Thirty-eight carved pumpkins. A dozen-plus scarecrows. Two Egyptian pharaohs. Countless sparkling lights. One fairy princess.
And a wicked witch in a dark tree.
The above are a list of decorations from the Halloween bash last Friday, even though they may sound like a Halloween-themed mini-version of The Twelve Days of Christmas. (Are you listening, Mount Washington musicians?)
The Lost-and-Found Witches
The two thousand-plus people who attended the SRF’s annual Halloween party can confirm that the aforementioned props were only a fraction of the night’s visual treats. The Fellowship nuns, for instance, were dressed as dancing girls and Renaissance ladies and butterflies and witches.
For some inexplicable reason, the witches were stationed at the Lost and Found table. I remember my Grimm's fairy tales, and I’m pretty certain that combining witches and lost children rarely ended well.
Maybe the idea was to scare the kids straight.
“Only three tonight!” said the super friendly witch when I inquired about lost children. It seemed like a surprisingly small percentage for a crowd of thousands. The witch also said something about cell phones. I tried to clarify if she was talking about cell phones that were lost or lost children who were found because of cell phones. The witch couldn’t answer, though. She had to help a woman who’d lost a big ring.
Those witches. Always on the job.
The Queen of Halloween Still Rules
There were no cell phones when we first started attending the party back in the eighties. Kids either clutched white-knuckled parental hands, rode proudly--or anxiously--on paternal shoulders, or joined ever-growing packs of pals to roam the grounds of the former Mount Washington Hotel.
The Queen of Halloween has always been a highlight, although everyone I know remembers her as the Fairy Princess. “My girls loved the fairy who bestowed jewels and candy upon them,” confirmed my friend Joy. “My girls loved the fairy princess also,” added my friend Debbie.
The lines to see the Halloween Queen and her court still rival Disneyland. In recent years, the Fellowship’s Halloween planners--who work for months on the event according to two, friendly gatekeeper monks--have taken a cue from Mickey’s house and now offer performances to entertain fidgety offspring in line to see the Queen. My college-age daughter remembers the Queen as a “glittery beacon of hope” who could transform a “cheap, plastic ring into something magical.”
On Friday, children were still star-struck. Some kids shyly took the proffered treats from the Queen’s attendants. Some smiled so hard their faces must have hurt for hours afterward.
The littlest kids just goggled at the queen as if staring blinded into the sun.
Photo Ops and Pumpkins
The shock of leaving the magical court is always softened by dark, soothing lights, a glittering forest of giant flowers and a clown handing out candy. Halfway down the path, a young girl, apparently overcome by being in the Queen’s presence, threw her arms around a smiling, winged lady who was either a fairy or a very sparkly butterfly. The little girl's father snapped 27 photos on the spot.
Luckily for parents and shutterbugs, the party is never without a photo op. The work-of-art pumpkins are always a hit--their faces etched rather than carved with images of monsters and princesses and Snoopy and Smurfs. This year, I felt a curious affinity for a pumpkin carved with a rabid-looking werewolf.
For much of the evening, people reverently crowded around a memorial Steve Jobs pumpkin as if it was his grave site. That’s how good the etching was.
The Pumpkins Have Left the Party
A young ninja with green striped socks asked about taking home a jack o’ lantern. The monks kindly told him that the pumpkins were all spoken for. I was amazed. I’ve been coming to the party for years and never knew it was possible to claim a pumpkin.
The monks told me that years ago, when the party was on Halloween night, the Fellowship would end up with a big dumpster full of pumpkins. Now that the party is pre-Halloween, “it makes sense to give the pumpkins to people in the community," said one of the gatekeepers. "People come in at the beginning and tell us which ones they want and we mark them.” I ask the monks if it’s okay to mention this. They ponder for minute.
“Well,” says one monk, “we’ll probably run out of pumpkins.”
Next year, I’m coming at the stroke of six. That rabid werewolf pumpkin will be mine.
Oh, yes, it will be mine.