Yet Halloween on Hillcrest Avenue is a celebration of what so many of us already have lost – an authentic sense of community.
For 20 years, Halloween on Hillcrest has been the rarest of traditions in the alienated 21st century, a totally organic outbreak of fun, with no coordination, no planning and no one in charge.
Just the fun of living in a neighborhood where house after house has elaborate, clever Halloween decorations ranging from the macabre to the zany.
And enough lights and action to attract tens of thousands of people from the rest of Louisville all the way to Australia.
The problem is, that kind of popularity is tough to accommodate when you’re talking about three busy city blocks linking congested Frankfort Avenue north to equally congested Brownsboro Road. After a girl was struck by a car near the event last year, Louisville officials are talking about designating Halloween on Hillcrest a formal festival, with all the additional security costs, licenses and oversight that would entail.
To locals, that would be the stake through the heart, so to speak. And something they’ve avoided all these years.
“Mars Candies approached us years ago to sponsor this. To put signs up and hand out their candy,” said Hillcrest resident Jerry Cole. “And we said, ‘No.’
“We always feared that kind of change. Closed streets. Vendors,” Cole said.
“This is a community event. And we have a real sense of community.”
For the people who participate, it’s not just Halloween night. Residents get together and – let’s just say it – party hard for three weeks leading up to October 31.
That includes Julie Buckler, who moved to Hillcrest in Crescent Hill five years ago from Rose Island Road on the Oldham County border. Buckler said she didn’t know – and her Realtor never mentioned – that she was moving to Halloween Central. Her life hasn’t been the same.
Now, Buckler monitors Ebay through the year to add to her decorations, which have their own storage area in her basement. As Halloween approaches, there are more get-togethers in the neighborhood, she said. Cocktail parties float from home to home. “You meet your neighbors,” Buckler said. “That’s what I think is the neat thing about it. You actually meet people!”
Walk either direction on Hillcrest and you’ll meet people from all over Louisville and from out in the state. They file up and down the sidewalks, stopping to chat with homeowners who are more likely to be in costume the closer it gets to the big night.
What’s changed for 2010 is a fear that this will be the last year. A “Save the Hillcrest Halloween” sentiment runs throughout conversations.
Darryl Joughin, who has one of the largest displays, complete with several versions of the dead Elvis, lobbies visitors as they stop in, telling them to call the city government hotline and “save Hillcrest.”
Some residents think the likelihood of Hillcrest Halloween turning into something on the scale of a St. James Art Festival, a “trick or tchotchkes” sell-out, is overstated.
David Carpenter, who stands about seven feet tall in his long-eared bunny suit, says he doubts city officials will follow through: “This is going to stay the same.”
But Hillcrest resident David Bos says the city “has put a pall over the event.
“We’re going to have to buy an events license just to have our homes decorated for Halloween?
“Give me a break!”