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Halloween in Jeffersontown

Pumpkinfest Coming Up October 28

Writer  /  Beth Wilder, Director
Jeffersontown Historical Museum

Halloween – the spookiest night of the year, when little ghosts and goblins are known to parade door to door in search of tricks or treats. But did you know that Jeffersontown youngsters did not even begin “trick-or-treating” until 1938? It’s true.

The Jeffersontown Historical Museum is in possession of a costume worn by Zita Kay Elder that year, which she recalled as being the first time in Jeffersontown’s history that children ever went door to door in search of candy. The costume Zita Kay wore was relatively simple – it looked like a house dress and apron of the time, albeit with the head of a chicken to top it all off. Carole Chambers Davis, who donated a late 1940s 5-inch-high papier-mache pumpkin for gathering candy, noted that it was not very large, because “candy was a lot smaller then, and children didn’t get as much.”

Of course, in a rural area where one’s nearest neighbor could be a mile away, it is not very easy to go door to door looking for candy. Still at the time, Jeffersontown did have a handful of subdivisions, including Gregg’s Addition, Jefferson Heights and Livingston Heights. Most residents in the early 1900s, however, attended parties such as the one thrown by Katherine Marshall in 1910, where she decorated her house with a profusion of grasses, autumn leaves and pumpkin lanterns. She had an old witch guarding the front door and a ghost walking around upstairs, while she and her friends played games and enjoyed hot chocolate, wafers, salted peanuts, fruits and candies until a late hour.

According to a 2005 interview with local resident Marcia Bryan Horton, trick-or-treating in town began in response to the vandalism and “mean tricks” that tended to occur on Halloween night. She said she never knew what being “tic-tac-toed” was, but that it made a lot of noise on windows in town. She also recalled separate incidents wherein a cow and a buggy were somehow placed atop public buildings in Jeffersontown – she was a small child then, and had no idea how anyone was able to accomplish such feats. Having been born in 1916, Marcia never had the pleasure of being able to trick-or-treat around town, but her children did. They also attended the large community parties held on Halloween, where prizes would be awarded for the best costumes.

Starting in 1951, the Jeffersontown Area Community Council held annual Halloween celebrations which included a parade, prizes for the best costumes and free refreshments. From dusk to parade time, children were free to trick-or-treat in the area. At 8 p.m., a parade formed at the Jeffersontown School (where Tully Elementary now stands) and was escorted by the police and Volunteer Fire Department. An hour later, the children returned to the school to enjoy refreshments served on the football field. The Halloween celebration was a community affair — arrangements were made to care for 500 children, and many organizations, local merchants and residents contributed generously to the event.

A 1952 a Jeffersonian article noted that “by sponsoring this type of program, we believe that we can keep vandalism to a minimum.” Fortunately, the follow-up article was able to report that it was the quietest Halloween in Jeffersontown in recent years – from the standpoint of vandalism – and that “most of the window soaping was done several days before the eve of November 1.” A 1953 article repeated the good news that the vandalism of previous years was down, and that “even the Post Office, long a target of window soapers, escaped a smearing by pranksters.”

To this day, Jeffersontown hosts a wonderful party for its children – Pumpkinfest.  This year, the celebration will take place Saturday, October 28, from 4:30 – 8:00 p.m. A great alternative to traditional trick-or-treating, children can dress in costume and trick-or-treat along Historic Gaslight Square. There will be activities at the pavilion and the kids can enjoy hot dogs, chips and soft drinks. New this year, the Family Movie Series continues the festivities at 6:15 with a movie to be announced.

But before Pumpkinfest occurs, Jeffersontown Arts Program will present the 3rd Annual Ghost Stories Event with Keith Age, Friday, October 20, from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. in the Ballroom of the Jeffersontown Senior Center at 10631 Watterson Trail. The event is free to the public, although you must be over 18 years old to attend.

Keith Age has been called “The Legendary Rock-n-Roll Ghost Hunter.” He is the Founder and President of the Louisville Ghost Hunters Society, with more than 30 years of experience in paranormal research, and he has been a professional musician even longer. Keith Age will transport you to Waverly Hills, one of the scariest places on Earth, with documented evidence taken during actual paranormal investigations. He will discuss the behind-the-scenes making of Spooked: The Ghosts of Waverly Hills Sanatorium and Children of the Grave, as well as present evidence found during their productions across the United States. Expect to be astonished, frightened and gripped with the legendary work.

For more information about the Ghost Stories event, contact: Rhonda Rowland, Arts Program Manager; rrowland@jeffersontownky.gov or call 502-261-8290.

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