Keene Valley has long been a Halloween hot spot: flat streets, a tightly laid-out village of many homes and stores, and friendly residents who create a delightful environment for young trick-or-treaters. Indeed it is so attractive, costumed children often arrive from neighboring hamlets of Keene, Upper Jay and elsewhere to seek out goodies.
Children are not the only ones who enjoy Halloween in Keene; adults do as well. Normally the adult festivities take place at the AuSable Inn on the Saturday evening on or before Halloween. They push back the tables and chairs, hire a band, and then the "joint is jumpin'" into the wee hours. Surprises do happen. One Halloween several years ago, a community-assist call went out from the Lake Placid fire department, resulting in trucks from the Keene Valley department pulling up in front of the inn so costumed creatures could climb aboard and head off into the night.
Hard to forget some of the jaw-dropping costumes conceived over the years, such as the Rob Hastings' red "robster," aka lobster, Zempel's wheelchair-bound witch, Brett and Mary Lawrence as a cave man and woman, and Bruce Gunderson as an ax murderer. However, this year the inn was rented out for a private party, so Rob Hastings and Fritz Sabbow decided to host a Halloween party at their home. Included was a pre-dance social hour, potluck and even a table filled with costume supplies for the last-minute shopper or I-can't-decide-what-to-wear crowd. Not having fun was not an option.
Rosie the Riveter flexes Saturday, Oct. 26 at a Halloween party at Rob Hastings and Fritz Sabbow’s home in Keene Valley.
The next day, Sunday, the community continued prepping for Halloween in other ways. Keene Congregational Church held its near-annual pumpkin carving session in the church's Van Sanford Room. Susan Doolittle organized the activity, ensuring tarps were spread over the floor, tables and chairs were set out and the sideboard was filled with cookies and apple cider. A number of free pumpkins were available for those who didn't bring their own.
Since honing his carpentry skills while successfully enhancing his home with a covered porch, Pastor Milton Dudley has declared a new love of power tools. Why not use them for carving the pumpkins? Assisted by Doolittle, Dudley used an electric Sawzall to cut the tops off of any pumpkins for the taking - not as extreme as using a flamethrower to mow a lawn, nonetheless, not for the faint of heart or the conservative pumpkineer. He had on hand an electric carving tool specially designed for the close-up carving. No doubt next year he'll show up with laser technology or one of those 3-D printers - just design his pumpkin and watch the orange plastic masterpiece pop out.
Taking the opposite approach was Mike Peabody, who carved a giant - OK, I exaggerate, but a very large pumpkin. He gave it the classic toothy grin, triangle-shaped eyes and jagged top - one of those let's-scare-any-nasty-spirits-away gourds.
For some, the carving was a chance to relive the pleasures of youth. Renee Cosgrove (I can safely say past 48) carved her first pumpkin since she was 12. Others, though, were old hands.
"Is this your first time carving a pumpkin?" I asked a young Lily Jones.
"Nope," she said. "I have five at home."
"We feed all our pumpkin seeds to our chickens because it helps de-worm them," added her mom, Mickey. You learn something new every day.
Another mother, Casey D'Aura, was carving away alongside her husband Silas, their daughter Linnae and son Joe. She was carving one the smaller ones attempted, about the size of an eye in Mike Peabody's monster.
"The one I planned to carve had a bit of a rotten spot in it, so I am carving this smaller one," said Casey. "It had a rotten spot as well, but I was able to incorporate it."
"I am not sure when the church started hosting a pumpkin-carving party," said Milton Dudley. "Certainly since 1999, my first October, the year and time I first met Robin Pell. We haven't held one every year, though most years. We had an excellent turnout today, more people than I thought would come."
"I am not sure when it started, not long before '99," said Susan Doolittle. "We didn't do it last year, but most other years."
People whose doors will open to trick-or-treaters are listing their homes on the Nextdoor Keene website. Homes will have been decorated, cookies and other treats to give out will have been baked or bought, and you can be sure many of the costumes seen at Saturday's party will be worn by those welcoming the bag-laden kids on the doorsteps.