Commuting For Candy 

Why do Boise kids travel miles for a Snickers?

Teresa Shackelford stands on Harrison Boulevard: "We have friends who live on Harrison Boulevard. They just sat on their porch [last year], handing out candy, and there was a line down the block."

Patrick Sweeney

Teresa Shackelford stands on Harrison Boulevard: "We have friends who live on Harrison Boulevard. They just sat on their porch [last year], handing out candy, and there was a line down the block."

Teresa Shackelford doesn't have anything against kids trick-or-treating on Harrison Boulevard, she just wants to share the joy. And that would be Almond Joy, as well as Snickers and Three Musketeers.

"On the day after Halloween last year, I came into work and told my colleagues that our house hardly had any trick-or-treaters," said Shackelford. "And almost all of my co-workers had the same experience; that was from pretty much every part of Boise, a common experience."

Think of the phrase "Halloween in Boise" and throngs of sweet-toothed goblins haunting Harrison Boulevard usually come to mind. The Boise Police Department traditionally dispatches extra patrol cars on Harrison each Halloween to keep an eye on the pint-sized ghosts lining the stretch from Resseguie Street north to Hill Road. Visitors to boiseidahohomesforsale.com or buildidaho.com will notice that the websites trumpet Harrison Boulevard to potential new residents as "the trick-or-treating hotspot in Boise." Even artist Ward Hooper, famous for his illustrations of Boise landmarks, immortalized Oct. 31 in Boise with his piece "Halloween on Harrison Boulevard."

"We have friends who live on Harrison Boulevard and they actually counted the kids last year. It was thousands," said Shackelford. "They just sat on their porch, handing out candy, and there was a line down the block. I guess it makes sense if the kids live in that part of the city, but why would you pack up and drive to another part of town and then stand in line? Why not just go to a candy store? To me, that's not even trick-or-treating."

Shackelford said her friends and co-workers would rather see more Boise kids trick-or-treating closer to home.

"We started talking about what it would take to change those patterns, and someone said we should create a Facebook page," she said. "So, I went home and that same evening, I did exactly that."

Shackelford created a social platform at facebook.com/boise.community.halloween that includes a PDF document-flier that reads, "This Halloween, please trick-or-treat locally (before you go elsewhere) and leave someone home to turns on the lights and give out candy!"

Shackelford, a clinical social worker with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare and a mom of three was anxious to stay home on Halloween night 2012, turn on the porch lights and hand out treats at her family's new home in southwest Boise.

"I went to the store, bought multiple bags of mini-candy bars and then hardly anyone came to the door. It made no sense, because it's a very engaged neighborhood--and I kept hearing the same story about neighborhoods all over town," she said. "My friends, who grew up in Boise, said it didn't used to be exclusively about Harrison Boulevard. They said everyone trick-or-treated in their own neighborhoods."

But trick-or-treating is a very personal issue, and Shackelford acknowledges that getting more kids to ask for candy closer to home is "a cultural shift."

"I like to think of myself as an optimistic realist," she said. "No. 1, parents need to turn their porch lights on. And more of that will probably happen if the kids stay closer to their neighborhoods so that parents can be home at least part of the night. My sense is that a lot of people may have given up on handing out candy because not enough kids come around."

But it's certainly not for a lack of little ones. Boise Weekly reported earlier this month that the Boise School District recently tabulated its current kindergarten class--typically comprised of 5- and 6-year-olds--to be the largest since 1998.

"At least we can get Boise parents to start talking about this," said Shackelford. "Yes, I'll probably buy plenty of candy again this Halloween. I just hope I don't end up having to take too much of it into work the next day. It's meant for the kids."

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