BAR HARBOR — While the rest of the town starts to close down for the season, Ledgelawn Avenue comes alive.
Up and down the residential street, households prepare for Halloween night when more than a thousand children and parents from all over the island descend on Ledgelawn for trick-or treating.
Two days before Halloween, Ledgelawn resident Marie Yarborough makes the rounds delivering candy to her neighbors. Yarborough is in her second year organizing an annual candy drive at Hannaford throughout the month of October, in which shoppers can buy a bag of candy to drop in a box for Ledgelawn residents to distribute on the holiday.
Yarborough divides the candy equally by weight and delivers it to the Ledgelawn residents who have requested donations.
“It is the most wonderful time of the year!” Yarborough wrote in a Facebook post earlier this month, announcing the annual candy drive.
Yarborough told the Islander that she is “so grateful for folks who donate candy — truly so grateful.” She also thanked Hannaford for allowing the donation box in the store.
The candy drive provides a needed supplement to what Ledgelawn residents buy on their own, she said. Some families told the Islander they spend about $100 on candy.
“This takes the edge off,” Yarborough said.
Instead of candy, the First Baptist Church at 46 Ledgelawn Avenue stocks up on hot chocolate mix, cups, and glow sticks for the table they have every year in front of the church.
“We’ve bought tons of hot chocolate,” said Ministry Assistant Sarah Mislang. “It takes 700 ounces of hot chocolate mix to make 1,000 cups of hot cocoa,” which they go through on any given Halloween night.
Mislang said the church has taken part in the Halloween festivities for “at least ten years; probably longer.” Each year, about 12 volunteers work throughout the night handing out free hot cocoa to cold trick-or-treaters and their families.
Having the candy and supplies ready is only part of the prep work that goes into a Ledgelawn Halloween. The Bar Harbor Police Department is involved, blocking off the road to vehicles from 4 – 8 p.m.
For many Ledgelawn residents, the preparations start long before that.
“Every year we start decorating the Monday after Columbus Day weekend,” said Yarborough. “We decorate the house and lawn with lights and scary stuff.”
She said she decorates the house both inside and out, because “like a lot of Ledgelawn families, we always have our doors open for friends to come in and take a break.”
Ledgelawn resident Joel Richardson calls Halloween night “a few hours of absolute insanity. We really enjoy it.” This year, rain and wind have hindered his efforts to get the yard decorated early, he said, but he planned to have decorations out on schedule.
His wife Jennifer Richardson added that the other side of preparing is “to get a lot of snacks and food. We have a party in addition to having all the trick-or-treaters come. Sometimes we’ve had people just want to come and sit on the porch so they can see the trick-or-treaters. We serve chili and warm things.”
Longtime Ledgelawn resident Kate Jordan said the street has “always been a hotspot for kids on Halloween, because it’s easy for parents” to bring children up one side and down the other.
About ten years ago, Jordan said, the town council voted to allow police to close Ledgelawn to traffic each Halloween, for the safety of children that were already coming to the neighborhood. Since then, visitation has increased and so has the festival atmosphere.
“We usually show a short horror film,” she said. “Some people have jugglers. It’s so safe, because the street is closed off. Families really get into it.”
Jordan said that last year, a neighbor was keeping count and reported 1,400 in attendance. Despite the large numbers, she said there’s never any damage. “The kids are so great,” she said. “They’re always so respectful.”
“Some people may leave their lights off because it’s overwhelming,” said Jennifer Richardson, “but we really enjoy it. We look forward to it every year.”
“It’s fun,” Mislang said about her church’s involvement. “We’re happy to be part of this community. We’d rather be open than have the lights off. It’s a good time to connect with neighbors.”
“We love it,” Yarborough said. “We think of it as another fantastic celebration of our wonderful island community. We are happy to put our light on and give out candy until we are [all] out. We love seeing the kids and adults having a blast.”