According to the United Nations’ Population Division, the world’s human population hit seven billion on Oct. 31. Locally, we have also seen a jump in population — although not quite as drastic — with over 70,000 people inhabiting Turlock today, compared to just 13,992 in 1970.
With all the people in the world — and the growing number of Turlockers — it’s amazing to me that one night of the year can make all those numbers seem irrelevant.
On Halloween night, I, like many of my neighbors, decorated the front of my house with ghosts, skeletons and pumpkins, turned on the porch light and waited. It wasn’t long before my doorbell was ringing and shouts of “trick-or-treat!” could be heard.
As I handed out candy to ladybug princesses, zombies and quite a few Transformers, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of community. I didn’t know any of the trick-or-treaters that came to my door on Monday, however, there was an atmosphere of camaraderie. It’s as though every parent and Halloween enthusiast got together and decided to collectively throw a party for the amusement of the town’s children.
If you think about it, Halloween is a contradiction in normal behavior. Every other day of the year, parents tell their children not to talk to strangers — and definitely don’t accept candy from strange men, especially if they’re dressed in a mask and cape!
On Halloween the fear of the unknown recedes just a little to allow for merriment, which is ironic because the holiday is centered on monsters and crazed killers.
I have experienced this suspension of skepticism and isolationism at other times, most notably at any community event held in the downtown area. When families participate in outdoor events that involve walking around and taking in the sights and sounds, it’s almost a different Turlock. Everyone is smiling, chatting up those around them and willing to lend a helping hand.
This phenomenon does not materialize at fairs or large carnival settings — only smaller community events. Even though there are 70,000 people in town, it’s as if the participants of the farmers market can convince themselves that they live in a hamlet, and not the second largest city in the county.
It warms my heart to see my fellow Turlockers treating each other like the neighbors they are. I was raised in a truly small town in rural Indiana, where everyone knows everyone — and all their history and secrets! And while I miss having the clerk at the grocery store greet me by name and knowing that if I’m stopped for speeding, there’s a good chance the sheriff’s deputy is someone I dated in high school, I prefer the feeling of community without the baggage of a small town.
The next time you want to experience all the benefits of small town living — without the embarrassing recollections of your junior high cheerleading tryout dance —I suggest attending one of Turlock’s many community events.
The next event is the Turkey Trot on Nov. 19. This fun run consists of a 2 mile run or walk as well as a 1 mile children’s stampede around Donnelly Park. For registration information, visit http://www.ci.turlock.ca.us/citydepartments/parksrecreationfacilities/recreation/communityevents/funruns.asp
After the Turkey Trot are the city’s annual Christmas celebrations beginning with the Festival of Lights from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Nov. 25 in downtown Turlock. The city’s Christmas tree lighting will take place at 7 p.m. that night in Central Park, on the corner of N. Golden State Boulevard and Main Street.
The Christmas Parade will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 2, also in downtown Turlock along Main Street. For the best seats, I suggest making your way to downtown around 4 p.m.
All of these events are sure to give you glimpses of a Norman Rockwell-esque town — with a unique Turlock twist!
To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.