Since Halloween 1969, the trick or treating experience at 218 Cherry Road in Westvale has been a little bit out of the ordinary.
In the early years, costumed candy-seekers would encounter a masked prankster at the door, knocking back from the inside and peeking out, adding trick to their treats. One year, groups ushered into the house were faced with an empty "coffin," fashioned out of fish crates that would become suddenly occupied, to the delight and mild fright of the audience.
Eventually, the Halloween tradition morphed into its present incarnation -- Claire Hicks, masked and nestled in the limbs of a maple tree, distributing candy and confetti to outstretched hands and vessels on the lawn below.
Hicks, her husband and three children moved across the street from Cherry Road School in 1969. Since then, Hicks' October tradition has become a part of the Cherry Road neighborhood and beyond. She begins decorating her front door with colorful messages in the beginning of October, leading up to a 10-day countdown that includes a different door message every day, colored balloons dotting the front lawn and Floyd, a mascot of sorts, propped in the yard.
"I just found it very boring to stand at the door and fill bags and say goodbye," Hicks said of her unusual methods. "When I was little I just really had fun with Halloween."
After the Labor Day storm in the 1990s, which made a mess of the neighborhood but did not touch the maple, Hicks recalls hearing one child shout from the roadside, "God saved the Halloween tree!"
More than one former trick-or-treater now brings his own children to Hicks' home on Halloween, and one Cherry Road bus driver will stop the bus in front of the house and read Hicks' door messages aloud to the riders.