The borough is embracing its spooky roots for two weekends of special events, including a home decorating contest, arts and crafts events, and a formal name change.
By Matt Skoufalos | October 20, 2016
When it comes to Halloween, some towns just have a natural advantage: Sleepy Hollow, New York, for example, or Salem, Massachusetts.
But what do you do when you’ve got all of the Halloween spirit—gothic architecture, tree-lined streets, neighbors who decorate their homes—and none of the name-brand recognition?
You up your game.
Until the end of October, the entire borough of Merchantville is donning a costume, changing its name to Monsterville, and hosting a series of Halloween-themed activities designed to showcase its love of all things seasonally spooky. The re-brand was made official by borough ordinance, but the hard work will be carried out by local volunteers, said Monsterville Mayor Ted Brennan.
“A lot of what Merchantville is is community involvement, and this is the epitome of the community being involved,” Brennan said. “Halloween is one of those holidays where mostly everybody’s involved. We said, ‘Let’s really go all in.’ Halloween is something that we think Merchantville can own.”
Last year, the borough transformed a handful of homes into spooky attractions through its Haunts of Merchantville decorating contest.
The “Golden Broomstick” award is up for grabs again for this year’s winner.
The Monsterville School is hosting a haunted house Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., with a lights-on, not-so-haunted house for younger kids from 6 to 7 p.m. Proceeds benefit the eighth-grade class.
On Saturday, at the Monsterville Farmers Market, Borough Clerk Denise Brouse will lead children in Make-a-Minion hay bale crafting. For $20, families can take their hay bales home; there’s no charge for kids who want to leave them as decorations for the Monsterville downtown.
Next Saturday is the town’s final farmers market of the season, and as such, Monsterville will stretch the holiday with games, decorations, and live entertainment. Finally, on Halloween, neighborhood kids are invited to go “Safe Trick-or-Treating” in the borough downtown business district from 2 to 8 p.m., the same hours during which the Haunts of Monsterville will be open for visits. (Maps with participating homes will be available at farmers market October 29.)
Monsterville Councilwoman Katherine Swann said the idea of embracing Halloween was a natural fit for a community that already celebrates the holiday well.
“For a small town like us, it’s trying to find what makes you stand out,” Swann said.
“Instead of fabricating something, we took something that we’re already doing and we’re already good at and said, ‘Why don’t we highlight this?’”
Swann, who grew up in the borough and moved back as an adult, said that even 30 years after she left, “the tradition of this crazy Halloween carries on through different residents.
“When we moved in, I asked my neighbors about the best place to go [to see decorated houses], and they said, ‘Walnut Avenue,’” Swann remembers.
“I walked down there with my husband,” she said. “We turned the corner and saw the kids running in their costumes, the leaves falling. It looked like a movie set. It’s the housing stock, the old trees, and what the people here put into it, the energy and the creativity.”
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