By LISA HOOVER
CANTON -- All the trappings of a traditional Halloween bash will take over downtown Canton Saturday, Oct. 26 as Phantoms in the Park returns for another year.
The yearly favorites will return, with the “Trick or Treat” parade at 1 p.m., followed by the costume parade at 2 p.m.
The parade will visit downtown merchants, who will hand out candy to a swarm of trick or treaters. “I know the businesses, when I went in and asked them, they said ‘oh we ran out of candy last year’,” said Sally Hill, executive director of the Canton Chamber of Commerce. Between 250 and 350 kids attend every year, with an average of around 300, according to Hill.
The parade “takes us a good hour,” Hill said, with visits to downtown merchants and the shopping plaza.
New features this year will include “blow up Halloween items” donated by the VFW, Hill said. It “will be fun to plug them in and watch the kid’s reactions.”
The park will be festooned in festive decorations, including pumpkins donated by Mike Livingston of DeKalb. Livingston donates every year, and the kids get to take the pumpkins home at the end of the event, Hill said. This year spooky music will help create a Halloween atmosphere, according to Hill.
Decorating begins at noon, and volunteers are welcome, along with donations of pumpkins, gourds, or corn stalks.
Price Chopper will again donate cider and donuts, Hill said.
Another Phantoms tradition, the chamber’s “popcorn hands,” will also make a return this year. The hands are made of plastic gloves filled with candy corn for fingernails, filled with popcorn and finished with a spider or skull ring, Hill explained. “I started out doing them in my home when I first started this job 16, 17 years ago,” she said. “I did like 75 of them and I thought that was a big thing, but now we do like 300 of them.”
“It’s become a tradition,” she said.
The costume contest will continue, with this year’s categories to include scariest, most original, funniest, most patriotic, cutest, most creative use of recycled materials, and the new “Families at Phantoms” category. “We had a couple families that dressed up and deserved a prize,” according to the chamber’s September newsletter.
The chamber sees some “pretty creative kids, I’ll tell you,” Hill said. Last year’s highlights included a purple octopus that grabbed the scariest prize “because it had weird eyes, that just freaked everybody out,” Hill said. Other prizewinners included a bulldozer made of cardboard for most original, a “little hippie girl” for funniest, and a little elephant toddler who took home the cutest award.
“We’ve had babies in, you know, the little wooden bushel baskets,” Hill said. “We’ve had babies in strollers with leaves, so they look like little pumpkins sticking out.” “It’s just amazing,” she said.
Winners usually receive a $10 Canton gift certificate, according to Hill. It “keeps our shop local thing going,” she said.
Students from both colleges are expected to participate this year. St. Lawrence University students have been a tradition at Phantoms, but the SUNY Canton students are also helping this year. The students judge the contests “because we know so many people,” Hill explained.
“We are thrilled to have them,” Hill said of the college students. “I think they have as much fun as the little kids.”