A spooktacular tradition is returning to Washougal’s Main Street for the first time in years.
More than a dozen downtown Washougal businesses and organizations will host a family-friendly trick-or-treat event from 3 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 31.
“It should be a fun event,” said event organizer Tabitha Schmer, an agent for Cascadia NW Real Estate in downtown Washougal. “Based on the feedback and responses that I’m getting already, I have a feeling that it is going to become a much larger event than I had anticipated, which is amazing for the community. It seems like a win-win (for community members and businesses).”
Community members “are invited to come downtown in costume and meet local business owners,” according to Valerie Ross, owner of the Music Con Brio piano studio on Main Street.
Business owners will pass out candy to children, who will have the option to collect stamps on a “passport” card and collect prizes for visiting all of the participating locations.
“I’m hoping (this event) will draw families into our downtown area, show off some of the great shops and restaurants that have opened in the last few years, and provide a much-needed space to meet our neighbors,” Ross said. “I think we’re all craving face-to-face interaction and a sense of belonging after the loneliness of the pandemic. I’m excited to get involved with events like this that help to build connection and community in Washougal.”
Schmer, who organized a book donation/open house fundraiser to benefit Fort Vancouver Regional Libary’s Washougal library project in September, said that she decided to create a trick-or-treat event because she “didn’t really see anything like that in Washougal.”
“You go to Vancouver, and they have a safe trick-or-treating event at the mall. Camas has its ‘Boo Bash’ thing. We have the Pumpkin Harvest Festival, but it’s not quite the same,” Schmer said. “One of the business (owners) who’s participating said that there used to be (trick-or-treating in downtown Washougal) quite a while ago, but it kind of fell by the wayside, and nobody ever picked up the mantle. I really wanted to see something that benefited both the businesses and the kiddos. This seems like a no-brainer to me.”
The event will provide parents with a “safe place” to take their kids trick-or-treating, according to Schmer.
“There’s a lot of families with younger kids that don’t want to be out at night. They need a safe space where they can take their kiddos,” she said. “They can trick-or-treat and be home and in bed by 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. for the really young ones. This gives them that opportunity.”
Schmer also hopes that the event will provide the participating businesses with some much-needed exposure.
“It will get the parents into all the businesses that they may not go into (regularly) or not even know (about in the first place),” she said. “I’m always wanting to give back to the community, but it’s not 100% selfless; I want to do something for (people), but on the flip side, I also want to get people through our doors and say, ‘Hey, we’re here.’”
Schmer first mentioned her idea to Ross, who agreed to help organize it. “I’d already been thinking about trying to organize some kind of downtown Halloween event for families, but since I’m still relatively new to the area, I wasn’t quite sure how to get the ball rolling, so I kind of set it aside in my mind and thought I might try again next year,” Ross said. “When Tabitha approached me about this event, it felt like it was meant to be.”
Schmer and Ross then reached out to other Main Street business owners, who responded to their idea with enthusiasm.
“I was hoping that we got like seven or eight (businesses), but I didn’t really know what to expect,” Schmer said. “I’ve been in Washougal for a year-and-a-half, so I’m kind of this new kid on the block coming in and saying, ‘Hey, let’s do this,’ so I wasn’t really sure of the response I was going to get. I am ecstatic that it’s been so well received.”
The list of participating businesses and organizations includes Anytime Fitness, C-W Chamber of Commerce, Cascadia NW Real Estate, Chinese Café, Dakima Maria Boutique, Forest Moon Yoga, J Teriyaki, Music Con Brio, Titus Elevators, Trap Door Brewing, Washougal Barbershop, Washougal City Hall, Washougal Eagles 4390, the Washougal library, Washougal Hardware, and Washougal Sport and Spine.
“It’s been so cool to see businesses come together and create an event to connect with families in the community,” Ross said. “I’ve met so many wonderful people at other Main Street businesses. All the business owners I’ve talked to are so passionate about serving the community and building a safe, family-friendly environment to shop, eat and connect with neighbors.
“I’ve also talked to lots of young families that have moved to the area in the past few years and are seeking out events for their kids and ways to get more connected in the community. But because there’s been a lot of business turnover … there’s not as much foot traffic from folks in the community coming downtown, and I don’t think people realize we’ve still got a great little Main Street area to explore.”
Schmer said that she is cautiously optimistic that the trick-or-treating can become an annual event in downtown Washougal.
“You start to do something, and if it’s a complete failure, you chock it up as, ‘Well, that didn’t work,’ and move on. But then when you find something that’s so well received, it’s just going to grow year after year,” she said. “I think that if it goes well, I could see it growing. I mean, we still have people approaching us, saying, ‘Can we be involved?’, even though the flier’s already out. Valerie’s probably not going to like me when I call her and say, ‘Hey, we need to update the passport because we added people.’”