by June Portnoy
For 11 months of the year, Lambertville is a mecca for artists, artisans, musicians, antique dealers and restaurateurs. But come October, like a werewolf during full moon, Lambertville transforms itself into a virtual haunted house of witches, ghouls, goblins and trolls.
So, why has Lambertville become to Halloween what Mardi Gras is to New Orleans? That’s the question that Lambertville residents Gary P. Cohen, Paul Kaye and Jann Knistern try to answer during their 63-minute documentary, “Halloweenville.”
Gary, producing director of Middlesex County’s Plays-in-the-Park, helped childhood friend, and actor Paul, along with friend Jann, a graphic artist, co-direct this light-hearted investigation. About two years ago, Gary, who lived in Edison, New Jersey, was looking for a weekend home.
Coincidentally, there was a home available directly across the street from Paul, which today Gary calls home.
“It was around this time that Paul told me I had to experience Halloween in Lambertville to truly appreciate it, so in 2009 I took his advice,” explains Gary. “I saw for myself how this town truly embraces this holiday and I knew we had to make a film that captures this event as it occurs.”
Beginning October 2010, Gary, Paul and Jann began filming all the pre-Halloween events in Lambertville leading up to October 31st. About two weeks prior to Halloween, they filmed the town’s annual Pet Masquerade, where hundreds of pets can be seen strutting around in elaborate costumes.
They also filmed the town-wide costume competition. “We’re not just talking costumes here,” says Gary. “We’re talking about people building full-sized floats.”
An example is a robot on stilts almost the size of a truck. And if you’re not one of the 250 people participating in the Lambertville Halloween Parade, you’re watching it. Even the majority of downtown restaurants get into the spirit of Halloween on Mischief Night as both hostesses and patrons dress in costumes.
“Halloweenville” also includes the preparation of three featured homes converted into haunted houses for Halloween Eve.
“These haunted homes are very authentic with actor participants, bodies in coffins, laboratories and live musicians,” says Gary.
Still another structured Halloween event in town is a pumpkin carving contest. About 40 people participate, and once again, you see very detail-oriented, intricately carved pumpkins, such as a complete Indian head carved from a pumpkin.
On Halloween, North Union Street from Bridge Street is closed down for two hours. Thousands of people walk along the street and are welcomed into homes for trick-or-treating. Every home is fully decorated for the occasion.
During the film you see a home decorated by an art teacher who creates full size creatures, people and animals.
“There are over 30 of these creatures spread out along her and her neighbor’s front lawn,” says Gary, who likens it to seeing “The Lion King” up close. He adds, “The average person who lives on North Union Street spends somewhere between $300 to $600 on candy.”
Once again, the question comes back to why all this fuss about Halloween in Lambertville? During the film Lambertville residents are interviewed for their responses, yet everyone seems to have their own theories.
“Some say it’s because Lambertville is a very artistic town and this is the way these artists express themselves,” says Gary. “Other people think the town is haunted and that the spirits govern this event.”
There doesn’t seem to be any consensus among the residents of this town, so you’ll have to decide for yourself by viewing the film. It will be presented at this year’s New Hope Film Festival taking place July 6th through July 15th in New Hope and Doylestown.
“Halloweenville” will be presented on Saturday, July 14th during a Local Film Showcase at the Stephen J. Buck Memorial Theater, located at the New Hope-Solebury High School at 182 W. Bridge Street in New Hope, beginning at 6:15pm.
For more information about the Third Annual New Hope Film Festival, visit www.newhopefilmfestival.com. For more information about “Halloweenville,” visit http://www.gpcproductionsllc.com/HALLOWEENVILLE/Welcome.html.