October 31, 2012 10:08:40 AM
Sarah Fowler - firstname.lastname@example.org
For some local families, decorating their homes for Halloween is an annual tradition.
Attorney Katherine Kerby and her daughter, Kat, try to outdo themselves every year, transforming their front yard into a ghostly cemetery covered in spooky spiderwebs, with skeletons hanging from the trees, waiting to frighten and intrigue the flock of trick-or-treaters that will haunt the family's front door tonight, begging for candy goodies.
Kerby said her family has been decorating their Seventh Street South home for 20 years, and she looks forward to the one night a year when children of all ages ring her doorbell and proclaim, "Trick or Treat!"
"They're all dressed up so cute," Kerby gushed. "The whole neighborhood does it, but we kind of go overboard. We just do it for the kids."
Kerby's front yard is decorated to the hilt, but she said they try to find the perfect balance of spooky and whimsical so they don't frighten the dozens of youngsters dressed as princesses, superheros and their favorite cartoon characters.
"We try not to get too scary, because we have so many little trick-or-treaters," she said. "We want to be authentic but not terrifying."
For Caledonia resident Julia Hill, and her father, Charles Hill, each Halloween is an opportunity to spend time together while trying to make their larger-than-life spider display even scarier than it was the year before.
The Hills have 22 spiders of all shapes and sizes hanging on the outside of their home.
Julia Hill said she and her father decided to decorate their home with the eight-legged creatures because they found the insects frightening and thought others would as well.
"Dad and I are both scared of them so we thought, 'Why not?'" she said.
The Hills' gigantic spider collection has scared off some of the young guests, though.
"The neighbors' kids would come up and pet the spiders and scream a little," she said. "It really scared them."
She said the spiders ranged from $3 for the smallest to $20 for the largest.
Kerby said she doesn't know how much she has spent on her yard display but they've cut back their purchases over the years.
"We've just gradually collected over the years," she said. "It's like Christmas -- you buy a little each year or replace something."
Kerby said she hasn't bought any decorations this year and they have downsized their extensive display.
"We're down to one smoke machine," she joked.
She estimates 225 to 250 trick-or-treaters visit her home each year.
"The whole street has sidewalks," she said. "We get a lot of traffic. We had as many as 275 one year. I kind of keep a running tally in my head."
She buys candy in bulk so she can give each child three pieces of candy.
While she tries to prepare for the horde of children demanding candy, Kerby laughs as she remembers one year when she may have disappointed a few masked youngsters looking for a sugar rush.
"I had to go raid the pantry once and give them things they don't like, like crackers," she said with a chuckle. "That was humiliating. I try to avoid that."
The Hills live on a quiet street in Caledonia and don't get that many visitors on Halloween night. But Julia Hill said she enjoys seeing the steady stream of cars slow down as they gawk at the giant spiders sprawling across her roof, windows and doors.
"It's just for fun," she said. "I love the fact that we get people who slow down to look at the house. I just love the compliments about it. You don't see much of this on a house."
Like the Hills, the Kerbys began decorating when their children were young.
Even though her own children are past the age of dressing up and going door-to-door to collect candy, Kerby said she still looks forward to Halloween trick-or-treaters.
"They get younger and younger each year," she said. "We've seen some as young as two weeks old. It's a family kind of thing. We really are doing it for the little trick-or-treaters. They're cute."
Fire Station No. 1 is right down the street from the Kerby home, and every year, the firefighters get in on the holiday fright-fest.
"You can hear them screaming down the block," Kerby said of the youngsters who get a scare, along with a helping of candy, from the downtown fire station.
Columbus Fire and Rescue spokesperson Carole Summerall said children are encouraged to go trick-or-treating at each fire department in the city.
While Summerall remained vague on what the firefighters have planned for this year's youngsters, she promised fun times for all.
"They might be tricked and they might be treated," she joked.
In addition to local neighborhoods, Leigh Mall will also host trick-or-treaters from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @FowlerSarah