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Halloween spooks and safety

Kelly Evertsen, Of the Record Staff

It’s that time of year again when kids and adults alike get the chance to dress in spooky or quirky costumes and chow down on sugar and sweets for a good week or two.

Halloween comes when the weather turns colder, the kids are back in school and there’s an eerie fall feeling looming in the air.

Parents want their kids to have a safe and fun Halloween, and experts have offered tips for how parents can keep their little ones safe while trick-or-treating this year.

But it’s also important for everyone to have a good time and impress and outdo their friends at all those crazy costume parties.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Halloween is the fifth highest day of the year for fires blamed on candles, falling behind Christmas, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day and New Year’s Eve. The association suggests people keep dry decorations, like dried flowers, cornstalks and crepe paper, away from open flames and other heat sources. They also suggest keeping exits clear of decorations on Halloween so nothing blocks escape routes.

Angie Hicks, a national consumer pollster, recommends people use electrical or battery-operated lights, instead of candles, in their pumpkins so children’s costumes do not catch fire. She also recommends people clear and light their walkways and light fences that might be difficult for trick-or-treaters to see at night.

"It’s just too dangerous with kids walking through the yard," Hicks says. "Keep your yard well-lit.

Hicks’ site revealed that 30 percent of the 2,195 people polled across America for her survey say they plan to make their children’s Halloween costumes themselves. She said it’s great that parents want to do this but offered some safety tips in a press release.

Hicks said parents should only use fire-retardant materials for their children’s costumes and to try to avoid loose-hanging materials, including sashes, shredded parts or long sleeves in a costume, which can easily catch fire on a jack-o-lantern candle or tear on sharp objects.

She also warned against using materials with lead products because lead poisoning poses health risks for children, including brain damage.

She also recommends making costumes that fit comfortably, so children can move around easily. Also, any makeup products should be tested on a child’s skin, Hicks says, to make sure they do not have allergies.

Hicks also warned parents to be sure their kids’ costumes are bright and made with light-colored materials, so they can be seen easily in the dark. If the costumes are not, Hicks recommends using reflective tape on kids’ outfits to make them more visible for cars and people.

"One of the things that I like is keeping kids really visible. A lot of times costumes lack color, so add some reflective tape," Hicks said.

She also offers a tip to keep kids safe if they ever get lost.

"Stick your phone number, name and address in the kids’ costumes in case they get lost," Hicks says. "We want to make sure kids get reconnected as quickly as possible."

Other suggestions include making sure kids’ masks have holes big enough for the eyes, nose and mouth. It is also good, Hicks suggests, to make sure knives, swords or other accessories be made of cardboard or other flexible materials to reduce the hazards of sharp objects. She also suggests kids carry light-colored bags with retro-reflective tape on them when they go trick-or-treating after dark.

On Monday, Oct. 29, the Park City Recreation Department and Park City Police Department will be hosting the Fifth Annual Halloween Safety and Fun Day at Miners Hospital, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. The Police Department will provide tips for parents and kids about how to have a safe and fun Halloween. Tate Shaw from Park City Recreation said there will be contests, games, a costume contest and prizes at the event. The event is free and open to the public.

"The whole idea behind this is to make people aware of how important safety is and some of the dangers out there," Shaw says. "Halloween is a very busy night in certain areas. We just don’t want any kids getting hit by cars. We want to keep Halloween a good, positive activity [and] a fun day. If you follow some safety precautions, it can be."

Shaw said the Recreation Department and Police Department will also caution trick-or-treaters and parents to use flashlights and wear light-colored clothing. He said it is also important that children don’t eat their candy until parents have time to look through it, in case anything dangerous is handed out.

Many stores in Park City, meanwhile, are carrying unique Halloween costumes this year. Hicks recommended people purchase their costumes before Tuesday, in case the good ones sell out too soon.

"Waiting until Tuesday is probably not the best bet. Your selection is just going dwindle," she says.

Hicks says popular costume themes this year include characters from movies like Shrek, Pirates of the Caribbean, Spider-man and Transformers.

"Elvis is always a popular costume for adults," Hicks says. "For little kids, it’s Disney princesses."

J.W. Allen & Sons Toys and Candy store at the Redstone Shopping Center is carrying an array of adult and children’s costumes.

Manager Ani Robertson said the store carries unique costumes ranging from gorillas and orangutans, Harry Potter hats, In-Character Costumes like Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf, Cleopatra and vampires costumes.

"We need to sell everything," Robertson says. "[The costumes] are going fast, I think the closer to Halloween we get, everything is going to fly out of here."

J.W. Allen costumes range from $15 to a $250 faux fur pimp costume.

"We have a plethora of masks," Robertson says. "[The masks are] really spooky, creepy things with blood on their fangs and articulated jaws. The little kids are afraid of those, so they’re behind the counter."

Robertson says the store also has "lots and lots of princess wings, fairy wings and butterfly wings" for the more feminine costume-wearers.

"We have lots of pirate [costumes]," she said. "That seems to be a big theme this year."

For more information about J.W. Allen & Sons, visit parkcitytoystore.com or call (435) 575-TOYS. For more information about the Halloween Safety and Fun Day at Miners Hospital, call (435) 615-5401.


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