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CARLISLE — It’s been four years since Stephanie Patterson Gilbert approached the Downtown Carlisle Association with her idea to attract kids to the borough’s eclectic mix of storefronts.

“I was in middle school the first time this downtown area died,” she said. “I really wanted to find a way to introduce kids to all the unique stores downtown, since they are otherwise used to shopping at malls.”

Patterson Gilbert, who worked at a mall during college, said her employer’s annual trick-or-treat events inspired her to create something similar for families in Carlisle.

Glenn White, executive director of the Downtown Carlisle Association, said he was happy to learn of the event.

“The first thing we said was ‘Yes,’ and the next thing was ‘What can we do to help?’” he said.

Thus, Spooky Saturday was born.

“This is one of my favorite events that the town does, and the kids are adorable,” said Sarah Taby, owner of Miss Ruth’s Time Bomb on West High Street. “I think it’s a nice, safe family event with the ability to be out during the day when its warm, instead of being cold and in the dark.”

Taby, who sported a Rainbow Brite costume for the occasion, and her Labradoodle, Charlie, spent Saturday afternoon handing out candy to the streams of costumed children trickling inside. Last year’s Spooky Saturday drew around 300 children, Taby said.

A few stores down on West High Street, Whistlestop Bookshop owner Jeff Wood said he prepares for the event by placing a basket of candy on display near the front door.

“It’s a great program to bring kids down when it’s daylight,” he said. “And it’s a good excuse to bring them into shops they might not otherwise visit.”

For 6-year-old Savannah Jones and her 3-year-old brother, Leland, the Whistlestop Bookshop was just one of many unusual stops on their first visit to downtown Carlisle.

“We don’t get down here too much, so we’ve always wanted to come and walk around,” said Louis Jones, their father. “So we are killing two birds with one stone.”

This year, 27 different downtown businesses handed out candy — some of which, Patterson Gilbert says, were unexpected first-time participants.

“We have a law firm, a real estate agency, a shoe repair store,” she said. “They weren’t businesses that I traditionally invited to participate, but they wanted to be a part of it, so that was great.”

White says the success of any downtown revitalization effort hinges on the cooperation of multiple businesses. He says the association is very supportive of Spooky Saturday and similar events, including the Easter Bunny Hop.

Patterson Gilbert says she hopes to create more events in the future that will draw children downtown.

Email Christen Croley at or follow her on Twitter @SentinelCroley

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