Free candy, ghosts and goblins, parental sanctioned dress-up — it's no wonder Halloween rivals Christmas as the best day of the year for children.
But adults are also circling Halloween on their calendars, and not because they're on trick-or-treat duty. In recent years, Halloween has become the perfect excuse to host parties that test the limits of creativity and flirt with the scandalous.
Promoters across the country now organize Halloween parties that are as big, if not bigger, than New Year's Eve parties. There is even a website — besthalloweenparties.com — that serves as a sort of one-stop shop for the biggest bashes in North America.
Daniel Fazio, a promoter who heads Vancouver's Arrival Agency, attributes the popularity of grown-up Halloween parties to a desire to escape our everyday ways of interacting with others.
"I feel like, now more than ever, people need to come together and connect with other people," Fazio said in a recent email interview.
"We spend so much time online now that we need to find more ways to be with actual humans."
Fazio has been behind some of the West Coast's more memorable Halloween parties. The Arrival Agency's 2014 event was held on a floor of the historic Hotel Vancouver, said to be haunted by the ghost of Jennie Pearl Cox, the so-called "Lady in Red." The party, which featured magicians, comedians and live bands, may have been too loud, though, for the ghost to make an appearance.
This year's Halloween party will be held in another charismatic Vancouver venue, the Fox Cabaret, which has served variously as an East Indian movie house, a repertory cinema, and a pornographic theatre.
As a salute to this less than puritan past, Fazio's party will feature an elaborate burlesque show, along with a haunted house and the requisite slate of live DJs.
Vancouver is also the site of Dooms Night, a massive Halloween dance party that's been held annually for more than a decade. This year's venue is the Pacific Coliseum — a 16,000-seat arena that was once home to the Vancouver Canucks. Among those taking charge of the DJ booth this year will be Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, who claimed top spot in a recent survey of 100 leading DJs.
Toronto, for its part, claims to host the largest Halloween party in North America. The annual Church Street Halloween Block Party is akin to a giant downtown costume contest where no effort is spared.
"These are costumes that people spend the whole year making themselves," says Francis Gaudreault, chair of the Church Wellesley Business Improvement Area, which is responsible for putting on the party.
"The costumes make coming to the party worthwhile. The spectacle and festival atmosphere that night are something worth seeing."
Early in the evening on Oct. 31 several blocks are shut to traffic as onlookers marvel at the colourful and outlandish costumes. As the night wears on, the party continues in the area's many bars and nightclubs.
The Block Party has grown steadily in popularity over the years. Gaudreault said the neighbourhood has had to close two additional city blocks this year to accommodate increased numbers.
"In the LGBTQ community, where we operate, it's a great chance to get dressed up, show off your creativity and hang out with friends," he adds.
"It's a chance for people to be big kids for a night and enjoy themselves."
It is Montreal, arguably, that hosts the country's spiciest Halloween party.
Production company Cirque de Boudoir boasts organizing the city's "kinkiest thematic dress-up events." Its Halloween party this year will be held in a converted church outfitted with a bar, and will feature DJs, go-go dancers and body painting.
Costumes are mandatory; the more leather and latex the better. It's a dress code that tends toward the scandalous rather than the scary.
The Cirque's party, granted, is not for everyone. But it is just an extreme example of the enduring appeal that Halloween holds, regardless of the age bracket.
"Halloween is a chance to escape, to get out of daily life," said Fazio, the Vancouver promoter.
"Dress up and have fun, become someone else for a night!"
If you go:
— Halloween at The Fox will take place on Oct. 30-31. For more information, visit www.foxcabaret.com
— Dooms Night 2015 takes place Oct. 31. For more information, visit www.solidevents.ca
— Halloween on Church takes place Oct. 31. For more information, visit www.churchwellesleyvillage.ca
— Church Halloween, hosted by Cirque de Boudoir, takes places Oct. 31. For more information, including dress code, visit www.cirquedeboudoir.com
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