Halloween treats: Pleasanton gets into the spooktacular spirit

Traditional costumes, creepy and ghoulish looks being favored tho year

Tomorrow night is Halloween, and neighborhoods from Ruby Hill to The Preserve will find their sidewalks filled with miniature ghosts and goblins running doorbell to doorbell, racing to fill their bags and plastic pumpkins with treats before mom and dad decide to head home and begin the time-honored tradition of raiding their kids' Halloween stash.

Those who manage to avoid the mind-numbing effects of sugar overload can remind the grownups they had their own chance to trick-or-treat last Saturday night when the Pleasanton Downtown Association and downtown merchants hosted the fifth annual Halloween Brew Crawl.

With 31 pouring stations featuring more than 50 craft beers and a variety of appetizers, the sold-out event gave the 21-and-older crowd a chance to relive the days of costumes and canvassing the streets for the best treats in the neighborhood.

Most everyone gets into the spirit of the event, as Pleasanton dentist Aldrin Adamos noted last weekend while watching the growing number of costumed revelers enjoying the evening as they waited outside his Division Street office to sample Pig Ol' Bitties brew and treats from Sauced BBQ and Spirits.

"A few years ago, there were just a few people dressed up. Now," he said, gesturing at the crowd, "you can see it's part of the night."

Also interesting is what wasn't seen: political costumes. Not really a Trump, Clinton or Obama mask to be found. Traditional, often elaborate, costumes were clearly favored over the "ripped from the headlines" caricatures of celebrity figures.

Even the Spirit Halloween Store, housed this season at Rose Pavilion, has very limited space dedicated to the faces of the debate and social media stars. Far more popular, particularly with the young crowd, are the creepy and ghoulish looks inspired by the current zombie craze.

Seven-year-old Travis Glenn and his 9-year-old sister Kenzie spent an afternoon at Spirit trying to convince their mother, Carrie, that more is better when it comes to decor for scaring the neighbors.

"We need this," Travis insisted, holding hands with Lost Lizzy, a straight-from-the-horror-films, don't-sleep-with-her-in-your-bedroom doll moving blindly in listless, battery-driven circles. "She would scare everyone."

Not so scary was the Ghoulish Good Time celebration at the Pleasanton Gateway shopping center on the corner of Bernal and Valley Avenue Oct. 22. Catering to the under-7 crowd, the two-hour event was a true party complete with music, dancing, balloon figures and face painting.

Local children's entertainer Andy Z persuaded several princesses, a few young firefighters and more than one Superman to sing familiar songs and laugh along with his corny jokes. "I saw you last week," shouted Batman from the audience -- apparently Andy Z has groupies.

Plenty of fans also showed up when Sunflower Hill's Garden at Hagemann Ranch acknowledged its first fall harvest with a Pumpkin Festival last weekend. The one-acre site was filled with old-fashioned fun, completely in keeping with the property's historic atmosphere.

Pumpkin bowling, pumpkin painting and Poke-a-Pumpkin games all took advantage of the bountiful pumpkin crop produced through the efforts of many committed hands. Last April, in partnership with the city of Livermore, the not-for-profit organization enlisted the help of volunteers, local businesses and community organizations to build a garden benefiting individuals with special needs.

In addition to creating opportunities for people with special needs to develop skills that build independence, more than 5,000 pounds of produce has been harvested -- 65% of which has been donated to low-income food banks including the Tri-Valley Haven and Marilyn Avenue Elementary School. Cindy Everson, a Sunflower Hill board member, said her son, Joe, thoroughly enjoys the garden and was happy to be a part of the festival.

"The garden continues to develop through the efforts of so many people," she said. "We can't wait to see what it will have grown into next year."

If you fear the best of the 2015 Halloween happenings have already passed you by, don't give up the ghost.

There are hours of fun and fright ahead, beginning this evening at Firehouse Arts Center -- where Creatures of Impulse, the Bay Area's award-winning teen improv troupe, has been horrifying their audience for six Halloween seasons. Using storylines suggested by the audience prior to the start of the show, the cast develops a fully improvised, unique play for each performance.

Mark Duncanson, founder and director of Creatures of Impulse, remarked on the notable talent of these local youth, pointing out they create feelings of tension and terror by inspiring the imagination.

"We don't use props, sets, costumes or make-up," he said. "One year, two audience members had to leave the theater because they said 'it got too intense.'" The intensity becomes especially spooktacular during the 9 p.m. Halloween showing, which is recommended for those souls aged 14 and older.

The show also plays tonight at 7:30 p.m. and Halloween at 2 p.m.

Graveyards are best left to the ghosts at night, which makes Dolores Bengtson's morning tour of the Pioneer Cemetery the perfect way to greet the spirits on Halloween at 8:30 a.m.

The two-hour walk, hosted by Pleasanton's former head of Parks and Recreation, is full of what Bengtson calls "fun facts, suitable for Halloween." Featuring stories of murder, white-collar crime and a lady who took a gun to fend off outlaws, Bengtson said her research dug up quite an interesting bunch of early Pleasanton residents, though we assume they will all be back properly under their tombstones before the start of the tour.

If all that exercise works up a killer appetite, there will be an optional stop at a local coffee house on the way back to the Senior Center on Sunol Boulevard, where the tour originates.

For those who are maybe a little too old to haunt the streets in search of the elusive king-sized candy bar, the Pirates of Emerson is an excellent Halloween alternative.

This is the horror fan's fantasy come to life, so if you're the one who hasn't slept in the dark since Freddy Krueger first appeared on screen in 1984, think twice and then again before entering the Pirates' domain. The event runs tonight and tomorrow night from 7:05 p.m. to midnight.

Now in its fifth frightful year at the Alameda County Fairgrounds, the Pirates of Emerson is a haunted theme park -- an interactive experience with elaborate sets and cast members whose sole purpose is to scare you. Really, really scare you.

And no, there are no refunds for those who choose to leave before completing the experience.

Maybe they can use the extra time to ring a few more doorbells.

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