Halloween has fallen on hard times, and another sign of this decline is the cancellation of Trick-or-Treat on Madison Street.

Business owners were not willing to have Madison Street closed off and hordes of costumed children invading their stores for handouts. I can understand their feelings. Every year I saw normally calm, friendly shop owners driven to distraction by little vampires and princesses.

Their businesses were completely disrupted and they received little benefit from the event. Frankly, many of the trick-or-treaters were not even from Forest Park. And it seemed doubtful their parents would be returning to make purchases.

As a parent, I found the tradition a bit surreal: sending your well-scrubbed kids into establishments that smelled like stale beer and cigarettes. Or your little tyke might invade the adult atmosphere of a beauty shop, liquor store, or antique store. You really had to hold your breath when they went into a shop containing breakables.

I wasn’t against my kids getting free candy. But it did seem more extortionist than knocking on the doors of friends and neighbors. I understand the businesses started the event as a way to give back to the community. However, they weren’t willing to continue it without some financial return.

There’s talk they may replace it with an art fair, with kid-friendly activities on the side. This is yet another sign that Forest Park is changing from down-home to upscale. OK, but let’s not go all “Oak Park” about this. I mean, there was something uniquely Forest Park about sending your grade-schooler into a shot and beer joint for treats.

Ending Trick-or-Treat on Madison Street is yet another blow to a holiday that Baby Boomers remember as a candy bacchanalia. They have such fond memories of dressing up, filling bags with candy and committing pranks–they still celebrate the holiday. Adult costume parties are increasingly popular, while house decorating is out of control.

At the same time, parents from this generation are more and more protective of their tykes. They favor severely restricted trick-or-treating hours and tend to accompany their kids from house to house. They’ve sucked all the fun out of the holiday for themselves.

When are adults going to learn to leave kids to their own activities? Study after study shows that children need unsupervised playtime. Yet we organize their games and attempt to remove all the danger and mystery from what used to be a very edgy holiday. I’m not sorry they discontinued Trick-or-Treat on Madison Street. I’d rather cancel trick-or-treating altogether than continue this watered-down, adult-driven exercise that robs children of adventure and leaves their bags half-empty.

By the way it wasn’t dentists who started Halloween it was the Druids. Their version was a bit different–they celebrated with human sacrifices. It’s true the victims were criminals but I think it’s good that this Halloween tradition has also been discontinued.

John Rice

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.