The Daily Californian Online

Halloween Revelers Flock to Russell Street

By George Ashworth
Contributing Writer
Monday, November 2, 2009
Category: News > City

Dan Shapiro's distinctive pumpkins were one of the many attractions on Russell Street, Berkeley's premier trick-or-treating destination.

This Saturday, thousands of trick-or-treaters from surrounding neighborhoods descended on the Halloween mecca that is Berkeley's Russell Street.

In what has become an annual tradition, the section of Russell Street between College Avenue and the Claremont Hotel is blocked off to welcome droves of costumed celebrants. From nightfall until 8:30 p.m., the street becomes filled by parents with kids in tow, packs of teenagers and many others.

"Last year ... it was a crush of people," said Madi Elbgal, 22, a religious studies major at UC Berkeley.

Many of the houses along this stretch have large and elaborate displays in their front yards. Displays ranged from simple, eerie lighting to animatronic musical displays reminiscent of something from a Disneyland ride.

One house featured three robotic Martians from the movie "Mars Attacks!" who danced to the soundtrack of "2001: A Space Odyssey."

Residents who recently moved to the neighborhood often did not realize that the expectations from the community for Halloween would be so high.

"They didn't tell us before we signed the lease," said Michelle Hlubinka, 36.

That first year caught her and her husband by surprise.

"We tried to amass as much candy as we could, like 18 really large bags of candy, and we ran out," she said. "We're trying to be a little more prepared this year. We bought exactly 1,000 super balls off eBay."

Their front-yard display this year featured a video of "Little Shop of Horrors" projected on a sheet and a mock up of the flesh-eating plant from the movie.

Costumes ranged from Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz" to Max from "Where The Wild Things Are" to a giant waffle.

Some had heard of the celebration in years past, but had not gone because of the intimidating stories they had heard.

"We've heard about it forever, but we've always been warned to stay away from Russell Street," Elbgal said. "At least after dark when it gets really crazy, so we try to come out a little earlier with the kids."

The festivities on Russell Street sometimes draw celebrants and their traditions from other areas in order to take advantage of the greater opportunity for an audience.

Carol Pecot-Shapiro, 52, talked about the pumpkin carving tradition her husband had been carrying on for the past 38 years. She and her husband, Dan Shapiro, moved the display of 300-pound carved pumpkins to her sister's house in the neighborhood to let more people see their art.


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