For many of the residents who live along Omaha’s Minne Lusa Boulevard, Halloween is a big deal.
Tonight, an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 children and families from all over the metro area will descend upon the boulevard between Redick and Martin Avenues for the annual “Trick-or-Treat on the Boolevard.” The event will be held from 5:30 to 8 p.m.
Special Halloween treat stations are set up on at least six of the boulevard’s street islands, each decorated with a different theme for the night. Event organizers said the islands are a block long and area residents take responsibility for decorating them.
“There is a family who has lived in the area for some time and their children are all older now, but they come help set up the graveyard [island],” said Sharon Ol son, a local resident who started the island tradition. “They’ve made tombstones out of wood and if you have time to stand and read them, you just double over because they are so funny. The night brings the families together, so it’s fun for everyone.”
It was several years ago when Olson decided to set up her Halloween treat station on the island between Sharon Drive and Martin Avenue. She and a few others in scary costumes would sit on the island’s benches and hand out candy.
From there — with the help of resident and Boolevard Chairwoman Diane Krisor — the event has grown, with more island treat stations added every year. The island themes planned for this year include:
n “Ugly” princesses and superheroes
n Clowns: Free hot dogs also will be handed out
n Cutouts: The island features various wooden character cutouts that children can put their heads through and have their pictures taken
n The graveyard
n Photos: One of the area residents will take pictures of the kids and email copies to parents
n Pirates: New this year, organizers plan to build a pirate ship out of hay bales
“Every year, more things get added to the islands, so they get more dramatic, more fun,” Olson said.
“People look at it and say, ‘I think I can make this better.’ ”
Krisor said moving trick-or-treaters’ attention to the islands has reinvigorated Halloween for the area.
“I think a lot of older people, their kids are gone so they weren’t handing out candy anymore,” she said. “A lot of the houses weren’t lighting up and there were kids who saw that and would move on to other places. By bringing the focus down to the center of the boulevard, we can make it bigger and bigger every year.”
Minne Lusa House, which holds Saturday coffee gatherings, and the neighborhood association purchase $800 in treats to be handed out from the islands. Planning for the night begins in June. Krisor meets with island sponsors once a month until Halloween.
“Whoever comes up with an idea, they get their island,” she said. “They’ll tell me what they want to do and they are in charge of making sure everything gets done. And that’s what we have the meetings for — in case they need help or money or anything for the island.”
Rusty Kilpatrick Jr. grew up on Minne Lusa Boulevard. Though he no longer lives in the neighborhood, his family still does. He said this is their first year decorating an island, so they decided to build a pirate ship made from 75 to 100 hay bales.
“I’m not sure how big it will be, but we want the kids to be able to go into the ship,” he said. “The back will be opened up and they can go into it and climb on it. We’re hoping to build a crow’s nest and have pirate flags and all that kind of stuff. We think it will be a good time.”
Kilpatrick, a graduate student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha who is preparing to take medical school entrance exams, said his family is keeping safety in mind as they plan to construct the ship. But most important, they want the kids to have fun.
Last year, the family set up a neighborhood movie theater in their yard. They built a giant movie screen and used a projector to show clips of children’s movies, Halloween movies and music videos. Kids could sit on hay bales and watch the movies before heading off to the next house or island.
“That turned out pretty well. We’ll be doing that again this year,” he said.
In addition to island sponsors like Kilpatrick’s family, volunteers are important to the success of the event. Luckily, Krisor said, there is no shortage of people wanting to help. She estimates about 70 people will help this year.
“Everyone wants to be involved. It’s nice,” she said. “The whole night is unbelievable. You have to experience it.”
Themed Halloween treat stations have become an annual tradition