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By Andrea Aranda
Like the Wolfman on a full moon, Noe Valley turns into a ghoulish scene on Halloween. Hundreds of costumed kids roam through the neighborhood, trolling for treats. And like zombies from a tomb, the residents and merchants of Noe Valley rise to the occasion, to make October 31 one of the most fun and convivial days of the year.
The spell was cast in the early 1980s, when a dedicated group of locals, led by Marilyn Lucas, staged a creative revival of Halloween traditions for children. Lucas and kindred spirits at the Noe Valley Ministry donated candy and invited kids to a neighborhood haunted house. (Lucas' vision of "a fun and safe Halloween" was even noticed by newscaster Walter Cronkite, who quoted her on air in 1982.) Today, this idea has grown into blocks and blocks of homes in Noe Valley decked out in spooky splendor.
As shadows deepen on Friday, Oct. 31, the good witches of the neighborhood will again be showing the way to "Haunted Hoffman Avenue." Lucas says many homes along Hoffman from 24th Street to the firehouse, and several on Elizabeth Street, will be lit up with pumpkins (and strewn with cobwebs). Her own cottage on Hoffman will be a "Hot-Rod Heaven," with animated creatures serving witches' brew in a 1967 muscle car. In years past, Elizabeth Street residents David Nesbet and his wife Judi Kaplan have constructed a Haunted Garage--inside you'll find their 1957 Studebaker driven by life-size skeletons, warns Lucas. This Halloween, the residents of Haunted Hoffman and Eerie Elizabeth will be welcoming trick-or-treaters from 6 to 8 p.m.
For the merchants of Noe Valley, October 31 is a hectic day to do business, but it is an excellent time to "catch up with acquaintances, see the kids grow up, and stay connected to the community," says Sheila Istvanick, co-owner of Ladybug Ladybug on 24th Street near Vicksburg.
She and other Noe Valley shopkeepers often recruit their friends to help distribute candy to the crowds of bag-laden Hansels and Gretels, who start arriving from local daycare centers and the St. Philip School Halloween parade at 10 or 11 in the morning.
Twenty-fourth Street is "Halloween Central," agrees James Koehneke of Phoenix Books, a few doors away. "This is a pocket of the city that has a track record for safety, a lot of adults, the businesses are kid-friendly, and people know each other. [Halloween] is one of the holidays when the merchants step up and say thanks to the communit."
In addition to passing out thousands of dollars of candy, Noe Valley stores extend their hours, many until 8 p.m. The shops' employees get into the act, too, dressing up as queens, vampires, and clowns. Halloween is "a day of having fun!" says Bernie Melvin of Bernie's Cafe. Adds barista Teresa Klein, "It's a time to revive the kid in you."
Istvanick says she and Ladybug co-owner Lisa Sherratt have a tradition of wearing spots on their costumes. But this Halloween we'll see the addition of two miniature ladybugs--their newborns 4-month-old Iain and 7-month-old Juliette. Trick-or-treaters in bug costumes are invited to have their picture taken with this family of ladybugs.
Phantoms Fill the Windows
Astrid's Rabat Shoes, on 24th at Sanchez, will be digging up its impressive Halloween window display--a graveyard complete with headstones, ghosts, and assorted creepy creatures. The window is full of riddles, says longtime store manager Veronica Ruedrich. "I put a lot of thought into the headstones. The names on the gravestones are characters who've died in movies." Ruedrich won't give away the movie titles, but she did offer this hint: "The epitaph is a clue about the movie and the character's life or death."
Another fabulous Halloween-themed display will materialize at Eye Q Optometry on 24th near Noe. Office manager Cathy Chinn says the details are top secret, but "all of my windows for Halloween come from classic horror movies. The best ones, in my opinion, are the ones that suggest horror in a subtle way. I try to captivate the audience, leave it to the imagination of the viewer."
Monsters, fairies, superheroes, and just regular people will be treated to a double dose of enchantment at Just for Fun across the street. Co-owner Robert Ramsey says the shop will have its usual display related to the Christmas season, but this year it will create a Halloween-themed scene outside its doors.
Speaking of new traditions, Donna Davis of Forbeadin' on Church Street will give out sugar-free treats this year--little bags of beads. Parents and guardians will be thankful to know that the beads are also no-calorie, no-carb, and no-fat!
Kid Tales and Dog Treats
Cover to Cover's weekly storytelling event falls on Halloween this year. In the spirit of the day, the Castro Street bookstore will have sweets, decorations, and Halloween tales at 10 a.m. The audience for this story hour tends to be very young, so the staff says the readings will not be too scary. Children and their mummies are welcome.
Noe Valley is a pet-friendly neighborhood, so naturally there will be treats for dogs at neighborhood pet stores. At Noe Valley Pet Company on Church Street, 4 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 31, Suzanne London and Teresa Kennett of Pet Poses Photography will be on hand to take pictures of pets and their people. Costumes are encouraged, though not de rigueur, and a portion of proceeds from the photo shoots will go to Grateful Dogs Rescue.
Finally, let's not forget that Oct. 31 is also the eve of Día de los Muertos, a Latin American celebration of the dearly departed. In honor of Día de los Muertos, Global Exchange will decorate its window with an ofrenda, or altar, dedicated to fallen revolutionaries. True to the store's vision of enriching global and local communities, it will give fair trade organic chocolate to the kids on Halloween.
Noe Valley sure knows how to put the treats in trick-or-treating!