Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

October 14, 2012

Trick-or-treat date change: Should officials interfere with Halloween?


Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — Who knew the official trick-or-treat day in Mercer County could cause such a boo-haha. My apologies for the bad pun. We usually leave clever comments and comebacks to newsroom master of quips Bill Archer. But Bill, like many of us, was busy last week with editorial board sessions with political hopefuls.

For those unfamiliar with the current debate, many are unhappy the Mercer County Commission moved the official trick-or-treat date from Halloween, Wednesday, Oct. 31, to Tuesday Oct. 30, so it would not interfere with church services.

When we posted a story detailing the change to our website, comments came in fast and furiously.

Many noted how the holiday — All Hallow’s Eve — could not and should not be changed. They lamented government interference in something as simple as trick-or-treat times.

As a child, I recall trick-or-treat days often being changed due to church services on Sundays or Wednesdays. In those days, it seemed like everyone in our community attended services. No doubt, many people still attend them, but others don’t. How do we strike a balance?

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Growing up in a rural community, trick-or-treating was not an easy, stroll-door-to-door event. With no “next-door neighbors,” Mom had to start up the car and take me on a trick-or-treat commute. She was always very particular about the doors I could knock on — only homes belonging to family and friends.

Having watched iconic images on TV of trick or treaters walking on sidewalks in suburbia, I always felt a little strange being driven from house to house. But it’s the price one pays for the beauty and isolation of country living.

To my disappointment, no kids ever came to our house dressed in costume with candy bags in hand. The walk up the long, steep, tree-shrouded driveway to the giant, creepy house on the hill (creepy at nighttime, anyway) was, evidently, not worth the payoff of a mini Snickers bar.

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My most memorable Halloween moment did not involve trick or treating, and it most certainly was not happy or joyful. I was around 12 years old when I convinced my mom to take me and my friend, Lisa, to see the movie “Halloween.”

Mom had no idea it was a horror flick and, when talking about the film, I kept my descriptions short and succinct. “It’s just a movie about the holiday.”

When Mom dropped us off at the matinee, we thought we were “it” — preteens going to see our first R-rated scary movie. No one asked for our ID, and soon we were seated with popcorn and soft drinks in hand.

An hour and a half later, we exited the theater shell shocked. Lisa and I had led innocent lives revolving around family and school. Our spare time was spent fishing, horseback riding and reading Nancy Drew mysteries. We were not prepared for the bloodthirsty mayhem of Michael Myers.

For the next few years, the sight of a jack-o’-lantern or the sound of the eerie theme music would leave me visibly shaken.

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The change in the trick-or-treat date in Mercer County could lead to an interesting Halloween. Young ghouls and goblins in search of candy will have to go door to door in rural areas and the city of Princeton, which also changed its date, on Tuesday, Oct. 30. However, the two Bluefields plan to celebrate the holiday on its traditional calendar date, Wednesday, Oct. 31.

Does this mean local children will have the opportunity to double-dip gummy worms, Nerds and candy corn? Will different celebration dates mean mischief such as tossed eggs and downed trees will be ongoing for two nights?

What about children who live in Princeton but have grandparents and other relatives across the state line in Bluefield, Va.? Will parents be forced to put kids in costumes and apply face paint on back-to-back nights to conform to municipal and county rules?

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The potential for dual-night Halloween drama and confusion could have been averted if city and county leaders could grasp one simple concept — playing nicely together in the sandbox.

For years, this newspaper has advocated a spirit of regionalism. We have preached about the benefits of working together for economic growth and prosperity. We have touted the benefits to all if local governments would work cooperatively for a greater good. Regrettably, the message seems to continually fall on deaf ears.

While working together to bring in a big business or manufacturer could certainly be a complex task, setting a trick-or-treat date should be low-hanging fruit.

Here’s how it would work: A city official in one area calls or emails a county official a few miles away and asks, “When are you folks celebrating Halloween?”

A discussion could then ensue after input is gained from residents in the various communities. Once officials learn the date the majority of residents want to celebrate Halloween, a decision could be made — a decision that would keep the region in sync instead of in conflict.

Sadly, that’s not how we tend to operate here. The underlying attitude seems to be one of “me” instead of “we.”

And for some of us, this attitude is much scarier than the large number of witches and zombies that materialize as All Hallows Eve approaches.

Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at sperry@bdtonline.com. Follow her @BDTPerry.