Down East 2013 ©
It turns out there is, in fact, something happier than a kid in a candy store — a child fortunate enough to find his or her way to Pearl Street in Camden on Halloween night. Sure, almost every town and city in Maine has an avenue that’s particularly friendly to the Batmen, princesses, and assorted ghouls that crop up annually on October 31, but this half-mile-long stretch of asphalt offers an evening’s entertainment that has gained notice far beyond the midcoast.
“One time I was placing an order with a chocolate company in Marblehead, Massachusetts, and when I gave them my address the person on the phone said, ‘Wow, you live on the Halloween street,’ ” remarks Pearl Street homeowner Karen Povec. “Over the last ten or fifteen years it seems to have grown exponentially.”
Camden Police Chief Phil Roberts confirms that Pearl Street was not always the greatest draw in town for trick-or-treaters. “Chestnut Street was the real gathering place in the eighties and nineties, as there were a number of places that really did it up with the decorations and all that,” Roberts recalls. “Over the years Pearl Street started doing it up, too, and for a few years it was both of them. But now most of the younger people on Chestnut have grown up and moved away, so it’s just Pearl Street.” Last year homeowner Jane Lafleur handed out 813 pieces of candy during the roughly three-hour event, though she and her neighbors say a neighborhood camaraderie has developed to help them handle the panic of a candy shortfall. “My husband and most of the other husbands on the street have done the last-minute dash to Rite Aid,” Karen Povec confirms.
To accommodate the hordes of trick-or-treaters, the youngest of whom begin arriving even before five o’clock, many of Pearl Street’s seventy-three homeowners (some of the homes are seasonal, and a few introverted residents choose to make Halloween a night out) set up on their impeccably painted porches and stoops so that each Darth Vader doesn’t have to ring the doorbell. On especially chilly nights, some residents remove their front-door screens or storm windows so they can hand out treats from the warmth of their foyer. And as darkness descends, Camden police officers close off the busiest block to cars, a forward-thinking measure when dealing with throngs of sugar-blinded youngsters tripping through the downed foliage. The police presence also apparently keeps mischief to a minimum, as Povec reports never having experienced vandalism in her three decades on Pearl Street. “People who do that kind of thing generally don’t want a witness, and there are so many witnesses there,” Chief Roberts remarks.
But Halloween on Pearl Street is about more than just the short set, as practically half the parents are as costumed as their offspring. While Winnie the Pooh stands in line for his loot (parents take note: it takes a certain amount of skill to track your tyke in the crowd and gathering gloom), mom and dad catch up with friends and neighbors.
Povec says that even though living on Pearl Street means she has to begin stockpiling candy in early September, she still enjoys the night. “I like seeing the costumes that are really original, and asking the kids if they made them themselves,” she says, adding that a couple of parents have actually handed her unopened bags of candy as thanks for sponsoring the celebration (a gesture that is much appreciated, by the way). “Yes, it is a little tiring, but I just love seeing the kids.”