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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

October in Canada: Halloween 2016

Halloween is one of my favourite times of the year. Late enough in Autumn for the leaves to change colour, with just enough chill to remind you that [...], Halloween has always been a festive time of year for me.

Last year, you may remember that my friends and I outfitted a garage, making a haunted tour for children of the neighbourhood outside of Toronto, Canada. Well, this year, with Juliette with us, we stepped up our game, so please, come check out Halloween 2016!

Halloween is not really celebrated in France. For many here, it is seen as a ridiculous and overly-commercial affair not suited to French culture. While I understand these points, I have always held a special place in my heart for Halloween.

While it has drifted from its Pagan roots, and has indeed become quite the commercial event, I find Halloween to be an excellent opportunity for community and creativity to flourish. Halloween allows people of all ages to come together in the pursuit of the different, the strange, spooky, and fun of costuming and pretend. While some may not see the merit in fantasy, I think that, like anything, moderation and a good understanding of the practice are key.

My friends and family have always enjoyed Halloween. I remember Halloween nights as a young child, where my parents would take my sister and me into town to go door-to-door, getting candy, and then on to my Nannie's home for hugs and even more candy! It was a fun night, always, and always celebrated safely with friends and family.

As I grew older, the traditions changed, but the spirit remained the same. Costume parties with friends, hosting events at university, and for the past two years, making a haunted garage!

Juliette was extremely excited for Halloween! She loves all things spooky, but has limited access to the season thanks to the prevailing opinions of France. So, after hearing all about last year's garage, Juliette took great enthusiasm in trying to help us outdo ourselves.

First, we started with signs. We had a fair turnout last year, but I knew we could do better. In typical fashion, I had envisioned something simple, with the information needed, and Juliette went above and beyond.

She made up 4 of these amazing signs, and wrapped them in clear wrap so they would be weather-proof! We hung the first one together and she hung the remaining 3 with my sister, ensuring neighbours from many streets away would know all about it!

Next, the outer decorations. In all aspects but planning, we were behind schedule. With Halloween being on a Monday, we knew that we would have less help, and fewer decorators/volunteers. While Mike and Sarah's neighbours had their decorations up for at least a week now, there was nothing on the McKenna lawn. 

That is, until the morning of Halloween. Over the course of the day, various people took turns adding decorations and spooky flair to the front yard. There was the crime scene, complete with detached limbs, body, evidence markers, and caution tape.

There were spooky ghosts, whose eyes flashed in the dark and changed colours. Special thanks to Marco and Meredith, as these were reused decorations from their wedding!

The front lawn was then decorated, setting the tone. Spiderwebs, tombstones, and even a jack-o'-lantern made by Sarah!

James, Fiona, Sarah, Juliette, Alex, me, and Danielle "pose" as a team

Inside, Mike, Alex, and I were working on construction. Mike and I had fashioned the walls the night before. Last year, our main attractions were Alex's Shadow Theatre, and a spooky hologram. This year, we kept the Shadow Theatre and replaced the hologram with a faux wall. We also moved everything to the left side of the garage, so as to allow parents an unobstructed view of the entire tour from the outside. Children could enter, move past all the decorations, and out the back of the garage without leaving their parents' eyesight.

The faux wall was brilliant, I must say. Made mostly with wood, tape, and some white cloth, it turned out even better than I had hoped. 

Mike and I had a funny experience while buying the cloth. While at Fabricland, we waited in line to get the material cut. The lady asked us how much we wanted, and Mike said, "I want 9 square metres of this material." The lady looked at him as if he had spoken Klingon.

"I'm sorry?" she asked.

"I want enough cloth to cover an area of 9 square meters." he said.

She blinked at him and shook her head, not understanding.

Now, both of us had been to Fabricland before. Both of us knew how it worked, that the fabric is cut according to a standard width, and by request of fabric length, but neither of us expected this to be a problem.

When I saw the confusion, I tried asking how wide was the bolt of cloth. If we knew the standard width, we could just give her the length we'd need. 

Extra "problem" was that the material was looped. It wasn't simply folded over the bolt as normal, it was one long tube, joined in the middle.

And apparently that just added to the poor woman's confusion. She shook her head and apologized, pulling out a calculator. People in line were trying to help, and between a lot of people talking over each other, Mike finally said, "Just...just give me $20 worth."

Math is not everyone's strong suit, and thankfully the woman was good-natured about it, joking that this is why you "never send men to order fabric", but I did find it odd that the concept of area was confusing. Oh well, it was a busy day in the store, let's move on.

So, after making the main walls, Mike, Alex, and I worked on the faux wall. Stretching the white fabric across the supports, and putting some supports on the outside, we made the faux wall appear real. Hanging some pieces of gardening tools was the perfect touch.

The rest of the day was spent on the finishing touches. Getting the light in just the right place for the shadow theatre, putting up more cobwebs and candles, finding the right place for the smoke machine, setting the hanging lanterns in just the right place so the children would be unconsciously led throughout the garage, these are just some of the things we worked on over the course of the day.

I couldn't fit the walkthrough on my blog so, just like last year, please follow this link for the spooky tour!

The result was fantastic! We had a much larger turnout than last year, and everything was a lot smoother this time. The Shadow Theatre was loved by all, as Alex and Mike took turns frightening and entertaining children of all ages.

The faux wall was well-received, when it was perceived. Despite the walkway being designed carefully to draw attention to the faux wall, many people seemed to walk right past it, missing the effect.

We tried luring people closer with candy, which sounds bad when you think about it, but people focused on the candy and missed the hands and faces trying to push through and scare them. Some moved too quickly through the garage, missing the cue for the wall, and as always, communication was an issue. 

The people on the inside, running the theatre and the wall, were not able to see the children, so some of their cues were out of sync. You may notice that in our walkthroughs. 

It happens, and it's all part of the experience. Next year, we'll know better, and be able to design the experience in such a way that the exhibitors know when to go, and so that the children have the best experience possible.

Despite these issues, the Haunted Garage was a huge success! We had people coming from so far away that they were being dropped off just to check out the garage! We had kids trying to go through several times for candy, and many parents complimented our work.

The best part about this year's setup was that it was easy to close down for the night. Simply move one of the make-shift walls a foot back, and close the garage door.

Once done, we moved inside to have our own party. Juliette and I switched costumes, switching from Chewbacca and Ned Stark, to a Starfleet Science Officer and Admiral, respectively. 

Sarah and Fiona made us all a lovely meal, and we all watched The Addams Family. I had been wanting to watch this film for a long time, loving the actors and the ridiculously awesome concept of the family. Honestly, if you've never thought about it, think about how great of a couple Gomez and Morticia Addams make. The film may be wacky, but it embraces the spirit of the season and I absolutely love it!

And that concludes our night, Halloween 2016! It was an amazing time, full of laughter and great costumes. Thanks to Mike and Sarah for hosting, and everyone who showed up and worked hard! However you decided to spend your October 31st, I hope it was full of fun, creativity, and excitement! Thanks for reading!

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