October 30, 2023
• Minions and Elsa and “Minecraft” Creepers, oh my!
Close to 700 kids descended on Greene’s Field decked out in their best Halloween getup for the 26th iteration of Spooky Walk on Saturday.
The fall tradition took local trick-or-treaters aged 2-10 years old on different walking routes across town, with stops at local businesses for candy before Halloween. Needham Parks and Recreation also invited retailers that fell outside the designated routes to set up booths at the Town Common, bringing the total participating businesses to about 55 this year, Recreation Supervisor Chris Burnham said.
Before the walks, Burnham helped hand out reusable bags with coloring pages, while the Charles River YMCA offered temporary tattoos, face painting and pumpkin bowling. Having taken part in Spooky Walk as a kid, Burnham said the event’s growth is exciting to witness.
“It’s cool that we’re expanding this year,” he said.
Nathan Akar, a Needham second grader, dressed as Mario, with his 2-year-old brother Noah as his sidekick Luigi. Since watching “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” earlier this year, Nathan said he’s admired the character, even though he’s not very good at “Mario Strikers,” a soccer video game. Galactic mode, he said, is really hard.
It’s the family’s third or fourth time at Spooky Walk, which they now consider a yearly tradition.
When asked what their favorite candy is, Noah said “any,” while Nathan had to think about it.
“I don’t know,” Nathan said, “but I’ve wanted to try Sour Patch Kids.”
Second grader Jenny McCarthy was most excited at the prospect of getting “gummies.” At her third Spooky Walk, Jenny came dressed as Draculaura, a Monster High doll and TV character who descends from Dracula. She donned a pink and purple dress and matching wig, which she assured Needham Local was not, in fact, her real hair.
Picking up treats for her pre-Halloween bounty is the best part of the day, Jenny said. She put it simply: “I can get candy.”
While Spooky Walk is mostly for the kids, Burnham said he enjoys when the whole family gets into the spirit. Over the years, Burnham said he has spotted “The Incredibles” family, a team of superheroes and a pair of children dressed as police officers with their two parents as criminals.
Counting the parents, grandparents and guardians accompanying their little ones, Burnham said they likely saw close to 1,000 people total.
“Even two or three years ago, we were down around 300 or so,” Burnham said of Spooky Walk. “The last two years, things have really exploded in a way that they never have before, which is crazy.”
This year, “Bluey” — the hit Australian animated children’s show centered on talking dogs — seemed to be a big hit, with a couple moms and dads dressed as the on-screen parents to their own Bluey and her little sister Bingo. Other families matched in one-piece skeleton costumes and personified the cast of “Toy Story.” Needham Local also eyed a father dressed as a FedEx delivery driver carrying his baby, dressed as a package.
Resident Janna Armstrong took part in the fun with her kids, who all dressed up as witches and wizards from “Harry Potter.” Armstrong channeled her inner Professor McGonagall, while her kids dressed as Hermione Granger, Draco Malfoy and Professor Dumbledore — whose hair was tied under her chin for a makeshift beard.
It wasn’t the family’s first time at Spooky Walk — Armstrong said they return each year for a reason.
“It’s such a nice day to get out and visit all the businesses and see the kids,” Armstrong said. “We lucked out with the weather today.”
All businesses were required to hand out nut-free candy, but Burnham said some also participated in the Teal Pumpkin Project, a national movement wherein homes put out non-food items so as to be more inclusive to kids with allergies.
PEX Health and Fitness decked out their front entrance with orange and black streamers, providing candy and back scratchers. General Manager Bianca Cira dressed as an astronaut to welcome kids to the center.
“We have fun with it every year,” Cira said. “We love to decorate, we love events, being part of the community, and seeing the kids in costume is so much fun.”
Louise Condon of Condon Realty handed out baggies of candy, glow sticks and festive trinkets at the Town Common and was met with little smiles.
“We thought it’d be nice to meet all the little children,” Condon said, “especially on a nice day.”
While some may view Spooky Walk as an antecedent to Halloween, it’s cemented as a Needham tradition. The Needham Police Department advised trick-or-treaters to stick with friends and parents, wear bright colors and stay alert, among other safety tips.