The spookiest weekend of the year is almost upon us, but like everything else, it will feel different on the island in the very scary year of 2020.
Halloween on Vashon, for decades, has been marked by a raucous street celebration as costumed children, adults and even pets take to the town’s block-off business district to grab candy, chit-chat with friends and neighbors, and celebrate the island’s endearing weirdness.
But this year, the streets won’t be closed, and while some businesses will be passing out candy during the day on Oct. 31 to trick-or-treaters, Vashon’s Chamber of Commerce and Vashon’s Emergency Operations Center are urging islanders to consider more safe, stay-at-home activities.
The chamber’s website, at vashonchamber.com/halloween, lists alternative suggestions for a variety of safely distanced, at-home activities — such as candy scavenger hunts, scary movies with the family, and participating in a virtual costume and pumpkin-carving contest sponsored by the chamber.
The chamber is also helping publicize (though not co-present) other activities, including the free, all-ages “Haunted Drive-Thru” at Camp Burton, and photo sessions with island photographer Marla Smith at Langley Fine Gardens’ pumpkin patch and Mukai Farm & Garden.
And in an acknowledgment that some will still want to trick or treat, the chamber has also listed safety protocols for that activity, which is considered high-risk by the King County Department of Health and the CDC.
Here are some other ideas for making the weekend memorable.
“War of the Worlds” on Oct. 30 and 31
This Halloween folks can get spooked the old-fashioned way — with radio theatre.
Vashon Repertory Theatre (VRT), will join together with Vashon Center for the Arts and Voice of Vashon to broadcast its second radio theatre production — a performance of “War of the Worlds,” which caused nationwide panic when it was first broadcast on Oct. 30, 1938, narrated by none other than Orson Welles.
The production will be broadcast at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 30, at vashoncenterforthearts.org, and then again at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 31, on Voice of Vashon, at voiceofvashon.org.
The drama — which begins with a simulated radio broadcast about Martians landing on earth — caused widespread panic when it debuted in 1938, as listeners thought the fake news was real and reacted in real-time. (Sound familiar?) There are also other themes in the show that resonate in 2020 as well — including allusions to a nation being dominated by powerful external forces and the impulse of politicians to downplay horrific dangers and existential threats.
VRT is billing the show as the perfect pandemic opportunity to “gather the family around the computer, just as families gathered around the radio in 1938, to watch – and hear — the creation of a classic thriller and get lost in the magic of radio.”
Local actors in the show include Susan McCabe, Kate Dowling, Jeanne Dougherty, Jeff Hoyt, Mik Kuhlman, Paul Shapiro, Marshall and Stephanie Murray, Michael Shook, Steve Jones, Bill West, Catherine MacNeal Cate O’Kane and Harris Levinson. Michael Golen-Johnson is the man behind the magic of all the show’s sound effects and live foley.
Merna Hecht Tells Stories
Sometimes all we need is for someone to tell us a story, and islanders of all ages — but especially those who are ages 4 to 7 — can find just that by visiting vashonbookshop.com and clicking on the “Bookworm” tab. Island storyteller supreme and poet Merna Hecht has posted two videos on the site, with her take on traditional Halloween stories. The stories, Hecht promises, will get listeners in the spirit of the holiday, without being too spooky.
Celebrate Dia de los Muertos
For the second consecutive year, Vashon Center for the Arts will have a large community installation in its northwest courtyard, to provide an interactive place for islanders, on the Day of the Dead, to honor those who have died by leaving photos, mementos or other remembrances of loved ones.
The installation, called Dia de los Muertos Offrende, will be ready for visitors starting Saturday, Oct. 31 and stay up until Monday, Nov. 2.
According to Lynann Politte, VCA’s gallery director, the installation is in keeping with many traditions.
“The veneration of the dead, including one’s ancestors, is based on love and respect for the deceased, and is practiced across many cultures and spiritual traditions in the form of altars covered with images and items to honor the dead,” she said. “An ancient belief is that at the end of the summer harvest, the veil between this world and the other side the thinnest.”
The name of the celebratory occasion, which takes place from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, has numerous names, including Dias De Los Muertos, Samhein, Day of the Dead, or All Souls Day, she added.
The Offrende is intended to provide a place to meditate, pray, contemplate and dwell in memories. Islanders can come alone, or with friends or family. Politte said that last year, many people left photos of or messages for their deceased family members, ancestors, dear friends or pets.
The installations will be outside and covered but exposed to the weather.
“We expect it to be treated with respect and considered sacred,” Polittle said. “We suggest you laminate photos for their protection. We invite you to bring something that is representative of your loved ones, however, know that the altar is not locked or guarded.”
Islanders should also refrain from adding food to the installation, because of animals and insects, she said. All items left at the installation should be picked up by Nov. 3 or 4, at the latest.