October 17, 2012

Kiddie Dope

News From the Juice Box Set

One of the great joys about Halloween in Athens is trick-or-treating around our neighborhoods. But please, parents, get out of your cars and join your kids in walking from house to house. Collecting candy with your kids while costumed? Five miniature Snick

One of my favorite things about Athens is the hoopla that surrounds Halloween. In the years after my husband and I moved to town, we'd wander downtown, grown-up costumes and all, and check out the others who magically showed up for the unofficial gathering. The scene rivaled a similar happening in West Hollywood, CA, near where I used to live, that had the benefit of professional costumers and make-up artists working on the creations.

When my daughter was a baby—still at that age when you can dress them up in whatever you want, and they never know the difference—we wandered the streets and kept her up past her bedtime on that one night a year, just so we could see the creativity that Athens has to offer.

But somewhere between ages 1 and 3, I forgot that bedtime really means something, and toting a toddler to the Wild Rumpus parade, in all its crazy costumed glory, probably wasn't the smartest thing to do. At 10 p.m. on a Saturday night, with a frightened, tired toddler in tow, it wasn't my proudest parenting moment.

But even if Wild Rumpus (starting at Clayton and Pulaski streets at 8 p.m., Oct. 27) is too late or scary for your little ones, they can have tons of Halloween fun anyway. Christmas is probably at the top of most kids' lists of favorite holidays, but there's no way you can go wrong with dressing up as your favorite character, knocking on doors and getting a bagful of candy.

I've always been a sucker for a carnival, and another reason to love Halloween is the bevy of cotton candy and silly games that go along with its parties. Athens-Clarke County Leisure Services does a great job of organizing several carnival-like parties this time of year, including my personal favorite, the annual Halloween Carnival at Memorial Park (5–8 p.m., Oct. 20; $4 per child). Bring some extra cash for the snacks and silly games, and kids can also go trick-or-treating through Bear Hollow Zoo. If you can't make it, there are competing carnivals, 6–8 p.m. on Oct. 30, for even more Halloween excitement: The Halloween Spooktacular at Lay Park ($3 per person, ages 5–12) and the Halloween Havoc Fall Festival hosted by UGA at the Livestock Arena (2550 S. Milledge Ave.; $4 per child). If you bring two canned food items, you'll receive $1 off admission.

For middle schoolers, there's Scary Oozy, Slimy Day (4–7 p.m., Oct. 20 at Sandy Creek Nature Center; $3 per person). Or, for kids who don't want to get their costumes dirty, there's the Willy Wonka Haunted House, an annual tradition organized by local teens (6–9 p.m., Oct. 26, Oconee County Library). That same Friday is the start of fall break for local schools, and Good Dirt has a special "scary" pottery class for kids (9 a.m.–3 p.m., $55; The next day, Saturday, Oct. 27, (noon–2 p.m.) Treehouse Kid and Craft will host a Halloween Party with a craft and costume contest, plus a photobooth.

And for the high schoolers who aren't quite ready to hop off that candy gravy train, perhaps you can divert their attention toward some of the local ghost tours going on this time of year. Just thinking back (way back!) to my own glorious teen years, it seems like something my mom probably could have talked me into. In Watkinsville, North Georgia Tours will take you past the haunted Eagle Tavern at 8 p.m. every Friday and Saturday in October for the "Haunted History Tours" ($12,, and the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation's "Athens' Darkest History Tour" takes you past spooky spots around downtown and on the UGA campus (8 p.m., Oct. 26 & 28; $15,

There is one event, though, where I'm sure I'll part ways with some of you: trunk or treats.  I have to admit, I'm a Halloween purist, and I'm also hardcore about the holiday. I feel that if you're a kid searching for candy, you need to go find it. The candy should not come to you. So, the idea of a bunch of people pulling into a parking lot and simply handing candy to any kid who walks by seems like it misses the point of ringing the doorbell and wondering what the mysterious neighbors will give you. 

And while I'm on my soapbox, I have one other rant for all you parents out there. It's cool if, say, you live out in the country, or you live in a bad neighborhood, and you want to bring your children to another place to go trick-or-treating. I totally get that. But please, for the love of all good Halloween ghosts, park your car and walk with your child. There is nothing that irritates me more than a parent slowly driving up and down the streets of a subdivision while their child gathers free candy. At least try to burn off some of the calories you know you'll be consuming later that night. (Oh wait, scratch that—parents never steal their child's candy.)

Like I said, I'm hardcore.  I've also denied candy to kids knocking on my door at 9 p.m., claiming their oversized T-shirts are costumes. This is Halloween, people, one of the most creative holidays of the year. You have to put some effort into it.