By Lisa Whaley

Halloween has certainly changed over the years. When I was a child, happily donning the spooky —  though slightly irregular — wicked witch costume my mother had painstakingly sewn for me, I had one choice and one choice alone for fright night activities.

Trick or treating up and down the streets of my small town.

It was a small farming community, population 300, with a mercantile, volunteer fire department, post office and “watering hole.” Small white houses dotted either side of Main and 2nd Streets. And like Erwin, railroad tracks rolled right through the middle, providing a clear path for the trains that travelled through each day.

On the night of Oct. 31 each year — not the 27th or the 29th to accommodate the weekend — we would gather inside our homes to get ready for the big night, eager to see what kinds of candy we could collect.

Costumes were often homemade or created from scratch — relying on the innovation of the designer and the products easily found in the home. The bag to hold the candy was anything you could find — paper, a basket or even then, an occasional pumpkin-shaped store-bought receptacle.

We would wait until dark. Oh, how the minutes seemed to creep by.

And then, just when we were sure it was dark enough, we would pile out the door, eager to see what the night would bring.

“Trick or treat!” we cried at each doorway we stopped, bags held open wide for our treats, big grins accompanying our spooky attire. Adults would admire our costumes … or pretend to be scared … while dropping small candies into our growing stash.

Then, at the end, we’d rush home, dump out the bags and divide up our goodies. Anything chocolate was always a hit, as were Tootsie Pops and Candy Corn.

The occasional apple seemed woefully out of place, though we would try to treat it with respect. And while homemade popcorn balls were always viewed with delight, I don’t really ever remember eating one.

Then Halloween was over for another year.

But Halloween always comes again, and while I’m no longer a child, there is still something in me that thrills at the words “Trick or treat?”

This weekend marks a plethora of haunting Halloween events in Unicoi County and the region as a whole new generation gets ready to costume up.

Of course, in some ways these celebrations bear little resemblance to my childhood. Choices are seemingly limitless — Trunk or Treat parties at various churches, a Halloween gathering for teens at the local library, a Halloween celebration at the old Flag Pond School, an annual Haunts & Happenings in nearby Jonesborough and more. Costume selection is more detailed and colorful. And candy is no longer considered the rare treat it used to be.

But some things remain the same. In communities like Erwin, Unicoi, Flag Pond and others, it is still a night — or nights — when children gather together for a bit of fun sprinkled with more than a little imagination, and families unite in one night of play that involves parents and children alike.