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Commentary: Halloween Is Big in Kenmore

By Ed Adamczyk

Kenmore, NY – Except for the memory of walking in icy slush, ankle-deep and chocolate-colored, to a mini-mart emptied of beer and batteries, I'll refrain from reminiscing about last October's weather irregularity. Let others recall history. Me, I'm thinking future-forward, like the citizens of my hometown of Kenmore. For the past three or so weeks, it's been time again to find those ornaments, grab our ladders, and bedeck our homes. We're counting down to Kenmore's favorite holiday, Halloween.

This tiny village, with so many churches and a certain rock-steady air of tranquility to it, inexplicably embraces Halloween as earnestly as New Orleans does Mardi Gras. Not with overindulgence and depravity (if someone does, he or she has not invited me), but with an enthusiasm not found elsewhere in Western New York.

It is common, even expected, to decorate our homes for Halloween here, to make our tidy, mortgaged residences looked like replicas of the Addams Family mansion. Those front lawns we've knocked ourselves out to maintain, all summer, are given over to simulated neglected cemeteries featuring cardboard tombstones, botched funerals with unburied limbs and airborne rubber bats. A friend was thrilled to find his name on a Colvin Avenue headstone, a few years back; he once lived in the neighborhood, and considered it a tribute.

A neat and orderly home on Lowell Road was expertly decorated, and thoroughly covered, with shimmering black and orange lights. In September. Except for the color choices, it makes a beautiful Christmas display.

I can understand the joy of Halloween for any property owner too old to go trick-or-treating. It's an opportunity for homemade creativity, a chance to be an amateur set decorator. For a little while, we are artists, and our canvas is the front of our houses. Face it, it's not the kids who take our precious homes and temporarily turn them into Castle Frankenstein.

If you've been alive in America for any of the past sixty years, you've wallowed in movies, television, and variations of spookiness that include Bela Lugosi, Alice Cooper, and Marilyn Manson (and let's not forget Michael Jackson), and while the many TV car chases and cattle roundups you've vicariously experienced may be off-limits, you can nonetheless grab a little Hollywood horror and make it your own.

Anyone can claim Halloween, and many do, but why does Kenmore get so particularly caught up? The big night is nearly upon us, and daily, more and more cobwebs, mummy wrappings and giant spiders made from two basketballs and a garbage bag have been installed on local lawns, on porches, on porch roofs. A few days ago a neighbor was testing his soundtrack for Halloween; Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, with that bracing and ominous organ solo we equate with scariness, filled the air and disconcerted the squirrels.

People, be assured this sort of thing is not occurring, at this level, elsewhere. It's a church-going community, it was not built on the sort of graveyard we remember from the penultimate scene of the film "Poltergeist," and the police here admirably keep an eye on things. The answer lies elsewhere. My favorite theory is that the 1970s-era graduates of Kenmore West High School, who passed through that school when it was legendary for encouragement of creative expression, are the ones taking Halloween in Kenmore so seriously. Still inspired, after all these years.

Listener-commentator Ed Adamczyk is village historian in Kenmore.

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