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More than 4,000 people descended on the historic area Friday night to take part in Colonial Williamsburg’s “A Haunting on DoG Street: Blackbeard’s Revenge.”
The program, which is the largest-ever Halloween event undertaken by Colonial Williamsburg, represents a trend toward offering new types of events with broader appeal in the historic area.
Like the planned ice skating rink, petting farm and musket range, Colonial Williamsburg is pushing more interactive, family-friendly programming to complement its tradition role as a living history museum.
The Halloween event included three distinct parts: a free trick-or-treat-festival, a ticketed family-friendly pirate program in the early part of the evening and a scarier event recommended for ages 13 and up to finish out the night.
The trick-or-treating, which required pre-registration, was made possible by a substantial donation of candy from Mars Inc., including M&Ms, Skittles, Milky Way, Twix, Starburst and Snickers.
Though Mars had the candy covered, Colonial Williamsburg was responsible for supplying the man power to make an event of this scale go off without a hitch.
"In addition to staff including site, hospitality, operations, and security and safety personnel, more than one hundred interpreters in costume and makeup are haunting the Historic Area, along with scores of volunteers," said Joe Straw, public relations manager for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
Costumed ghosts and ghouls ages 12 and under took to the Revolutionary City starting at 5 p.m., traipsing from storefront to storefront and collecting sweet treats while taking in the festive decorations and scenery.
"[The kids] have been looking forward to this for weeks," said Melissa Sparks, mother of two eager tricker-or-treaters. "We have Good Neighbor passes so we're here all the time, and we think it's awesome Colonial Williamsburg is doing this."
Families who paid to get into the “A Pirate’s Life for Me” portion of the evening enjoyed taking part in numerous carnival-style games as well as interacting with costumed performers and listening to the tale of Blackbeard in the Secretary's Office.
"We are absolutely very impressed," said Meredith Taylor, a Williamsburg-area resident who brought her daughter to enjoy the trick-or-treating and other festivities. "[This kind of event] definitely brings a lot more people out who wouldn't normally see the historic area."
Though many of the guests at Friday's event were locals, one attendee speculated that events of this nature could boost Colonial Williamsburg's appeal for out-of-town visitors.
"I think this is so amazing," said Janae Johnson, a resident of four years who brings her daughter to Colonial Williamsburg frequently. "It's great for people who live here and I'm sure it's great for tourism, too."
Other guests commented on the appeal of having an event targeted toward different age groups.
"[The kids] seem to be having a blast," said Brian Lassiter, a Yorktown man who attended the kid-friendly early evening program with his wife and two sons. "I think it was a great idea to have a time limit on the little kids' part."
Once the sun went down a more frightful set of pirates came out to play. The relatively campy pirates of the early evening were replaced with gory undead fiends.
Though some older children and families stuck around for the later portion of the night most of the crowd was adults out for their own brand of Halloween fun.
Rob and Sherry Sperratore, Pennsylvania natives who happened to plan a weekend getaway to Williamsburg in celebration of Sherry's birthday on Friday, bought last-minute tickets to the event on a whim and were excited to be taking part in a slightly more adult Halloween.
"The kids are grown up now and we're done with trick-or-treating," Rob said. "We're looking forward to having a Halloween date night."
Guests at “Under Blackbeard’s Flag" enjoyed tours of the graveyard, jail and gallows and a “trial of the undead” at the Capitol building. At the conclusion of the night the band of pirates led a march from the Capitol up DoG Street toward the taverns, where revelers could call it a night or grab a drink and continue the celebration.
"Events like this and the skating rink coming soon to the Historic Area near Merchants Square are fun new ways to engage the community and highlight our historical programming, culinary, shopping and other offerings to complement our mission and to benefit the city and region as a whole," Straw said.
Colonial Williamsburg is expecting more than 4,000 attendees again tonight for the second day of Halloween festivities.