Halloween Cove

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Fun decorations have become a huge annual tradition for one Bartlett neighborhood

The small Domino Cove in Bartlett transforms into a different place entirely when October rolls around.  Skeletons begin rising from the earth, evil clowns take over one of the homes, the undead prowl the streets, and scary organ music plays for blocks around.  The residents are hardly concerned, however.  They embrace the festivities as their own, turning the one-day holiday into a month of celebration and fun.

Halloween Cove started several years ago when resident Steve Leet’s brother was unpacking furniture and suggested Leet use the styrofoam as decorations.  He used them to create tombstones in his front yard.

“Then the neighbors started joining in,” Leet said.  “They would bring me things and say ‘I found this for you.’”

From there, Halloween Cove grew.  Now, every house in the cove erects elaborate setups that take months to scope out and plan, and even other houses blocks away have started to get involved in their own way.  Leet’s decorations this year included an animatronic skeleton band playing actual music, a moving prop of a man being run over by a lawnmower, a cloaked Reaper whose eyes light up as passersby approach, and more.

“Halloween Cove” residents consider the arrangements of “spook-tacular” decorations

The festivities are a collaborative effort, so residents inspire ideas for future setups, collaborate on certain complicated arrangements, and will all stay outside to interact with visitors touring the displays.

Rachel Watson, a neighbor, said she and her husband moved to the cove one September and were immediately caught in the Halloween spirit and started organizing their setup.  They were not able to finish unpacking the rest of their belongings until that December.

“[Halloween cove] is a lot of families’ traditions for the season,” Watson said.

FUN FOR KIDS, TOO! – some of the younger residents enjoy being able to celebrate Halloween for weeks before the trick-or-treating actually begins.

Leet said the Cove is so popular they get lines of cars driving by closer to Halloween, which backs up traffic for several miles and even requires police to direct the traffic, and they will often get crowds of thousands of people the week of Halloween.  They go through dozens of bags of candy a year, and even when people donate candy, they still occasionally run out and have to secure more at the last minute.  For how much the community enjoys Halloween Cove, the residents who organize it love it just as much.

“If we were not having as much fun as them, we would not be doing it,” Watson said.

Leet said they go through all this effort for their community, especially their younger members.  The cove even does a collection bowl for charity, often for groups like St. Jude.

“It brings a lot of joy to the kids,” he said.  “It brings kids and families together.”

He talked about two little girls who stop by two or three times a day, particularly on their way home from school, just to see what new decorations and lights the neighbors have set up in their absence.  It is that excitement Leet said fuels their passion for Halloween Cove.

Despite all the fun, however, an event of this scale requires exceptional preparation.  Leet said they often spend half the year or more finding new decorations, and storing them when Halloween is over can be a colossal challenge.  All the sensors and lights needed to make the cove come to life every evening can also pose difficulties.

“Every night, it is something not working right,” resident Matthew Davidson said.

Depending on the weather, the lighting might not be good enough for some of the sensors to work, or light bulbs might need to be replaced halfway through the month.  The displays are also prone to weather issues.  One resident’s animatronic ghost fell over during a storm and caved in part of her fence.

While the displays typically start appearing at the end of September, they said Halloween Cove ends promptly after Halloween.  Sometimes they start taking decorations down that very night once everyone leaves.

Davidson said they often hear questions from the community about whether they plan to do something similar for Christmas.  Given how much time and effort they spend on just the one holiday, he said they would rather another cove take on that mantle.

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