Halloweentown is the City of St. Helens’ signature event each fall that draws thousands and produces significant revenue.
This year, due to the pandemic and the state’s social distancing requirements, changes are being made to ensure the safety of the event participants, but also to retain the spirit, fun and adventure of the annual celebration.
“The city is limiting the daily number to comply with the social distancing and doing all requirements as outlined by Governor Brown regarding restrooms, numbers inside retail etc.” City of St. Helens event contractor Tina Curry said.
Halloweentown activities are listed online at http://www.spiritofhalloweentown.com under schedule. The event’s opening dates are Sept. 26 and 27, and runs each Saturday and Sunday in October.
“Most activities are outdoors and the ones that are inside will be complying with the number of people allowed as in retail locations and other guidelines,” Curry said.
Halloween has been a major city celebration and centerpiece for decades and includes an annual children’s parade featuring costumed kids; trick-or-treating at the local businesses’ front doors and people making creative scarecrows and hanging their displays all around St. Helens.
While Halloweentown is designed for fun and community engagement, it also provides a significant boost to the city’s economy, according to St. Helens City Administrator John Walsh.
“In many ways the event has transformed St. Helens from a fading mill town to a community recognized internationally as a top destination for Halloween activities,” Walsh said. “Halloweentown has created a sense of community identity and brought an economic boost to the region. The event draws tens of thousands of visitors each year throughout the month of October which stay in hotels, eat at local restaurants, shop at local merchants and experience all that St. Helens has to offer.”
By the numbers
Curry said Halloweentown generates well over a million dollars annually.
“This is direct to businesses and merchant dollars,” Curry said.
In addition, the City of St. Helens and sponsors have received an estimated value of several million dollars in media reach through magazine, newspaper, radio and social media articles and tourism-related articles, according to Curry.
“We’ve had almost one million people visit our discovercolumbiacounty.com site alone,” she said. “We’ve had individual posts that garner more than 24 million views. If you have to put an exact number to this it’s very difficult but our audits show very high results.”
Planning for such a project takes months, according to Curry.
“E2C Productions does the planning for Halloweentown year round,” Curry said. “We have meetings with community members and businesses to get feedback and ideas. During the dates we have direct engagement with lots of local groups involved including CERT, Kiwanis, Humane Society and many others. Public works is involved with bringing displays to life and the police are involved in traffic and safety concerns.”
The St. Helens annual “Spirit of Halloweentown” festivities are days filled with extroverted behavior and includes people dressing in costumes, screaming in haunted houses, pretending that St. Helens is the Halloweentown depicted in the 1998 Disney movie shot in the town in 1998 for its Disney Channel cable feed using settings around the Old Town area.
Titled “Halloweentown,” the movie stars Debbie Reynolds as a witch named Aggie who visits her daughter and grandchildren on Halloween, after an argument, she leaves by hopping on a magic bus. Her grandchildren, unbeknownst to her, join her as stowaways on the bus and the group ends up in a place called “Halloweentown.”
One of the climax moments of the film occurs inside the Columbia Theatre in the Old Town District of St. Helens. Another major scene in the movie is reenacted each year in St. Helens, the lighting of the bigger than life jack-o-lantern in the plaza in front of the courthouse. It is a replica of the original pumpkin from the movie.
The kickoff to St. Helens Halloweentown is held annually with the lighting of the large pumpkin at the city’s Old Town District.
See more photos and video of previous Halloweentown activities in St. Helens at thechronicleonline.com.