The Free Press, Mankato, MN

November 3, 2012

Ojanpa: Trick-or-treat is a two-way street

By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — News item: This year U.S. spending on Halloween costumes for adults surpassed spending on get-ups for kids.

That’s not surprising because grown-ups’ hijacking of Halloween began years ago. But you wouldn’t know it in my neighborhood that, come every Oct. 31, reverts to 1965 Mayberry.

Final tally at our West Mankato abode: 180 trick-or-treaters, the most ever. Gladdens the heart, it does. Entertains, informs and moves it, too.

Trick-or-treating scenes from one guy’s doorstep:

* The majority of kids are unfailingly polite. They say thank you, and if they forget, their trailing parents remind them to do so. (Note to store clerks: The correct response to a customer’s “thank you” is “you’re welcome” and not “yup” or “no problem.”)

* Curve ball of the night: As two pre-teen boys and their bulging pillowcases trot away, one yells “Happy Halloween.”

His buddy yells “I like Hanukkah better.”

* At 6:50 p.m. no fewer than 15 kids descend like a swarm of box elder bugs. Our neighborhood is one of those cozy “high target value” Halloween blocks where maximum candy can be harvested in minimum time.

That’s why parents literally truck kids in. Minutes later a school bus pulls up from Czechoslovakia. I jest, but you get the idea.

* Moments that give pause:  Kids trick-or-treat in fun groups, which is as it should be, and sometimes sadly alone, which shouldn’t be.

There’s also a Down syndrome girl who each year arrives in costume with her mother. I go to meet them because the girl has great difficulty climbing two steps.

* A little trick-or-treater arrives as her dad looks on from the driveway. Dad is enjoying a beer as he strolls the block. Some might frown on that, but I want to say, “Want one for the other hand?”

* A little girl says, “Trick or treat,” but as I move to put a Snickers in her bag she balks.

 “I don’t want that,” she says.

She stands on her toes, grabs the rim of my candy pail and peers inside. Aha. Twix.

“I want THAT one,” she demands.

Kid’s going to be a handful some day.

n A boy comes to the door wearing a bush on his head and similar bushes attached to his outstretched arms. He answers before I can ask.

“I’m a bonsai tree,” he says proudly.

I tell him, “I’m fresh out of Miracle-Gro but how about a Butterfinger instead.”

He thanks me.

“You’re welcome,” I say. “And stay away from that dog over there, Tree Boy. Know what I mean?”


Brian Ojanpa is a Free Press staff writer. Call him at 344-6316 or email