The Great Halloween Debacle of 2013; Rusty’s in Old Louisville with Mike Berry and Larry Muhammad


The way this city botched Halloween was embarrassing, a prime example of how panic and fear can grip a community, even if it’s just about kids and candy.

IMG_2427The date of Halloween is Oct. 31. On that date, children dress up in costumes, knock on the doors of their neighbors, yell ‘Trick or Treat” and merrily collect bags of candy. Now when I was dressing up as a pirate in the South End, our biggest fear was that some sicko would insert a razor blade in an apple. When my kids were little, I walked around with the little Riddlers and SpongeBobs while my wife stayed home and passed out candy.

Sometimes it was cold, and we had to wear extra layers of clothing. Other years, it rained, and we had to protect ourselves from the elements with hats, umbrellas and ponchos.  If it ever got really bad, we had the sense to come in out of the rain and eat candy, then go back out for more. I’ve been out of the trick-or-treating game for a few years, but just couldn’t believe the panic that set in around our community over the prospect of bad weather on Oct. 31.

First, we’ve become far too fearful of TV weathermen. We react to ominous forecasts by canceling things, like after-school activities, ballgames and Trick-or-Treating, based on nothing more than predictions, which often prove wrong. On Halloween, many young goblins and their parents braved a light rain to go around their neighborhoods seeking candy. TV weather forecasts have become fear-fests, with all the technology and gadgets designed to show viewers that really, there’s something to fear out there, and it’s called light rain. It’s always the lead story on the 6 o’clock news.

Managers at local malls sensed a great marketing opportunity, but underestimated the fear that parents of young children have of rain. At Oxmoor, they planned to have stores stay open and give out candy to Trick-or-Treaters whose parents were scared of weather, an unprecedented event. The problem was that so many parents were so stricken with fear (not of goblins, but rain) that the Mall was overrun with costumed kids, throngs of them, and none of the stores stocked enough candy. Most of those who went left grumbling about a miserable experience, whining to eager TV reporters and bitching about it on Facebook.  It was all there on your local TV news.

It became the only topic people were talking about, starting nearly a week before Halloween. And with the easy access to local media, everyone expressed a complaint about . . . who was to blame, with a bunch of people blaming the Mayor, as if he had some way to impact the panicked reactions. Only former Rusty Satellite Show guest Eric Crawford was able to cut through the nonsense with a column making sense of the local chaos.

Those neighborhoods that had associations fed the fear machine, putting their leaders in front of TV cameras announcing that they would have alternative events, or postpone the festivities a night, to keep the little critters out of the tornadic activity. That was the second story on the news. All night, station management kept a vigil on the weather, some breaking in to regular programming, to show the light rain and exclaim the remote possibility of high winds (yes, maybe even a tornado!) hundreds of miles away.

OK, I’m exaggerating. A little. My point is that weather panic regularly grips our world, and we over-react by doing things like canceling Trick-or-Treating. And we shouldn’t.

And on with the show. . .

That’s my rant on that. On this week’s Rusty Satellite Show, I talked with Mike Berry of the Kentucky Derby Festival at his office in Old Louisville. And can you believe that 24 hours AFTER our interview, the Festival announced the creation of a new biking event (the one he hints is coming during the show). And it was also great to talk journalism with Larry Muhammad, my favorite former Courier reporter turned playwright, and learn the story of Henry Bain. Turns out that Bain, an early 20th century African-American employee of the Pendennis Club, created the sauce to take the “gamey” taste out of the meat he prepared from the wild game brought back to the Club from members’ hunts.