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Harry's Gang: Halloween excitement builds

It won’t be long before I can relax during the last few weeks of October, maybe get some yardwork done before the snow flies, clean the car, take a leisurely walk in the woods in our neighborhood.

But for now, with a fourth-grader at home, fall means Halloween. It’s all-consuming in our house. Some of you may know Alexa, the internet-based voice-activated tool that’s become very popular in recent years. It’s like having the entire wealth of human knowledge at your disposal by simply asking. And you can ask Alexa about anything — from the theory of relativity to a list of French emperors in the first century. But in our house, we use Alexa for only one thing: to count down the days until Halloween.

Every morning, before running to catch the bus, Eleanor makes sure to ask Alexa how many days it is until Halloween. Every day she gets a different answer, which, for some reason, gets Ellie very excited. This year, she’s planning to be a wolf. Or a ballerina. Or a clown. I won’t know for sure until this weekend, and I expect several changes of mind before she appears in her final costume. It’s her prerogative to change her mind, I’m told.

The planning started last year — Nov. 1, to be exact. Ellie spent a good amount of time debriefing from her Halloween experience, making suggestions for next year (which is now this year) and planning potential outfits, all fueled by an amazing amount of sugar and lack of sleep.

Even Ellie’s brothers get excited about Halloween, and they’re in high school. They have plans with friends, naturally, although both plan to hand out candy at our front door, at least for a while. Our neighborhood, like many across our community, seems to compete with each other on handing out the best candy. We give out full size candy bars and prizes such as pencils, Chinese handcuffs, and Glo Stix, which are very popular. I tried offering apples, but had very few takers. So, I made pie.

Last year, my buddy Mike bought a sack of potatoes, and put one in the basket of candy he offered to young trick-or-treaters. He’d heard about this clever trick on TikTok, and wanted to try it for himself. He told me so many kids choose the potato over candy that he went through a 20-pound sack last year. This year, he’s buying 50 pounds.

Lately, I’ve heard comments about teenagers trick-or-treating, without costumes and coming later and later. It irks some people, it seems, when older kids come begging for free candy, well past the age some find appropriate. As for me, I’ve found most Cloquet area kids to be polite, respectful, and usually a little giddy when trick-or-treating, which is better than petty vandalism and more-serious crimes that kids seem to get themselves into when hanging around in groups. I welcome older kids gladly.

And there’s always talk of the dangers of Halloween, and they’re not wrong. Little kids, wearing masks that impair their vision and costumes that make it hard for drivers to see them, wander around in strange neighborhoods while parents navigate the streets, trying to not hit them. Some organizations hold trunk-or-treat events at area parking lots to keep kids in one central location, and therefore more safe and secure. But what really happens is kids and their parents rush from one event to another, increasing both their evening haul and the risk of injury. I’ve heard plenty about razor blades in candy bars or treats laced with poison or drugs, but in all my years I’ve never seen or heard it actually happen. Just another way to scare kids on a scary holiday, I suppose. Still, it pays to be careful.

Ellie’s fourth-grade friends will all soon be teenagers themselves, and then off to college and adult life. I guess I’ll have to make the treats bigger and better each year if I want them all to keep coming back, even then.

Pete Radosevich is the publisher of the Pine Knot News and an attorney in Esko. His opinions are his own. He is willing to speak at your meeting or event; contact him at [email protected].

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