For William Street residents, Halloween is a marathon. The first ring of the doorbell is like the pop of the gun fired at the start of the race. Still, in the long run, each year is a sweet victory for the people who open their doors to dinosaurs, bumblebees, and a kid dressed as a candy-munching Pac-Man.
For some reason, every community has that one street that becomes a prime target for candy seekers. In Vineyard Haven that street is William Street, a row of about 20 historic houses that welcomes trick-or-treaters from all over the Island. It’s a treat for the people who live there, as they are audience to the cutest parade of the year.
It wasn’t always as big as it is now. “What really changed is the people in the houses,” Susan Branch, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1989, said. “We do so much more than we used to.” Another resident, Paul Doherty, said the tradition is taken seriously by the homeowners, as an important responsibility. “Otherwise it could easily die out,” he said.
For these dedicated few, the preparation is demanding. Last year, Mr. Doherty collected 2,000 bags of chips for the big night, 1,223 of which he gave out. Ms. Branch said she bought 10 bags of treats, adding up to 1,500 candies. Lowely Finnerty buys at least $100 worth each year, and April and Michael Levandowski stocked up on 1,172 candy bars for this year’s trick-or-treaters. Most said they will run out by the end of the night.
The house owners have guests over to help them answer the door, and as the night goes on, they need it. At the night’s peak, which is around dusk, lines of 20 to 40 kids began to form. “It’s a sea of people in the street,” Mrs. Levandowski said, describing the scene.
While some residents felt like the holiday had reached its peak several years ago, others expect that each year will bring a larger crowd. The number of doorbell rings per household ranges anywhere from 400 to 1,200 throughout the night. And according to resident Bob Crane, there are only 14 or so houses handing out candy. There are a number of dark houses every Halloween that are summer homes. It creates a strain on those who become responsible for the majority of the trick-or-treaters’ candy stash.
According to Mr. Doherty, the neighborhood residents wanted to have more control over the event this year. “The residents of William Street in Vineyard Haven have met and decided to limit the hours offered to trick-or-treaters this year from 5 to 8 pm,” he wrote in a letter published in last week’s MV Times. A plan to have candy donated was scrapped for safety reasons. Still, the residents are helped by friends who contribute enough candy to feed the hungry masses. Rich Soo Hoo of Sterling Insurance Group donated candy to several residents, including Mr. Doherty and Mr. Crane.
Not only did they hope limited hours might downsize the crowd to a manageable size, they also hoped that calming down the event would encourage residents to continue taking part in future years. “We don’t want it to stop, but more and more people are shutting their lights off,” Mr. Doherty said.
But even with the pressure of the crowds, the residents expressed resounding love for the holiday. “For our Island, it’s great that there’s a place that people can come and feel safe to walk in the streets,” Ms. Finnerty said.
“It’s a pleasant role to be in,” said Ms. Branch, “because we remember it for ourselves, and we want to make it nice for them.”