An estimated 2,000 costumed people of all ages, and even their pets, wandered up and down Main Street in Kutztown for the annual Kutztown Merchant Trick-or-Treat Night from 6 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 24.

Hosted by the Kutztown Optimist Club, the event closes down Main Street from Constitution Blvd. to College Blvd. Treats are handed out to Trick-or-Treaters at businesses and from tables set up by local groups, organizations, churches and Kutztown University groups. The lines were long and everyone eagerly awaited their turn to say, “Trick-or-Treat!”

“The reason we do it, just look around. The community involvement is fantastic,” said Optimist member AJ Reitz. “It’s just incredibly fun.”

Reitz said Merchant Trick-or-Treat is a good opportunity to close down Main Street and bring the entire community together.

“That’s what the Optimist Club is all about. It’s about bringing the community together, supporting the youth of the community through events like this that help generate funds to put out scholarships,” he said.

Last year, Reitz said the Optimist Club awarded more than $75,000 in scholarships. The Club hosts essay contests, oratorical contests, the Fool’s Run and the annual Easter Egg Hunt, to name a few.

“It’s really fun to come out. I love that the whole community joins in,” said Kutztown resident Arabel Elliott.

“It’s always great. I like Merchant Night,” said her daughter Sophie Arnold.

“It’s fun to see families and students and everybody all together in one event. It’s a good time I think,” said Elliott.

A big highlight of the annual event is the Costume Contest hosted by the Kutztown Optimists.

Judges awarded prizes, donated by local businesses, to the top three costumes in each category. Categories included cutest baby, cutest pet, most original, most creative, most scary, best couple, and parent and child. A few of the top winners, in no particular order, included baby doughnut, Whoopee Cushion kid, baby Cinderella, Thing One and Thing Two, Hocus Pocus witches, Willy Wonka and Violet Beauregarde, Mott’s Applesauce, Dr. Evil and Mini Me, Grumpy the Dwarf, Napoleon Dynamite and Pedro, and Wizard of Oz family.

There was much to see, do or receive throughout the event.

Emergency first responders handed out glow bracelets, as well as candy. They displayed emergency vehicles also.

For a second consecutive year, Haas Financial Group welcomed children inside to enjoy a kid friendly haunted house, featuring black lights, signs warning visitors to turn back, ghosts, skeletons and a live witch to greet everyone with a cackle.

Out on Main Street at Whiteoak, a tall Grim Reaper, Mr. Incredible and Chase from Paw Patrol posed for photos with attendees.

There were many costumes that made heads turn.

Kutztown teacher Josh Chambers was Michael Keaton’s Beetlejuice for the 30th anniversary of the movie.

“Of all the costumes over the years this one let me be the most hidden in plain sight, except for my current students! Most figured it out immediately!” he said.

Chambers, his wife Eleanore and their son Carson, as in past years, decided to portray pop culture icons. His wife went as a tribute to the infamous McDonald’s Hamburglar. Carson, on the eve of his fifth birthday, was his personal hero, Jack Skellington from Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas, said Chambers.

“As far as the night itself, it was a very family-friendly event. We were happy to see the local businesses, representatives from the college, our schools, fire, ambulance and police be available not just for treats for our children but talk amongst the community,” said Chambers. “It’s important to have such an informal time for discussion and it’s great to see we continue this night.”

Kutztown Mayor Jim Schlegel, Optimist member, estimates that the Club has been hosting Merchant Trick-or-Treat Night for about 10 years, though the event dates back to the 1970s but not quite this big.

His favorite part? “Bringing all of the good people to Kutztown to have a good time.”

And the costumes wandering up and down the street he said are “very creative, interesting and some scary.”

The Mayor said what this event says about Kutztown is that it’s “a great place to live.”

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Lisa Mitchell is an editor for Berks-Mont Newspapers, covering news and events in the Northeast Berks County area.

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