Halloween in Gig Harbor, Washington, doesn’t just mean candy for the kids; it means a beach party for all.
Writer Sarah Latta, Stylist Mindi Shapiro Levine
1 of 18Photographer Thayer Gowdy
Instead of asphalt, it’s sand. Instead of front doorbells, it’s back patios. For neighbors in Gig Harbor, Washington, celebrating the year’s scary holiday means honoring it at the place they love most: their beach.
2 of 18Photographer Thayer Gowdy
Here, kids and parents―everybody dressed in costume―trick-or-treat from house to house using the beach that is everyone’s backyard. String lights and jarred candles mark the way, and families follow back walkways until they find bowls of candy at the end. Afterwards, neighbors gather to enjoy a simple dinner of chili and cornbread and watch kids delight in their loot.
3 of 18Photographer Thayer Gowdy
“Halloween was always a big tradition for me,” says Christine Rothenberg, who thought up the party idea when she and her family moved to the area from New York five years ago. “Growing up I had a neighborhood to trick-or-treat in, and I wanted my kids to have the same sort of feel.”
4 of 18Photographer Thayer Gowdy
So Christine set to work, recruiting neighbor Kathleen North for help, and the two families passed out fliers to neighbors along the beach, 10 houses each way. Now, every year kids paint pumpkins and bob for apples while adults commune over glasses of wine.
5 of 18Photographer Thayer Gowdy
“We have people who grew up on this beach and people who grew up far, far away,” says Kathleen. “But we come together for love of the place we live.” This October marks the fourth year of celebration for the quiet community that overlooks South Puget Sound.
6 of 18Photographer Thayer Gowdy
The list keeps growing longer as neighbors farther down the beach catch word. “My favorite thing is watching kids try to run in costume from house to house,” Christine says. “Their little feet, half immersed in sand and pebbles, can’t ever move fast enough.”
7 of 18Photographer Thayer Gowdy
Introducing the Hosts
David and Christine Rothenberg (left) greet guests with cowgirl Rachel, ghost Alex, and skeleton pup Madison outside their Gig Harbor, Washington, home. Little more than 10 miles from Tacoma, it overlooks Puget Sound.
8 of 18Photographer Thayer Gowdy
“I love watching the kids,” Christine says. “Their energy is boundless. They just can’t wait to get started. They run back and forth on the beach, and their voices echo off the water. Grown-ups parade with little lanterns going up and down the beach. It’s almost like closing bell before winter time arrives.”
9 of 18Photographer Thayer Gowdy
Gig Harbor, just 11 miles outside Tacoma, Washington, boasts maritime temperatures, pebbly beaches, and beautiful views of South Puget Sound.
10 of 18Photographer Thayer Gowdy
For canine costumes, visit funnypet.com. At this beach bash, even the pets get into the spirit.
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Get your partygoers in the Halloween spirit with activities planned for guests of all ages.
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For Young Kids
Arrange a craft table that’s stocked with mini pumpkins, seashells, and paint supplies for decorating.
Entice too-cool teens to bob for apples with prizes such as new video game and sports memorabilia.
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Host a costume competition with fun categories such as “Most Original” and “Best Last Minute.” Hand out ballots and have guests write in their votes.
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What To Eat
Save the fancy food for Thanksgiving. Serve crowd-pleasing dishes that let hungry guests serve themselves. We couldn’t get enough of the deliciously buttery cornbread!
Keep clicking for recipes.
17 of 18Photographer Thayer Gowdy
Christine’s Vegetarian Chili
Prep: 4 minutes Cook: 20 minutes
2 tablespoons olive oil 1 onion, chopped 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 red bell pepper, chopped 1 green bell pepper, chopped 1 (1.7-ounce) package chili seasoning 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained 1 (15.25-ounce) can yellow corn, rinsed and drained 2 (15-ounce) cans chili beans, undrained 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley Toppings: Hot sauce, chopped onions, sour cream, shredded Cheddar cheese
1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and next 3 ingredients; sauté 5 minutes or until tender.
2. Stir in chili seasoning and next 5 ingredients. Cook 15 minutes or until heated through. Stir in parsley. Serve with toppings, if desired. Makes 11 cups.
Note: This is best made ahead (up to three days) so the flavors can meld; add parsley just before serving.
18 of 18Photographer Thayer Gowdy
Prep: 5 minutes Cook: 30 minutes
1 cup butter 1 cup sugar 4 large eggs 1 (14.75-ounce) can creamed corn ½ cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack Cheese ½ cup (2 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 cup yellow cornmeal 4 teaspoons baking powder ½ teaspoon salt
1. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer; beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Stir in corn and cheeses.
2. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; stir into butter mixture. Pour into a buttered 13- x 9-inch baking dish.
3. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 8 servings.