Second annual Halloween event puts many in mood

NASHUA – It wasn’t officially Halloween, but for those who ventured under a full moon to the downtown streets Thursday night the date hardly mattered.

Thousands of children in spooky, kooky and downright cute costumes filled the Main Street sidewalks for the second annual Great American Ghost Town.

The event, organized by members of the Great American Downtown events committee, was expected to attract more than 6,000 people, and by the size of the crowd may have met that goal.

Gobs of pink fairy princesses, orange Tiggers, black Draculas and, of course, Red Sox players, began pounding the pavement well before the event’s 5 p.m. starting time to hit up participating merchants for candy.

Sue and Paul Sergeant of Nashua stood on the sidewalk watching as their two daughters, Vicki, 5, dressed as a brown hawk, and Sammi, 9, dressed as a pink Pokemon character, joined the ever-growing mob of costumed candy-beggars at a nearby storefront.

With their excited older daughter urging them to continue to the next sugar source, the Sergeants said they were impressed with the event and hoped it became a tradition.

“I like that they can go trick-or-treating in a safe place,” Sue Sergeant said, adding that the event also gave her and her husband a chance to check out the variety of businesses in the downtown area.

“I found a new Vietnamese restaurant,” Paul Sergeant said, holding up a take-out menu from an area restaurant.

Many of the merchants got into the spirit as well, dressing up their storefronts and themselves to hand out the sweets.

At Alapage women’s clothing boutique, owner Lisa Gavin, dressed as the infamous purple and black wicked witch of Disney’s Snow White, and store manager Melissa Winters, who was Snow White, handed out candy bars to a steady stream of pint-size characters.

“It is such wonderful event for the downtown community,” Gavin said in-between greetings to the moms and kids who approached her and Winters.

Last year, the pair handed out candy as the Bride of Frankenstein and a sorcerer.

“Melissa said we have to be a little more child-friendly this year,” Gavin said, adding that they were also prepared for the expected larger crowd with an extra large supply of candy on hand.

Last year’s crowd of 4,000 people caught many store merchants by surprise, causing long lines and a shortage of candy, said event coordinator Denise Pressinger.

As she spoke, Pressinger, dressed as a chef, handed out a mixture of Smartees and jawbreakers to children in front of Patisserie Bleu bakery, owned by her daughter Jacqui.

Pressinger said about 90 downtown businesses participated in this year’s event, which she said is not a fund-raiser, but rather a way of attracting families to the downtown area.

“This is 100 percent for the kids,” Pressinger said.

Sunset Heights Elementary School third-grader Aleana Harney, a red devil, was one of many kids who lined up in front of nearby Aubuchon Hardware to get something sweet to eat.

The Halloween celebration was the second ever for Harney, who moved to the United States from the Ukraine in July 2003, said her adoptive mother, Kate Harney.

“She told me this morning, ‘I like Halloween. It is almost as good as Christmas because you get a lot of candy,’ ” Kate Harney said while giving her bashful daughter a supportive squeeze across the shoulder.

At Scontsas Fine Jewelry and Home Decor, costumed sales associates handed out treats from a plastic black cauldron as spooky sounds from a nearby boombox and the white mist from a fog machine filled the air.

Owner Philip Scontsas, dressed as a stylish white-faced ghoul, said popularity of last year’s event convinced him and his staff to go all out.

“It is a wonderful community-spirit event,” Scontsas said, adding that the celebration would make good memories for the families that participated.

“Hopefully, when they grow up, they will say ‘We loved going downtown for trick-or-treat,’ ” Scontsas said.