Halloween 'tis the season for decorating

In bygone days, residents and businesses mainly only decorated for Christmas. Then Thanksgiving and fall became popular. Now, it seems almost common practice to break out your best vampires, witches and other ghastly ghouls to scare up a fantastic Halloween display in front of the home or store.

If you're feeling that All Hallows' Eve is becoming more of a commercialized holiday rather than one dedicated to kids begging for candy from neighbors, you might be right.

According to the National Retail Federation survey, 161 million Americans — roughly 68.6 percent —intend to celebrate Halloween this year, the highest amount in the survey's nine-year history. The average person will spend $72.31 on decorations, costumes and candy, the survey said. The 2010 average was $66.28.

Out of the people celebrating, nearly half, 49.5 percent, will decorate their homes and/or yard, and Halloween decorations are second only to money spent on Christmas décor. Two people adding to that statistic for the past several decades: Rose and John Schunter, of Street.

The couple has been putting up decorations in front of their home, not only for Halloween, but also for every holiday, since they got married 40 years ago. This year, John Schunter, 69, went a little easy, however, since he's had recent health issues. Instead of the full display of inflated witches, spiders, ghosts and bats, the couple went for a "small" pumpkin patch motif, with plastic and fiberglass pumpkins (which light up, of course) in their yard and lining the front of their house.

"He loves doing it," Ruth Schunter, 67, said of her husband. "He's disappointed he couldn't do more this year." Normally, Schunter said, they get family, including grandkids and great grandkids, to help. She hopes that her husband will be well enough to go all out for Christmas.

"It takes a little time to get all of that done," Schunter said of the elaborate displays. Right now, her husband's big project has been switching all of the lights in the pumpkins to LEDs, "so it costs a 10th of what it [the electricity bill] used to."

Businesses have also been decorating for the occasion, including Friendly's, on Main Street in Bel Air.

Lindsay McCusker, a manager at the Bel Air restaurant, said they have an inflatable "ghost and skeleton man pulling a carriage and a giant Grim Reaper." A giant cat and spider are also taking up a large patch of grass in front of Friendly's.

"Customers say they like them," McCusker said of the decorations. "When [families] are doing eating, they take the kids to look at them." She added that "it's mostly the kids that make the decision to eat there, more so than the parents, so we might as well make it fun."


All trick or treating is set on Halloween, Monday, Oct. 31 -- Aberdeen: 5-8 p.m.; Bel Air: 5-8 p.m.; Havre de Grace: 6-8 p.m.; Perryville: 6-8 p.m. and Port Deposit: 5-8 p.m., with a party during that time.


From the Harford County Sheriff's Office:

• Clear yards and sidewalks of anything that may be hard to see in the dark.

• Keep houses well lit, inside and out.

• Report suspicious or criminal activity to law enforcement.

• Ensure costumes are flame-retardant so children are safe around lit objects, such as jack-o'-lanterns and candles.

• Keep costumes short to prevent tripping and falling.

• Look for brightly-colored costumes, attach reflector strips to costumes and bags and have children carry glow sticks and flashlights.

• If a costume involves a fake weapon, make sure it's a flexible material, such as cardboard or foam.

• Older kids should trick-or-treat in groups. Younger kids should be accompanied by a parent or neighbor.

• Review trick-or-treating routes and set a time for when children should return home.

• Remind children not to enter strange houses or cars.

• Remind your children not to eat candy until they are home.

• Check all treats at home, and be wary of anything not factory wrapped or sealed.

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