Town celebrates in big way that just keeps growing
By Rachel Ravina, Staff Writer
(Oct. 24, 2019) Thousands of children are expected to come ready with costumes and candy bags to celebrate Halloween next Thursday in Berlin.
“This truly is the Lollapalooza of Halloween,” said Washington Street resident Sara Hambury, who added that the downtown should expect a “sea of people.”
The festivities will take place from 5-7 p.m. on Oct. 31 in downtown, with Washington Street closed to traffic.
Fellow Washington Street resident Gussie Sholtis, one of the concept’s founders, said several couples on the street coincidently dressed up as different superheroes more than 15 years ago. The tradition advanced into a full on spectacle that involved decorating homes and passing out candy.
Hambury also clarified that “a handful of residents on Washington Street” typically participate.
“It was a factor of me wanting to live on Washington Street,” Hambury said.
In past years, Hambury said neighbors have coordinated their decorations with different themes, including islands, circus and carnival, storybook, and NFL, “national freaky league,” which she said meant they dressed up like dead football players.
This year’s theme is Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, Hambury said.
Hambury said while the holiday tradition began on Washington Street, it has since evolved into a townwide participation.
Ivy Wells, Berlin community and economic development director, is also “encouraging other neighbors follow that model because everyone loves it so much.”
Hambury welcomes children of all ages to come out next week, and said she’d love if adults without children also took part in the fun.
She also suggested they bring a basket of candy to distribute to children in sort of a mobile trick-or-treating fashion on Halloween.
Wells said downtown shops would also decorate and pass out candy on Halloween.
Additionally, the Burbage Funeral Home on 108 William St. will also have a free haunted house. Funeral Director Logan Cook said nearly 1,200 people went through the haunted house last year.
“We really do go all out,” Cook said. “[There’s] tons and tons of decorations, and it’s just it’s a very visible spot right in downtown, and all the kids see all the decorations, and they immediately flock to it.”
The haunted house encompasses parts of the funeral home’s first floor. Cook said there are inflatable decorations, “some spooky figures,” lights, smoke, music, and fog machines during the event. Owner W. Kirk Burbage also hands out candy as children exit the haunted house.
Cook said Burbage has held the haunted house since he took over the business in 1982, but his grandmother started the event years before.
When asked how long since the haunted house’s inception, Cook said, “When I asked [Burbage] that he said, ‘forever,’” Cook said. “Ever since Kirk can remember, his grandmother had loved Halloween, and loved doing that for the community.”
Cook also stressed that small children shouldn’t go through the haunted house unaccompanied, as it is a family-friendly event.
From the town’s perspective, Wells emphasized the importance of safety during Halloween.
“We set up barricades, and we have extra police on staff to ensure safety, and we embrace the event, and we are just here to do what we can to make sure that everyone is safe and having a good time,” she said.
Berlin Police Chief Arnold Downing agreed, and said additional law enforcement from the Maryland State Police and Worcester County Sheriff’s Office would also be present during the festivities. He added that the police department is planning to close Main Street to traffic.
The Berlin Police Department will also provide a free candy screening service from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Town Hall on 11 William St.
Downing said officers would dump out children’s trick-or-treating bags and use a metal detector wand to survey the candy for pins, needles or other sharp objects. He added that they would also throw away any opened candy.
Overall, Wells said the town “recognizes the popularity” of the event.
“It takes a lot of effort on the homeowners and the business owners to do this,” Hambury said. “It’s not like we’re just buying a box of candy and turning on the porch light.”