Halloween activities begin Thursday night

Nick Stroman

The city of Washington has no shortage of Halloween-related activities for tricksters of all ages to participate in this year.

They kick off a week early, beginning Thursday night with “Moonlight Madness” on the square.

All merchants are open until 10 p.m. Costumed kids are encouraged to trick-or-treat from 5 to 9 p.m. at the businesses.

Most of the stores will also have special Halloween-related in-store specials just for that night.

In addition to the little ones raiding the merchants’ candy cupboards, luminaries will light the square as people participate in pumpkin decorating. The Studio 38 Dance Co. will put on a dance performance.

The Washington Park District building will be the site of a costume contest at 6 p.m. the same night.

Fire Chief Mike Vaughn, District 50 teacher Lori Prater and children’s librarian Ronnie Walker will judge the contest and hand out awards in 12 different categories, including spookiest, most creative and cutest.

Park district recreation manager Kristy Howell said children usually swing by the costume contest before hitting up the downtown merchants.

Howell said she hopes the weather holds up.

“You can always bet on it raining that night. We had torrential rain last year, and it was horrible,” Howell said.

Howell was a judge for the costume contest in 2008 and said even her own ensemble did not fare well under the pounding raindrops.

“I was dressed as Sarah Palin, and by the end of the night, I didn’t quite look like her. I had my hair up like her, and it had fallen,” Howell said with a laugh.

On Saturday, the park district and the Washington library will host “Spooky Stories in the Park” from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Wenger Shelter.

Storyteller Kay Price will read age-appropriate spooky stories to kids ages 8 and older, and adults can gather at a fire and drink warm cider.

“It’s something we’ve been doing for at least 15 years. It’s very festive, and everyone sits bundled up and listens to the stories. Some of the stories have spooky music to go with them,” Howell said.

On Halloween night, Five Points Washington will host an adults-only costume party from 7 p.m. to midnight.

Pekin-based variety band “Loose Shoes” will perform, as costumed adults enjoy complimentary soda and draft beer, drink specials and light hors d’oeuvres.

“You don’t have to dress up, but you can. I love to go and just listen to the band and visit with people,” Howell said.

Tasteful costumes are encouraged, and there is a payoff for the most creative outfits — $300 for first place, $200 for second place and $100 for third place.

“If you want something different, it’s a nice evening out there,” Howell said.

Even after the holiday is officially over, there is no slowing down for Halloween-related activities in Washington.

Revelers are encouraged to “Howl at the Moon” at 6 p.m. Nov. 7 at Countryside Banquet Center.

The park district and Lindy’s Downtown Market sponsor the 21-and-over evening, which features dueling pianists playing requests, along with drinks and dancing.

“There’s only a few tickets left for that. It’s gotten more popular each year we have it,” Howell said.