Spirited Beach Bash

Halloween in Gig Harbor, Washington, doesn’t just mean candy for the kids; it means a beach party for all.

Instead of asphalt, it’s sand. Instead of front doorbells, it’s back patios.

Photographer Thayer Gowdy

Spooktacular Celebration

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.

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.

Photographer Thayer Gowdy

Neighborhood Delight

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.

“Growing up I had a neighborhood to trick-or-treat in, and I wanted my kids to have the same sort of feel.”

Photographer Thayer Gowdy

Memory Maker

“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.”

Now, every year kids paint pumpkins and bob for apples while adults commune over glasses of wine.

Photographer Thayer Gowdy

Shared Experience

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.

This October marks the fourth year of celebration for the quiet community that overlooks South Puget Sound.

Photographer Thayer Gowdy

Gathering Place

“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.

The list keeps growing longer as neighbors farther down the beach catch word.

Photographer Thayer Gowdy

Growing Tradition

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.”

The Rothenberg home, tittle more than 10 miles from Tacoma, overlooks Puget Sound.

Photographer 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.

"Grown-ups parade with little lanterns going up and down the beach. It’s almost like closing bell before winter time arrives.”

Photographer Thayer Gowdy

Favorite Moment

“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.”

Children in costumes walk along Gig Harbor's pebbly beaches.

Photographer Thayer Gowdy

Beautiful View

Gig Harbor, just 11 miles outside Tacoma, Washington, boasts maritime temperatures, pebbly beaches, and beautiful views of South Puget Sound.

The Rothenberg's dog get into the Halloween spirit with a skeleton costume.

Photographer Thayer Gowdy

Family Affair

At this beach bash, even the pets get into the spirit. For canine costumes, visit funnypet.com.

A Gig Harbor neighbor passes out candy to local children.

Photographer Thayer Gowdy

Game Plan

Get your partygoers in the Halloween spirit with activities planned for guests of all ages.

Children work together to make Halloween crafts.

Photographer Thayer Gowdy

For Young Kids

Arrange a craft table that’s stocked with mini pumpkins, seashells, and paint supplies for decorating.

Children use craft supplies to make Halloween masks.

Photographer Thayer Gowdy

Shopping Tip

Besides the usual dollar stores and wholesale clubs, find craft supplies at the following online sits: craftbits.com, crafts.kaboose.com, and creativekidsathome.com.

Humorous costumes such as a bottle of ketchup make ideal choices for teens.

Photographer Thayer Gowdy

For Teenagers

Entice too-cool teens to bob for apples with prizes such as new video game and sports memorabilia.

A Gig Harbor resident dresses like a cowboy for Halloween.

Photographer Thayer Gowdy

For Adults

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.

We couldn’t get enough of the deliciously buttery cornbread!

Photographer Thayer Gowdy

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.

Note: This is best made ahead (up to three days) so the flavors can meld; add parsley just before serving.

Photographer 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.

Vegetarian Chili and Crumbly Cornbread are easily accessible for a crowd.

Photographer Thayer Gowdy

Crumbly Cornbread

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.

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