Well folks, ‘tis the season! Halloween is this weekend and I, for one, am excited. I love watching spooky movies, eating and drinking all things pumpkin flavored, and dressing up in punny costumes. Today, Halloween is quite the spectacle. Many people like to celebrate all month (or even longer!) with decorations, movies, apple orchards, pumpkin patches, and haunted hayrides. But this begs the question, how did we come to celebrate Halloween this way?
You can thank Elizabeth Krebs for that.
Back in 1912 in Hiawatha, Kansas, a local named Elizabeth Krebs was fed up. She was a prominent gardener in her town, and took immense pride in her personal flower garden. But, every year on November 1st she would wake up to destruction in her flower beds. The local youths would take part in utter chaos every year on Halloween night destroying yards, beheading chickens (yeah, seriously), and turning over outhouses; and Elizabeth wasn’t the only one that had had enough.
Mrs. Krebs decided that these kids needed a way to burn off all of their excess energy on Halloween, or at the very least something to keep them occupied enough to leave her precious garden alone. On Halloween of 1913, Mrs. Krebs planned a party in town to try and deter the youths from terrorizing the town. Unfortunately, on November 1st, 1913, she woke up to find her garden torn to shreds yet again.
More determined than ever, she spent the entire next year planning a party, and used her own time and resources to do it. On October 31st, 1914 the party commenced. There was a band, apple bobbing, pumpkin carving and decorating, and all sorts of other activities. The kids marched with the band all through town all the way to the opera house, all the while dancing and having fun – and the party didn’t stop until the kids were thoroughly partied out.
On November 1st, 1914, Mrs. Krebs woke up to find her garden undisturbed. The townspeople commended her for her hard work, and thanked her for saving their properties. The rate of vandalism dropped immensely, and why? Because all those kids that usually spent Halloween destroying the town were at her party and tiring themselves out.
Today, the Hiawatha Halloween Frolic that Mrs. Krebs started is still ongoing. If Halloween falls on a weekday, school is dismissed so as not to overlap with the frolic. The frolic begins in the afternoon with a “Kiddie Parade” with hundreds of youngsters dressed up. Prizes are awarded for the best costumes and decorated bikes, wagons, family floats, and even horses. In the evening, the “Grand Parade” is held that includes dignitaries such as the Governor of Kansas and other political figures from the state. High school bands march, decorated floats are driven, horses are ridden, and Shrine units make appearances.
Mrs. Krebs not only aided Hiawatha in maintaining a low-vandalism state, but helped solidify the way we celebrate Halloween today. If you are planning on enjoying Halloween and it’s festivities this weekend, consider taking a moment to think about Mrs. Krebs and how she made this holiday fun and kid-friendly.