Editorial: Locally, Halloween both safe and creative

November 2, 2011

Safe Halloween.

Those are welcome words to all parents, and they hold true as we look back on the event-filled Monday night in Hood River County.

Community groups help make it happen. Heights and Downtown business associations, community groups, local churches, and Providence Health System, are just a few of the groups that work every year to create a wide variety of choices for kids and families for celebrating Halloween.

Kudos also to Paul Henke and his crew of scaremeisters at the annual MDA haunted house, who transformed a soon-to-be demolished home and former business into a popular attraction for a good cause.

With all the community trick-or-treats, haunted houses and gentler community events such as carnivals, there was so much to chose from it was like, well, like being a kid in a candy store.

Halloween comes with nefarious underpinnings rooted not only in the superstitions of traditional ghosts and witches but in urban legends of poisoned candy and apples laced with needles. Few such incidents have ever been documented, but modern worries including "stranger danger" and nighttime motor traffic have fueled an enduring and understandable public nervousness over Halloween.

Perhaps what has gradually saved Halloween is its commercialization: the modern marketers' transformation of Halloween into an adult celebration, from "sexy pirate" costumes to yard décor akin to Yule displays, has reconnected many adults to the Halloween joys of the past. With Dad dressing up like Dumbledore, it's a lot safer for little Harry Potters to revel in the pleasant and vicarious autumnal chills with less worry about real-life Voldemorts.

But at its base, Halloween remains chiefly child's play and the community deserves credit for creating such a plethora of fun, safe events.

The schools must be included in this. Some adapt to Halloween costume wearing, as seen Friday in Cascade Locks. Others use Halloween as a way to tap into students' creativity regarding literature, giving students the opportunity to select a favorite character and create a costume and parade it, as Westside Elementary does each year.

At Cascade Locks, teachers forged an interesting blend of the two approaches. The kids wore costumes, and a carnival on Friday afternoon featured games of skill, with books for prizes, organized by the PTO. It came on the last day of the school's Book Week, and tied in well, even featuring scary stories done in readers' theater by sixth graders, to the great entertainment of the primary kids.

In the Cascade Locks carnival, anyone wanting to try the softball toss had to tell teacher Laurie Wheeler a story. It needed be simple, just two or three lines; students either looked at a photo or a special book with text prompts and stood and delivered pieces of their own imagination before tossing a ball.

That kind of teachable moment is far sweeter than any bite of Halloween candy.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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