Halloween is one of those holidays that never gets old, no matter how high my age climbs.
I can remember being a small girl staring at all the boxed costumes in the store, looking through their clear cellophaned fronts to glimpse the colorful contents inside. It might be a mask or crown, plus a cape or other fun garment. As I inspected the rows of merchandise options, I would ponder whether to be a princess, a goblin or a comic book hero.
I could skip the boxed creations, avoiding the certainty of running into many others looking just like me, and instead finagle a white sheet from my mother, cut out some eyes and a mouth and be a ghost. Or I could drag my mother into the creative process and make something more original and elaborate. I was so jealous the year my friend Cynthia made an “I Dream of Jeannie” costume, wishing I had one myself.
Once Halloween night arrived, my brother and I would grab our pillowcases and head out with our neighborhood friends like a pack of dogs and visit every single house on our street. In exchange for the codeword, adults would deposit tasty tiny versions of our favorite candies, plus popcorn balls and candy apples (the latter which might be discarded lest there be razor blades buried in them — one of the more ridiculous fears bought into by our parents) into our giant receptacles.
Our cotton bags weighty in our hands, we’d come home a couple of hours later, exhilarated — or maybe that was simply the anticipated sugar rush. We’d dump our loot on the living room carpet, segment it into categories and begin trading like we were on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Then we’d gorge on chocolates, hard candies and taffies. Bliss.
As I got older, I traded trick-or-treating for Halloween parties. My friends and I would sometimes create elaborate costumes, parading around proudly while we partied the night away. Those were some memorable times.
Party invitations dwindled as I got older. Halloween became lost, left to be celebrated by younger generations. It certainly wasn’t even visible for urban apartment dwellers such as myself aside from the odd decoration.
But then I had my own family, and everything reversed 180 degrees. The man I married was a Halloween enthusiast. He came from a family who didn’t just give candy to little kids, but put on a show, and made trick-or-treaters think twice about landing their sugary prize too easily. Those kids had to work for their booty, and conquer their fear of the spooky adults who were providing it.
I embraced Halloween from an entirely new perspective and ever since, our home has often been referred to as “The Halloween House.”
We put on a show at the Cobb hacienda most years. Trick-or-treaters and their accompanying adults are all game to be scared, and the men of the house have a “no mercy” rule. They are equal opportunity frighteners.
I particularly enjoy seeing the kids every year — the babies, the toddlers, the new faces and the assortment of children I’ve witnessed growing up over time. I love to see the inventive costumes.
Some years our set-ups are more elaborate than others. We’ve had haunted houses with various rooms in which a visitor might confront a madman, a guillotine scene, screaming heads detached from bodies, frightful hillbillies, or a Scottish knife-wielding clansman.
For a couple of years, we had an electric chair scenario where a German doctor and her hunchback assistant tried to find volunteers among the wide-eyed trick-or-treaters huddled around. Another year, we split a child in two with a chainsaw and sold the “fresh meat” of their remains. That certainly got the neighbors talking.
Once trick-or-treaters make it through our horrors, they might have to reach in a coffin for their candy prize, or the pocket of a scary “statue,” who may or may not be alive.
Most years, there is a renowned evil scarecrow from our crew who preys upon the unsuspecting in the vicinity. People try and avoid him every year, but to no avail. He is a scare artist at Halloween.
We typically have tombstones littering the front yard that we’ve created over time, plus blazing fire baskets, haunted music and an assortment of carved jack-o-lanterns. It’s all a bit daunting.
Some kids smartly avoid our house, although you’d be amazed at how many parents prod, tug or even drag their kids to go through the spectacle.
I now realize one reason why I embrace the tradition of Halloween. It feels timeless. Unlike so many other things, it hasn’t really changed much from when I was a kid. And that’s more satisfying than any candy bar.
This column was originally published in The Journal on October 12, 2014.
Eastern Panhandle CrossFit athletes participate in statewide championship and two see podium finish (news article by Katherine Cobb)
Several Eastern Panhandle CrossFit athletes participated in the Third Annual West Virginia Individual Championship and Team Competition for West Virginia Affiliates including front row: Monica Powell, Ann Halavick; middle row: Katie Dyke, Calvin Greenfield, Harry Longerbeam, Jennifer Price, Kyle Price, Mary Arnold; back row: Dennis Carmickle and Lea Pillo.
BECKLEY—Several CrossFit athletes from the Eastern Panhandle competed at the Third Annual West Virginia Individual Championship and Team Competition for West Virginia Affiliates held at CrossFit Beckley on Sept. 13, and two landed a podium finish.
Vanessa Stolarski, 41, placed first after her dynamic performance in the Master’s Women 40-49 division and Ed Halavick, 50, placed second with his strong finish in the Master’s Men 50+ division.
The state competition was the culmination of the West Virginia Open, a series of six workouts performed by athletes at their own affiliates beginning in August. The competition was open to all CrossFit members in the state of West Virginia over age 13. Gender-specific age designations totaled 10 divisions. The qualifiers with the top scores were invited to the championship. Other athletes from the Open filled remaining available slots.
The championship consisted of three WODs (Workout of the Day), and the top three finishers in each category were awarded medals.
Martinsburg’s CrossFit Lat 39 had the largest number of participants in the finals. In addition to Halavick’s second place win in a field of six, Monica Powell scored 28 out of 37 in the Women’s Open division and Dennis Carmickle placed 55 out of 57 in the Men’s Open category. Two competed in the Master’s Men 40-49 group, with a field of 16 competitors. Kyle Price earned 7th place while Harry Longerbeam placed 15th. In the Master’s Women 40-49 group fielding 13 contestants, Jen Price earned 7th place while Ann Halavick took 10th.
Extreme CrossFit Martinsburg had four of its members compete. Katie Dyke placed a respectable 6th in the large Women’s Open category. Of the two competing in the Men’s Open group, Daniel McIntosh placed 17th while Calvin Greenfield placed 56th. Mary Arnold rounded out the Master’s Women 40-49 group in 13th place.
In addition to Stolarski, Iron Musket CrossFit in Kearneysville saw Lea Pillo in a strong 5th place finish in the Master’s Women 40-49 slot.
Stolarski said she participated in the Open for a number of reasons. “I am a glutton for punishment, but I enjoy competing because these events always force you to raise the bar for yourself,” she said. “Maybe you are horrible at pull-ups, and avoid them whenever possible, but when a competitive event lists that movement as part of the WOD, then you'll be damned sure you nail those pull-ups every time.”
“As a statewide event, I figured my chances of qualification might be slim so when I saw the rest of the scores being posted, and realized I might have a chance after all, I was stunned,” said Stolarski, who finished second overall in the Open.
She said the championship event ran overtime and they were all fairly delirious by the end. Ready to break down from the sheer physical and emotional output, Stolarski didn’t realize she was in first place heading into the last leg of the competition until friends ran up to tell her.
“As for my fellow competitors, holy cow! You don't know inspiration until you sit on a sweat-soaked, chalk-dusted floor and watch women your age repeatedly lift 100-pound barbells over their heads and then run over to their kids to wipe their noses,” she said.
“I also really enjoyed working out with the other boxes in our area,” added Stolarski. “We were all bonded by the fact that we were the first-time representatives of the Eastern Panhandle for this event, and I honestly believe we did our region proud.”
Halavick originally signed up for the Open because he thought it would be fun. “I really had no illusions about making it to the state qualifier,” he said. “After the first Open WOD, I saw how I stacked up against the competition and realized ‘I got this!’” He placed second in the Open in his category.
“Going into Beckley, I had a good idea of what I had to do,” said Halavick. “The first WOD was a grueling endurance WOD and I struggled on the run, but made up time on the rower. WOD two was my specialty: weightlifting. I set a personal record in the clean and jerk. WOD three was a chipper and I got second place by one pull-up. The other competitors in my division were great guys, but they were all business at 3, 2, 1, go! I finished the long day in second overall by one point.”
“It’s always exciting to hear your name called when the awards are being handed out, and to come home with a medal,” he added. “I work hard in the box every day, try to eat well, and it’s great when your sacrifices pay off. It would not have been possible without the 100 percent support that I get from my wife Ann and my family at CrossFit Lat 39.”
Johnny Layne, one of the chief event organizers of the competition, said this was the biggest year yet in terms of participants, although it continues to evolve as it grows.
“This year, we saw the Open jump to 275 and over 140 at the championship. In 2012, I recall we had 175 in the Open and 50 at the finals and in 2013, we had around 200 in the Open and 70 in the onsite,” said Layne. “I believe the Open can get over 500 in a few short years. The key will be more diversity in the divisions. The teenage divisions and breaking up the master’s divisions have proven to be something the athletes want. It will evolve as we get more input from athletes and we examine the data after the team competition is over.”
Former championships were held in Charleston and Morgantown. This year, the organizers changed things up by soliciting Open WOD ideas from all participating affiliates in an effort to encourage participation and provide more community among the affiliates. Those selected provided a video with the WOD requirements as well as an introduction to their gym.
With CrossFit growing in popularity, more affiliates have formed in West Virginia and worldwide. Increased accessibility to the sport has spawned a number of amateur athletic competitions utilizing the popular CrossFit-style workouts.
An edited version of this article appeared in The Journal on September 30, 2014 and can be viewed on its website.
A collection of columns, articles and general a-musings.