Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Dudley Street neighbors continued a decade-long Halloween event tradition, this year giving the event the theme of “Scary Tales.” (Photos: Fran Cronin)

Among visitors to the event Sunday were Lexington’s Sharon and Kobi Shapira, with son Yotam, 2, and daughter Noga, three months; Tre Mirnda, 18, and friend; and Graham & Parks sixth-graders Perry Wilson and Sophie Lipkin, both 11.

Under darkly mottled Halloween sky, throngs of witches, farm animals and fanged creatures crowded the 250-foot stretch of Dudley Street between Reed and Cedar streets Sunday night.

For the past decade, Halloween has come to especially spirited life on this stretch of closely spaced worker’s cottages and modest triple-deckers. At dusk, 400 feet of beaded lights begin to glow between the corners of Tony’s neighborhood store on the west and one-time horse stable and hotel on the east. One by one, with trained spotlights, decorations, sound effects and costumes, houses are transformed into a blocklong fantasyland. This year’s theme was “Scary Tales.”

Residents go all out on displays, including a raven-haired Rapunzel speaking her name in 10 languages; a witch’s legs made to disappear into a fiery oven, thanks to the cleverness of Hansel and Gretel; and a tableau on which Little Red Riding Hood was obviously sitting much too close to her grandmother-wolf. Wolves abounded, in fact — the Three Little Pigs were there to attest to it.

In another sign of the intensity with which the neighborhood treats Halloween, the event has its own theme song created by former resident Peter Dunn. (You can hear it at petedunn.net/ MP3s/DudleyStreetOnHalloween.mp3.)

Wandering the displays and trick-or-treating was Sharon Shapira, in chicken hat, husband Kobi in a black-and-white cow headpiece, 2-year old son Yotam in a spider costume and 3-month-old daughter Noga, who was snuggling into yellow duck fluff. The family, a veritable farmyard, is from Lexington, but comes for the festival each year while visiting friends on Reed Street.

“We love it. It’s our tradition,” Sharon Shapira said.

Also at the event was Tre Mirnda, 18, sporting a white fur coat, sunglasses and a natty walking cane; friends Perry Wilson and Sophie Lipkin, both 11 and sixth-graders at Graham & Parks elementary school, who referred to themselves as “Leslie the Strange Creature” and “Blue Crayon”; and a Cat in the Hat pushing a stroller whose rider was a blue-wigged Thing 1. (Or was it 2?)

One of the “Scary Tales” displays indicated Little Red Riding Hood had been sitting much too close to the wolf dressed as her grandmother.

The first annual Dudley Street Halloween block party was sparked by one-time residents Peg and Chris Deery. They wanted to do something creative with their friends, and the original goal was to create a unified Halloween event “that was safe and accessible to young kids,” neighbor Susan Dillard said.

The Cambridge Police Department liked the idea and provided a $500 grant through the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety. Fast-forward 10 years and neighborhood enthusiasm remains, along with police support — but not the funding. The neighbors now take up a collection to pay for the 10,000 pieces of candy handed out each year.

The event draws large crowds — some 800 people on past Halloweens — and the treats go fast.

Meg Bond, costumed as a witch and handing out candy from a spotlighted porch, had to plead for her supply to be replenished — her second such request of the night.

It’s all worth it, Bond said.

Dillard agreed.

“If it weren’t for Halloween, I would not know my neighbors as well as I do,” Dillard said. “Our Halloween spirit lasts all year.”