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Turn down any street in Towson's Rodgers Forge neighborhood in October and you'll be greeted by an army of ghosts, scarecrows, ghouls and, perched on a sun porch in the 200 block of Dunkirk Road, a neighborhood witch nicknamed "Donna the Dead."

The voice-activated animatronic witch, clad in a tattered gown and with green eyes that light up, has been a fixture of Halloween in front of the Burns family home, in Rodgers Forge, for more than a decade.

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"The little kids love it," homeowner Vicky Burns said of Donna. "When they come onto the lawn and clap their hands she moans. Her eyes roll over and they get bright green. It's been a great thing. Halloween is just terrific here."

With six days to go until Halloween, Burns and other residents of Rodgers Forge are counting down to the night when their neighborhood comes alive. About 1,800 households make up the community, which lies just north of the Baltimore City line, according to the Rodgers Forge Community Association.

In Rodgers Forge, Halloween is all about the traditional and this year will be no different, Burns promised.

The Cockeysville Volunteer Fire Department will host their annual haunted maze at the firehouse Oct. 27. The free event will be held at 11210 York Road from 5 to 9 p.m.

"I've had people visiting from out of the country who come up and take pictures," Burns said of Donna. "This neighborhood is Halloween central."

Andy Hanes and his wife, Heidi Hutchison, moved to Rodgers Forge in 2007. Over the past 10 years, they've accumulated an increasing number of decorations picked up on sale after the holiday ends each year.

"We were told about Halloween being really fun before we moved [to Rodgers Forge] but I feel like it's gotten even more fun the last few years, with more and more houses decorating," said Hanes, who lives in the 300 block of Dunkirk Road.

Hanes, Hutchison and their 8-year-old son, Gabe Hanes, and 15-year-old daughter, Olivia Giggey, decorate each year together in the same way some families decorate for Christmas. Ghosts, skeletons and other monsters are displayed throughout their front yard and in the large bay window of their house.

"It's become a tradition," Hanes said. Lately, a skeleton hanging from his front door has scared some of the younger neighbors, but the decor is a part of what makes the neighborhood special for residents, many of whom are raising young children, Hanes said.

The enthusiasm Hanes and his neighbors hold for the holiday is not merely a local phenomena. Halloween is booming nationwide. A National Retail Federation report said consumers are expected to spend a record $9.1 billion on costumes, decorations and candy this year, up from $8.4 billion last year.

The average household is expected to spend around $86 on Halloween and more than 70 percent of Americans are expected to celebrate the holiday this year — an 18 percentage point increase since 2005, the retail group said.

On Halloween night in Rodgers Forge, neighbors will bring fire pits into the small front yards of the tree-lined streets. Hanes' neighbors on Dunkirk Road will host an annual block party with each house contributing a dish to share while children and their parents go trick-or-treating door-to-door.

On Murdock Road, a few blocks from Hanes, Ivana Lipscomb began decorating her home when she felt the first touch of cool fall air. On Sept. 29, she pulled out several totes of Halloween decor and let her boys, Tesla, 5, and Arthur, 9, "go at it." They set up tombstones, skeletons and spider webs in the front yard.

"This is the absolute best neighborhood in [Towson] for Halloween," asserts Lipscomb, who moved with her family to Rodgers Forge, from Guilford, in 2012.

"Everybody was telling us, 'Just wait until Halloween. Just wait," Lipscomb said. "Even parents love Halloween here."

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For the 17th year, Towson Area Citizens on Patrol will increase its volunteer patrol efforts throughout Towson in hopes of deterring vandalism, destruction of property and general mischievous activi

The local elementary school participates in the fun, according to Rodgers Forge Elementary School principal Missy Fanshaw.

On Halloween morning, the school will host its annual costume parade, which moves through portions of Rodgers Forge with stops along the way where students can wave to parents before looping back to the school.

Rodgers Forge Elementary teachers, faculty and staff participate in the festivities with a themed group costume that's kept a secret until Halloween.

"It's an American tradition," Fanshaw said. "It's a part of our culture. Kids love to dress and be something that they want to be or do one day. It's an interest of theirs, and it's a good way to take a break and all of us can be a kid that day—myself included — with dressing up."

Though lively, the atmosphere of Rogers Forge's festivities is family friendly, according to residents.

Members of Towson Area Citizens On Patrol, a community watch group, will patrol Towson neighborhoods that have high numbers of children, including Rodgers Forge, according to Pat France, the group's vice president.

"A lot of [trick-or-treaters] have black or dark outfits and you can't see them crossing the streets," France said. "Some of the older kids are not chaperoned and run around so often the [Citizens On Patrol] members of that neighborhood will go out and patrol make sure the kids are safe."

France suggests that parents keep a watchful eye on the items their children receive in their trick-or-treat bags and approach only the houses of those who have turned on their lights.

"There's an unwritten rule that if the lights are out your kid should not knock on the door," France said. "The kids pretty much respect that and most do. Some neighbors [may not be home or up to participating] so they turn their light out."

Locals in the Catonsville and Arbutus areas are keeping Halloween traditions alive

When it comes time to enjoy the spoils of hard-earned trick-or-treating labor, Baltimore County Police officials also suggest parents check the content of their children's bags for unwrapped candy, loose pieces and fruit for signs of tampering.

Police will also patrol neighborhoods throughout the night, according to Baltimore Police Capt. Jan Brown, commander of Towson's Precinct. 6. Children are encouraged to walk with others and drivers should watch for children in dark costumes, Brown said.

As for 8-year-old Gabe Hanes, he plans to dress for Halloween as The Flash, a comic book hero with superhuman speed. After a quick loop of the neighborhood with his father, Gabe plans to quickly return home to hand out Mr. Goodbars and check out his friend's costumes when they stop by for candy, he said.

"We make it to the end of the block and back," Gabe said of his trick-or-treating plans. "That's all you need to hit and you're good here."



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