Russ Batenhorst Bundling up a Nebraska Halloween tradition


My second Halloween isn’t something I remember, but I do know that it was historic. A home video of the day shows my older brother jumping through the snow as I stand just off our porch, stuck in the snow up to my arm pits.

Thanks to that blizzard, many Halloween activities were canceled the night of Oct. 31, 1991. Even indoor activities, including the annual Trick-or-Treat Parade at the Imperial Mall and the Knights of Columbus Halloween Party had been postponed.

A Hastings Tribune article from early that day said Hastings woke to 7 inches of snow Thursday morning. The snow continued because “By Friday morning, the city was buried under 14 inches of snow and at a virtual stand still.”

It’s that very blizzard that prompted me to have warm Halloween costumes for the rest of my life.

Of course, it can be hard for a little girl to decide on a costume that’s both warm and cute. I never cared much for princesses, but I was a ballerina. I yearned to go door to door in a fluffy tutu. Just once. That’s all I wanted. One problem: Dancers do not wear winter coats and gloves. The entire look would be ruined.

Thankfully, I did not have to feel disappointed by Nebraska weather for too many years. In 1996 I got some great news — Halloween would be spent at Mickey’s Not-So-Very-Scary Halloween Party in Walt Disney World.

Disney markets itself as the place where dreams come true, and you can bet my dream of being a ballerina was coming true. My gold sequined and purple tulle tutu made the trip to Orlando while my winter coat did not. I was one happy girl.

I have fond memories of riding famous rides and dancing the Macarena with a group of Disney’s friendliest aliens.

Ever since that trip I’ve been perfectly happy to decide on a costume that accommodated layers of warm clothes. But it hasn’t always been easy. I was a penguin and a puppy, made perfectly plump by wearing a snowsuit underneath.

One year I wore fuzzy flannel pajamas and went as a baby. The penguin costume was so warm it was recreated my senior year of high school for a Halloween night play-off football game.

Having a stomach full of something warm doesn’t hurt, which may be part of the reason it’s tradition for my family to eat chili for supper every Halloween. I also remember returning home with a bag full of candy only to find the sweetest treat waiting — hot chocolate.

Once in college I made a last-minute decision to go to a party as a lifeguard, a costume that was almost too easy after years of working at the Aquacourt. By the end of the cold night, I found myself walking across campus wearing the red goose down vest belonging to a friend dressed as Marty McFly from “Back to the Future.” At that point, both of our costumes were compromised and I wished I had worn something with sleeves.

For the last 16 Halloweens, warmth has been the goal. I think I’ve done pretty well, excluding the year of the lifeguard. Every October when it’s time to make a decision, I consider a return trip to Florida where I will once again dance my way through the Magic Kingdom.



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