Conner Schools administrators praised the effort and results. “The PTSA,” La Conner Elementary Principal Bev Bowen said, “did a great job putting this on.” Superintendent of schools Dr. Whitney Meissner agreed. “It’s great,” she said, “to have an event like this for the kids that’s in a safe place.” Nor did the fun stop there. Swinomish Youth Center hosted a three-hour Halloween party at the Tribal gymnasium Wednesday evening that attracted a large crowd of all ages, with costume contests for children and adults alike.
Musical chairs, Pop-the-Balloon, a guess-the-number-of-candies-in-a-bin game, hot dogs and hamburgers and a showing of The Addams Family movie were among the highlights. The magical sugar-fueled afternoon and night, coming mid-week this year, was followed by back to school and work in the morning. For their part, the kids recovered fast. “The students,” a La Conner Elementary aide said Thursday, “fell right back in routine.” Halloween in La Conner was a sweet success once again.