Oak Hill Halloween

Rachel O’Connell’s home on Cooke Street in the Oak Hill neighborhood of Pawtucket is one of two dozen decked out for a Halloween decorating contest running Oct. 28-30.

PAWTUCKET – After canceling their annual Halloween parade for the second year in a row, neighbors in the Oak Hill section of Pawtucket wanted to still do something festive for the holiday.

The Haunting of Oak Hill, hosted by the Oak Hill Neighborhood Halloween Hootenanny Committee, is an inaugural Halloween house and lawn decoration contest, featuring two dozen houses decked out for the season. Visitors can take self-guided tours from Oct. 28-30, and winners of the contest will be announced on Halloween.

Houses are located on Lafayette Street, Cooke Street, Paris Street, Newman Road, Progress Street, Scott Street, Marbury Avenue, Sheffield Avenue, and more. For a map, check out the Oak Hill Hootenanny — Pawtucket page on Facebook.

“This is a family-friendly celebration of our community,” organizer Rachel O’Connell, who lives on Cooke Street, told The Breeze.

O’Connell said the neighborhood usually hosts a Halloween Hootenanny Parade, which was canceled last year due to COVID-19. Since many children are still not vaccinated, out of an abundance of caution, neighbors decided to forgo the parade again this year, she said, and instead came up with the idea for a decoration contest. It’s a way to still bring the community together safely, she said, adding that people have been understanding of the decision.

“I know that our neighborhood misses the parade. It’s part of the identity of Oak Hill,” she said. “We wanted to keep the hootenanny spirit alive.”

Categories for the contest include most creative, spookiest, best jack-o-lantern, crowd favorite, kid friendliest, and more, O’Connell said. Judging will be done by the Pawtucket General assembly delegation, she said, and the community favorite will be decided by online votes on the Facebook page. As a way to support local businesses, winners will receive gift cards, she said, and all participants will get goodie bags with prizes.

O’Connell said people have been out decorating their yards with witches, skeletons, ghosts, and more. After finding a tutorial, she and her children, ages 7 and 10, decorated their shrubs with giant glowing eyeballs made from bowls, she added. “They love Halloween,” she said of her children.

Oak Hill resident Rita Rossi, who’s participating in the contest, said, “I love it. I think it’s a great idea. It’s a good way to maintain social distance but still do something in the community.”

Rossi, who has a 9-year-old, said the event is totally grassroots, and it’s mostly parents of young children in the neighborhood. Her decorations include a big spiderweb on their front porch and silhouettes in the windows.

The event is just about the decorations, but O’Connell said many neighbors have been asking her about trick-or-treating, so she’s been sharing ideas on how to safely hand out candy. Last year, she said, neighbors gave out prepackaged bags of candy or left candy out so there was no contact.

“People are getting back to trick-or-treating this year,” she said.

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