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Halloween How-To

Posted October 10, 2012 in Clive

Above: Jenny Janssen and Katelynn Janssen dressed up as gruesome witches during a recent Halloween.

Ghosts, goblins, clowns and cupcakes will soon be headed to your door to trick or treat.

Halloween is a time of ghoulish delight, and Clive residents do not let the season pass by without amazing decorations, treats, homemade costumes and all-around Halloween fun. Whether you are throwing a party or just trick or treating with the kids, here are some great ideas to make the most of out of this October.

Thrill and excitement
Kathy and Terry Janssen of Clive love the costumes, jokes, decorations, candy and the thrill and excitement that Halloween brings each year. With the help of their four children — Zach, Jenny, Johnathan and Katelynn — the Janssen home has been party central for their friends and families.

Not only have their parties been large, this bunch makes Halloween decorating look like an extreme sport.

“We have an array of blow-ups, things hanging in the trees, a yard display (sometimes with a theme), talking pumpkin heads that have motion sensors, to name a few,” Terry says.

The Janssens began throwing Halloween parties because they wanted a way for their kids’ friends to get together.

“We started because of our kids. They invited their friends, and we invited our family and friends,”  Kathy says. “The first year we had about 30 people, the second year we had about 150, and the third year we had over 200.

“We have had story tellers, a magician, a bounce house, hayrack rides (with and without a singer on board), pony rides, a photography studio taking complimentary photos as guests enter the party and printing them on site,” she says.

The party is held outside, and their lawn is a site to behold. Terry is said to be the master of spooky decoration.

The Janssen Family tent of terrors.

 “We have about 12 huge inflatables for Halloween, and I have to admit we have even more for Christmas,” Terry says.

Spooking the party goers is part of the fun. One year the family hired a friend to dress in a gorilla costume and jump out of trees and scare the people on the hayrack ride.

“Probably my fondest memory is hearing the laughter and screams from the hayrack ride and seeing everyone have fun,” Kathy recalls.

The Janssen kids are growing up and leaving home, so Kathy confesses that the parties are winding down.

“We aren’t throwing a bash this year, but we will still decorate. My kids loved this tradition we created. They still talk about being a magician’s assistant, riding on the hayrack rides and getting scared by the gorilla. Having fun with their friends is probably what will stick with them the longest,” she says.

The Janssens’ tips for throwing a good party include having activities to keep kids of all ages busy. Offer good food and invite good people and the party is sure to be a success.

Handmade pumpkin-colored blankets for the soon-to-be-born baby of Katie Avise. Front row, from left: Amber Johnson, Katie Avise and Angie Garrett. Back row: Shannon Oakley and Kristi O’Brien

“For food I try to get anything that kids can eat with their finger,” Kathy says. “I don’t like things in wrappers because I don’t want to pick them up all over the neighborhood. We have had parties where everyone’s ticket to get in was a snack to share. We serve tea, hot cocoa and lemonade. We have big, five-gallon jugs for the tea and lemonade and a big coffee pot for the cocoa.”

Growing up, Kathy remembers her own parent’s Halloween get togethers.

“My parents used to have garage parties. We would have fun doing some good old bobbing for apples and pin the nose on the ghost. I am thankful that we could continue the tradition for our kids,” she says.

Spooky, fun ideas
Halloween is the perfect time to throw a party for kids, teens and adults. Some neighborhoods in Clive have been known to throw Halloween block parties where all guests dress in costume, have a candy potluck and provide beverages for kids and adults. Some blocks even go so far as creating a haunted house for the occasion.

Residents from around Clive report that the key to a large scale Halloween party is that everyone contributes. Some neighbors are charged with providing spooky decorations, while with create the haunted house, games or activities.

A fun idea is to have each family come with a carved or painted pumpkin that will be judged. Each family should provide a dish to share, as well as drinks. This Halloween party idea is a great way to get to know neighbors and give them an excuse to have fun and be silly.

A fun idea if you are invited to a party and need to bring a dish to share is to bake up mummy dogs. All you need is a package of crescent roll dough cut into thin strips. Use the strips to wrap hotdogs like a mummy. Leave a little gap for mustard eyes and then wrap the top of the head. You can use whole hotdogs, half hotdogs or cocktail wieners. Bake according to the crescent rolls directions. Once baked, dot ketchup or mustard on the bare part of the wiener for eyes and share the spooky, mum-i-rific treat.

A place in her heart
Katie and Chris Avise are preparing for Halloween, as well as the arrival on their first child.

Spooky ghost-themed treats were created for all who attended the baby shower for Katie Avise, who has always been a big fan of Halloween.

“Well, I am pretty bummed that my due date this year is a couple weeks after Halloween, but I am secretly hoping he decides to make a little early arrival,” Katie says with a laugh. “But seriously, I know this baby has a lion or monkey costume in his future.”

The family’s love of Halloween is so great that Katie’s baby shower is going to have a spooky theme.

“Do my friends know me or what?” she says. “This year, Halloween is going to be kind of different with the baby on the way. Four of my girlfriends are planning me a Halloween-themed baby shower. It’s going to be a very black and orange affair.”

Halloween holds a very important place in Katie’s heart.

“For me, Halloween is special because it reminds me of my dad,” she says. “It’s just a feeling I get every year as Halloween items start showing up in stores. I grew up as an only child, so my fondest memories were carving pumpkins with my dad. He passed away my senior year of high school, and so I think that’s why my love of the holiday has gotten so much stronger since. We always watched ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’ and scary movies.”

The Janssen family — Katelynn, Jenny, Kathy and Terry, standing, and Zach and Johnathan, seated — love the costumes, jokes, decorations, candy and the thrill and excitement that Halloween brings each year.

Katie isn’t sure if it was her dad’s love of carving pumpkins or her mom’s obsession with horror movies, but every year Halloween was something her family looked forward to.

“Pumpkins have always been a big thing for me and my family,” she says. “I’ve used stencils before and also like to draw my own. My favorite greatest pumpkin creation was a David Letterman pumpkin I made a few years ago. I love to make tombstones, cobwebs, spiders — you name it, I like to carve it.”

Each season, Katie creates spooky cupcakes to take to parties and always has plenty of candy to pass out on Halloween.

“Seeing trick-or-treaters and making caramel apples are two things that we adore each year,” she says. “As a kid, my dad used to wear a scary mask and answer the door in it. He scared a lot of poor little kids away, but it was always a good laugh.”

The couple has spent a lot of time and effort over the years on their costumes.

“Halloween parties are the most fun if all people participate,” Chris says. “I strongly believe that the best costumes do not come from stores but are thought up and created at home. It’s the costumes that make a party fun and of course the people that you are with.”

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