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The annual downtown Philomath fun on Halloween arrived last week with pleasant weather and fun for all. It’s amazing some of the work people put into their costumes. That will be my first stop on our drive this week.

Then I head out to the old Independent School south of Philomath on Fern Road and visit with volunteers that take care of the old building. The Independent Community Club is celebrating the school’s centennial this coming Saturday.

OK, let’s get on with our drive.

First stop — Downtown Philomath

This year’s Trunk-or-Treat, an annual event hosted by the Philomath Area Chamber of Commerce, appeared to attract a lot of people. I’m sure the nice weather factored into folks coming out for the event, but it also plain and simple has a reputation for being a fun Halloween event for locals.

“I think each year it grows,” chamber director Shelley Niemann said. “I know one thing that I realized this year that I hadn’t heard in the past is that there were quite a few families that came over from Corvallis.”

A few days earlier, my wife took my son to a similar event in another community and I’ll pass along her observations: First, Philomath’s businesses hand out “better candy” — most invest in the good stuff. And second, for the most part, the lines of people move along pretty well without any major jams and long lines, which can turn into no fun if you have an impatient little one in your midst.

“We have the trunks, which I think are fun because people decorate them differently and we have the bigger vehicles — tractors, big rigs and also new this year was we had the maze,” Niemann said.

Yes, the event is more than just candy, there are also activities and games along the route. Niemann was referencing a maze set up by CEF of Benton County — they showed up two hours early to get it all set up — and it was a big success. There were even tooth-cleaning kits that a local pediatric dentist handed out.

My wife loves Halloween and spends a great deal of time figuring out costumes for us. Of course, I just go with the flow and put on whatever she comes up with for me. Last year, we were a Waldo-themed threesome and this year, she went with our 2-year-old old as a bee, herself as a flower and me as a beekeeper. The only issue with my costume was I couldn’t shoot photos through the net over my face, so I had to put it up.

Back home in the evening, a few observations while handing out candy: We had a one teen who showed up with no costume and simply held a mask in front of his face. Later on, a man showed up to our door with a child but he also had three trick-or-treat bags of his own and commented that his other children were in his vehicle in car seats.

Would you give the teen and the man candy? Well, we did, but geez, if you’re the teen, put more effort into it and for the adult, your story sounded fishy (if you want candy that bad, just go to the store and buy some). But most everybody else had great costumes and were appreciative.

As for this year’s Trunk-or-Treat, what a great time.

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“As far as numbers go, my best guess and this is based on a business working near me, they said they bought 600 pieces of candy and were giving out one individual piece (per child) and they ran out,” Niemann said. “So I know it was over 600. The weather was so nice this year, that clearly helped.”

Next year, we’ll have an extra participant in our family with another one on the way (due in about a month). And I can say with confidence that my wife is likely already thinking about costume options for next year.

Final stop — Independent Schoolhouse

While at the old school on Friday, Independent Community Club volunteers asked if I wanted to ring the bell. I hesitated but then thought, it’s not every day that you get to ring a bell that’s 100 years old.

I tugged on the rope and heard nothing. On the second attempt, I put more muscle into it and the bell rang above and echoed through the countryside.

The bell has quite a history and ringing it is a favorite activity among visitors to the Independent School.

“The bell is an interesting character in the story because it seems that whenever there’s an event, someone just can’t resist, they just have to ring that bell,” ICC's Susie Lisser said. “What’s pretty great is the neighbor across the street ... he’s so lovely about that bell because whenever somebody’s been ringing it, we’ll go over the next day and apologize, ‘sorry about the noise.’”

Anita Grunder, who has compiled a history of the Independent School, remembers a story from a class reunion the club hosted in 1999.

“They told stories about how one kid had run a wire through the attic and connected it to the bell,” she said. “If he went to the back room, he could pull the bell and it would ring and the teacher would run out front to see who was ringing the bell.”

Just one of various pranks on teachers and others over the years — including students building a fire in the middle of the road to stop cars.

I must say, it was cool to ring the ball.

“It’s irresisitable,” Lisser said. “I’d say the bell is my favorite part (of the building).”

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Brad Fuqua is editor of the Philomath Express. He can be reached at brad.fuqua@lee.net.

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