NEW YORK — Seventh-grader Samantha Bertolino was especially proud of her Halloween costume this year. She was going to be a vampire, and she really had it together this time: The black dress, the spider-web earrings, fake blood, white face paint, and some cool, sparkly clip-on nails.
But the costume will stay in the closet for a while: Samantha’s town of Ridgefield, Conn., has postponed Halloween due to the ravages of Superstorm Sandy. The town is planning to reschedule, pending the success of cleanup efforts.
But it won’t be the same, Samantha says: “It’s kind of like trying to reschedule Christmas. You can’t really do that.”
From the wrath of nature to the wrath of young children: From Maryland to Kentucky to Maine, Halloween festivities were being canceled or postponed. And a debate emerged: Should we be celebrating, anyway, in the face of the devastation? Or is celebrating just the right thing to do for antsy kids who’ve been cooped up at home (and out of school) for days?
Perhaps the most high-profile postponement was that of New York’s huge parade in Greenwich Village, with its outlandish floats and millions of revelers, mainly adults. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city’s police were simply too taxed with Sandy’s aftermath. (Trick-or-treating, the mayor said, could go ahead as long as caution and good judgment were used.)
It was the first time the parade had been canceled in its 39-year history, said Jeanne Fleming, who has directed the event for 32 of those years, including this one. (Also being canceled was a much-loved parade in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn.)
“We went on right after 9/11,” said Fleming. “It was a wonderful affirmation of New York’s spirit.” Still, she added, she understood the factors that went into Bloomberg’s decision.
“Even after 9/11, people had electricity, the subways were running,” she said. “And I do wonder if it would have been the right thing for the people of Greenwich Village.” Much of lower Manhattan below 39th street is still plunged in darkness.
Fleming was spending today in discussions about a possible new date next week; options mentioned were Nov. 7 and Nov. 8, she said, which presented another complication: “I can imagine people staying up all night watching election returns, and then having a parade,” she noted.
Speaking of the election, President Barack Obama and wife Michelle were also changing plans, breaking their three-year tradition of passing out sweets to area students and military children in the White House driveway.
The White House said the hundreds of treat bags, each containing a box of White House M&Ms, a pumpkin-shaped sugar cookie, jelly beans and some dried fruit, would be delivered to the White House Military Office and D.C., Maryland and Virginia school districts.
For some communities, the rescheduling compounded past disappointments. In Ridgefield, Halloween was postponed last year, too, due to an early snowstorm that brought down trees and caused widespread power outages. As was trick-or-treating in Londonderry, N.H., which also rescheduled this year.
“They were very sad,” said Cheryl Hass, a Londonderry mom, of her daughters, ages 8 and 10. “Once you explain why, they understand, but they’re still disappointed.”
Since dates for a rescheduled Halloween varied by city, county or town, some parents were mollifying their kids by promising dual (or triple) celebrations.
One was Kelsey Banfield of Fairfield, Conn., who lost power and relocated to her parents’ house in Cooperstown, N.Y., on Tuesday. She said her 4-year-old daughter would celebrate there and then on Nov. 7, back home.
Also planning some double-dipping was Amber Korell of Greensboro, Md., where trick-or-treating was set for Friday. Korell said she’d told her 4-year-old daughter, Layla, that they’d also hit the town of nearby Denton, which was celebrating on Saturday; that way, she’d get to wear her costume twice.
In many places, like the upper part of Manhattan, where power was never lost, trick-or-treating was largely going ahead, even though school wasn’t: Bloomberg announced today that schools would be closed the rest of the week, much to the delight of children and the frustration of parents.
In New Jersey, though, which sustained much damage, Gov. Chris Christie postponed Halloween until next Monday — though not all towns were necessarily keeping to that schedule. One building, a condo in the flooded city of Hoboken, was getting in a little early celebrating — at 1 p.m. today.
Kathy Zucker, the condo president, said she had three children under the age of 6.
“They are going a little stir crazy,” she said.
Of course, adults who were going stir crazy and looking for kid-inappropriate entertainment had additional options — especially in New York. For example, there was the off-Broadway show “Silence,” a profane and hilarious send-up of the movie “Silence of the Lambs.” The show was offering a “Halloween package” involving dinner, the show and a haunted house tour.
And if you like drag costumes, there was the Halloween Drag Costume party at the Christie’s exhibition gallery, celebrating an upcoming sale of Andy Warhol works. The private (sorry) party described the dress code as “Factory Chic, Halloween Drag.”
Back to more family friendly activities: Some towns offered alternatives to trick-or-treating. The well-known aquarium in Mystic, Conn., offered families without power at home the chance to trick-or-treat among the beluga whales, penguins and sharks.
And the city of Brunswick, Ohio, south of Cleveland, was holding an free indoor “Frankenstorm Party” at the local recreation center, to complement trick-or-treating outside.
“It’s an alternative if they don’t want to go out in the weather,” said Diane Grabowski, an assistant to the parks and recreation director.
While some parents felt that celebrating just wasn’t the right thing to do when people had suffered as a result of the storm, others felt the postponement was unnecessary.
“It’s Halloween and the weather’s not that bad,” said Mandy Haynoski of Wellsville, in western New York. “So why not have trick-or-treating as normal?” Though the town came through the storm with relatively few problems, officials decided to postpone Halloween until Sunday afternoon.
“What’s trick-or-treating without being out at night with the Halloween lights and the pumpkins lit up?” Haynoski asked. “It’s just more fun on Halloween.” Not to mention, she added, the Buffalo Bills-Houston Oilers football game Sunday, which now coincides with Halloween.
“Nobody’s going to answer their doors when the football game’s going on,” she said.
Jessica Gresko in Salisbury, Md., Michael Melia and Pat Eaton-Robb in Hartford, Conn., Carolyn Thompson in Buffalo, N.Y., Lynne Tuohy in Concord, N.H., and Kantele Franko in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.
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