CARLISLE — Five-year-old Zane Williams was eager to show off his Red Ranger Super Megaforce martial arts skills as he wandered down West High Street in search of candy, fully dressed as the Red Ranger himself.
Williams had plenty of company, as hundreds of young superheroes, princesses and blockheads swarmed in and out of downtown Carlisle businesses for the fifth annual “Spooky Saturday” Saturday, providing the afternoon trick-or-treat event with its largest ever turnout.
Stephanie Patterson Gilbert, “Spooky Saturday” organizer and owner of Georgie Lou’s Retro Candy & Gifts in downtown Carlisle, said 350 children had visited her shop in the first one-and-a-half hours of the noon to 3 p.m. event.
That’s at least double the turnout of previous years, Patterson Gilbert said. She credited word-of-mouth and sunny skies for the increased participation.
“We couldn’t have anticipated this many people,” she said. “I think, because it’s the fifth year, people know to look forward to it.”
Take Jason and Tara Owings, Carlisle residents who witnessed the event while driving last year and decided to bring their 3-year-old son Porter Owings trick-or-treating this year.
“It’s great. We live right in town, so we were able to walk right over. There’s a ton of businesses, and it’s good to see people out,” Tara Owings said.
Patterson Gilbert is glad to see the increasing numbers of appreciative participants, since furthering a sense of community in downtown Carlisle was one of the reasons she started “Spooky Saturday” in the first place.
“(Growing up) I heard a lot of stories about how downtown Carlisle used to be — how it used to be the center of the community, and you could come down and spend all day. So I’m trying to get families to come down and realize what we have down here,” she said.
Holding the event in the afternoon provides a safer trick-or-treat opportunity for children in neighborhoods that are not well lit or don’t have many residencies that participate in trick-or-treat, she said.
The fifth annual “Spooky Saturday” also included 10 more candy stops than in any previous years, Patterson Gilbert said. There were a total of 37 stops on High, Pitt, and Hanover streets, mainly businesses but also including destinations like Bosler Memorial Library, First United Church of Christ, and American Legion Post 101.
The Williams family — including Zane the Red Ranger, 4-year-old fairy princess Zoe, and parents Brian and Kristen — had attended “Spooky Saturday” in previous years. Brian Williams was impressed by the increased number of participating businesses this time around.
“I think everything that brings people downtown is good,” Kristen Williams said.
Castlerigg Wine Shop on South Hanover Street, which opened in November 2013, was one of the businesses providing treats to astronauts and zombies for the first time. Owner and manager Alan Tumblin, dressed as William Wallace, from “Braveheart,” in blue and white face paint, said he wanted to show his solidarity with the Carlisle community.
Plus, Tumblin used to love trick-or-treating as a child.
“I live out in the country,” he said. “We just don’t get many (trick-or-treaters) at the house, so this is a nice way to do it.”
For businesses more focused on the financial bottom line, Patterson Gilbert believes participating in “Spooky Saturday” and bringing an anticipated total of about 250 families into your business just makes financial sense.
“Families get to come into your store, and even if it’s for a minute, they can see that you’re here and what you have to offer,” she said. “For a couple of $10 bags of candy, you just can’t miss out on that advertising, that community spirit, and just the feel-good spirit that this generates.”