We were not going to do Halloween this year.

It was no big deal. My boyfriend and I were just going to take a year off. We’d skip costumes, candy and decorations, save some time and money and then reconsider next year.

It wasn’t like the holiday would miss us. As far as I can tell, there are two main ways to do Halloween: the kid-friendly family way or the drunken masquerade way. Neither of those was really relevant to us. It’s fun to see the little ones dressed up, but we aren’t close enough with any locally to enjoy this in an unsuspicious way, and we’ve both left behind the nights of intoxicated revelry (or like to pretend we have).

And this is probably not something I should admit in the newspaper, but last year we hadn’t gotten around to carving pumpkins until November. Anyone paying even casual attention back then could have seen this year’s decision coming.

So we weren’t even thinking of the date when we decided to head downtown on Saturday morning for brunch. There was a whole plan: We’d order pancakes and coffee, then run some errands and head back home for some tidying up.

But as we turned onto Second Street in downtown Casper, it became apparent that we had forgotten to factor something into our itinerary — something big and maybe a little spooky.

Downtown was swarming with children and families, many of them dressed in costumes. We briefly considered altering the plan and hitting the area on a different day, but we found parking quickly and really wanted pancakes, so that was that.

As we dodged the legion of Marvel superheroes, tiny lumberjacks and ninjas on the sidewalk, I couldn’t help but giggle a little. The kids and their families were cute, and the air hummed with excitement.

I had forgotten what it was like to be a kid around Halloween. It meant waiting days, weeks or months to show off the costume you’d decided on. It meant having an opportunity to really be that character — to try on a whole different identity for once in your young life.

I had a lot of favorite childhood costumes, but in the third grade I was Dorothy, from the Wizard of Oz. I can still remember the excitement of the red shoes — so different from the white Keds I was used to — and the way the skirt of my blue-and-white checkered dress floated in the autumn wind. When I was about 7, I was a hula dancer with a grass skirt, and my mother added a swipe of magenta lipstick to my look for the occasion. This prompted a full-scale freakout from my 5-year-old sister, who was dressed in a green dinosaur suit that year — a freakout that could be tamed only with a second application of lipstick, etching that year forever in all of our minds as the time she went as a “dinosaur with lipstick” for Halloween. It was weird — and in retrospect, pretty hilarious — but she was happy.

That same feeling of happiness was evident Saturday in downtown Casper. We watched as the tiny mermaids, devils and pumpkins shuffled by in the cool breeze, their eyes sparkling with excitement. Everywhere we looked, sidewalks were packed with kids and families. It was fun to see downtown Casper serving as a destination for all that buzzy energy.

But it wasn’t just putting on an identity for the day. In the years that I’ve lived here, I’ve seen the area gain more and more momentum. New businesses are opening, along with the new and lovely David Street Station, and people gravitate to the area on nights and weekends. We felt lucky to have accidentally stepped into the festive atmosphere that day.

We finally found our way to those pancakes — they turned out to be sourdough, and I highly recommend them — and really, that might have been as close as we’ll get to a bag of sweet treats this year. We really hadn’t done anything else for the holiday. But in a community like this — one that organizes events and encourages families to come out and play — it was silly to expect to skip the holiday.

Next year, I’ll do my best to plan ahead a little — to join in and locate some of that childhood excitement myself. At least I know what shade of lipstick to start with.


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