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September 18, 2014
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The nightmare before Christmas

Tannis Kowalchuk was on hand to greet Pumpkin Fest visitors at the tenth annual party in Barryville, NY.


It’s no secret that winter is on the horizon. I don’t know about city folk, but here in the Upper Delaware River valley, we see the telltale signs everywhere. There has already been frost on the pumpkins, and squirrels are madly foraging for the abundance of acorns dotting the landscape this year—a sure sign that we had all better prepare to hunker down. Knowing the answer, I still visited the “country bible” at www.farmersalmanac.com, which did not allay my fears.

Having moved just two short months ago, I’m a bit frightened by my lack of preparation. With storm windows, shovels and still-missing scarves on my mind, I’m trying not to panic and to enjoy Halloween (my favorite holiday), autumn and all that precedes Jack Frost (and his girlfriend, Suzy Snowflake) knockin’ on the window sill. With harvest festivals giving way to haunted mansions, I’m scratching my (still hairless) head, determined to conjure up a good costume for the plethora of parties looming on the horizon. Last Saturday, Dharma and I spent the day celebrating with friends and neighbors at the 10th annual Pumpkin Fest in Barryville, NY (www.barryville.com), where folks turned out to enjoy the music, food and contests.

Thankfully, Halloween is not just for kids, and although I wasn’t in costume, there were plenty of adults who were, parading about in fall finery and competing in separate categories for prizes with the adorable kids. Trophies were awarded for best doggy attire (a pig won!), Jack O’ Lanterns, decorated stalls and the requisite pie-eating frenzy (pumpkin, of course). Everyone had a ball and The River Reporter’s photo booth was a popular destination, where one could have a souvenir picture taken—a shot of one’s self on the front page. To view this photo album, visit www.facebook.com/riverreporter where you can tag and share the pics with your pals.

Bidding adieu to summer, I observed the last of the Canada geese taking off, like a bat out of hell, and acknowledged the onset of things that go bump in the night. Clueless as to the whereabouts of my spooky decorations, I am enjoying scouring the countryside for my neighbors’ efforts, who (IMHO) all deserve prizes themselves. On my way home from the festival, I screeched to a halt in North Branch, NY and knocked on Jennie Bauernfeind’s door, overwhelmed by the Halloween diorama that she and her husband create every year spanning their property. Bauernfeind happily gave me a tour while I captured the display on film, and then she cautioned me (and my excitement) by saying, “If you like the scary display, wait till you see what we do for Christmas!”

Still determined to bask in witches, cauldrons and ghosts, I assured her that I would return for their winter wonderland and I made my way home, admiring the corn stalks and scarecrows adorning barns and doorways across the region. Hitting the Internet, I swooned at the possibilities. “Hell-O-Roma” (www.villaroma.com) is already in full swing and, even though I’m a fraidy-cat, I’m planning to screw up some courage and visit. Determined to face my fear head on (with a nod to the horseman who rides like the wind), I noted that another graveyard awaits on the far side (www.theoldstonehouseofhasbrouck.org), while Milford, PA (http://www.greytowers.org) prepares to scare with their traditional cemetery tours and an evening with Edgar Allan Poe.

Imagination in overdrive, I’m still trying to figure out what to wear and where to go, knowing that costume parties are in the works all around the Catskills. Attempting to out-do my “Where’s Waldo” success of a few years back (www.dancingcatsaloon.com), I have a few ideas floating around my skull, but still I’m waiting for inspiration to strike. I’ve yet to learn ventriloquism, so the dog may or may not play a part in my presentation, although she will be spied in many locations this season judging a variety of canine costume contests that she’s been invited to.

Although I’m a little spooked about how severe this winter might be, I’m saving the fright for another day and am concentrating on scaring up some fun in the next few weeks. To that end, I’m reaching out to the community to keep me posted on all things Halloween. For those who have yet to inform, please advise by e-mailing events@riverreporter.com, as my creepy calendar fills up quickly and I’d hate to miss out on your ghoulish plans. Leaving no (head) stone unturned in my quest, I’m busily creeping around your corner, seeking a frightfully good time. Holding Santa at bay for a bit, let us have the spine tingle before the bells jingle. A nightmare before Christmas? Bring it on!