To trick-or-treat or not to trick-or-treat – that’s yet another quandary COVID-19 has spawned – especially after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested door-to-door begging, trunk or treat and even indoor parties should not be held.
And while two popular adult haunted houses in Phoenix – 13th Floor Haunted House and Fear Farm – are open to provide some genuine scares, at least two Ahwatukee homeowners are prepared this weekend to launch month-long family-friendly Halloween attractions in the form of elaborately decorated houses and yards.
Doug and Rose Maldonado have readied their home at 16210 S. 29th Drive and for the 15th consecutive year, commercial pilot Steve Powers has set up his yard with gentle sights of the season at 2537 E. Amberwood Drive.
Here’s a look at both of them.
Doug and Rose Maldonado
For Doug and Rose Maldonado, giving up their annual extravagantly-decorated Halloween display on and around their Foothills home loomed a real possibility.
Doug, the decorator-in-chief, posted queries on social media app asking if the community thought it would be worth the month’s worth of work to have it up and running throughout the month.
“I really wasn’t going to do it this year with the pandemic and the hot weather we’re having and everything else going on, but then I decided to put the question out on those sites,” said Maldonado, owner of Maldonado Home Repair Services.
“I said, ‘should I do it or not? I want to know what you think.’ It came back overwhelmingly in favor of it so I’m at it again,” said Maldonado, 50.
Maldonado’s approach is far from putting out a couple carved pumpkins on the stoop.
It requires more than 200 strings of orange, green, white and purple lights spread along each wall and roofline of his two-story home in the Foothills Reserve.
“Yes, it’s a lot of work but I’m doing it for the kids. There was no way I was going to take this away from the kids this year. Enough is enough, they’ve had enough taken away from them,” said Maldonado, who has a son and daughter at Arizona State University and an 11-year-old son at home. “I must say this year has been the hardest set-up yet. The heat has been really tough out there.”
“I want kids to have this Halloween fun. Gyms are now open, kids are going to school, you can’t stop Halloween. You just need parents to be careful.”
The joy of seeing the Maldonado’s Halloween House is reflected on the faces of neighborhood children, like those of Nicole and Chris Koester.
“We anxiously await Doug’s annual Halloween display every year. Once he flips the switch, my children ask to drive by his home every time we enter our neighborhood. They ooh and ahh at new additions and comment about which blow-ups are their favorites,” said Nicole Koester of her three children Conner, 12, Nicolas, 8 and 6-year-old Holland.
“It makes me smile to see cars slow down as they pass his house, and children peek their heads out the window,” said Koester, who teaches at ASU’ Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
“I know it takes Doug countless hours to put up the display, but I look forward to it each year, even as an adult,” she said. “It’s truly magical and this year we can use all the magic we can get.”
Maldonado and his wife have been Ahwatukee residents for 13 years.
“I like to make the Halloween house more kid-friendly than spooky,” he said. “I use inflatables and all but I’m not one for animatronics. I’m doing this for the kids, and if I were to stop, it would be a big black-out,” he said.
Maldonado admits starting his Hallo-ween decorating of his house in early September bucks homeowner association rules requiring no decorating for holidays 30 days prior. But he said he tries to keep the peace while trying to persuade HOA board members the results benefit community morale.
“I do live in a gated community and I’m a member of the architectural board and I’ve explained that if I started Oct. 1, there’s no way I could get everything done,” he said. “And I assure them I never post the gate code online or anywhere – our neighbors and families can give it to their friends. On Halloween its open gates, so that’s a good time for people to drive by and enjoy it.”
Maldonado hedges on how long the decorating takes or even how many strings of lights he uses for the extraordinary effect.
“All I know is that it takes me weeks to put up, but the morning after Halloween, I’m taking it all down because I don’t want to see it anymore. Weeks to put up, and six hours to put away.”
He leaves the green lights up because in a few weeks, he starts the process again for the Christmas holidays.
“Yes, Christmas, too, but I like Halloween more,” he smiled.
Maldonado’s home repair service is available on Facebook or 480-201-5013.
Steve Powers themes his display “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” riffing off Tim Burton’s “Night Before Christmas” with eye-popping animatronics that he himself made.
He adds music to the elaborate scenes he creates on his yard and this year has added new scenes and four new song.
A trip to Disneyland inspired Powers to develop the show.
After seeing the characters that populate the Haunted Mansion ride, Powers, who had no carpentry experience, set about building columns and characters and using cables and choreography to develop a seven-minute show that has drawn thousands to his neighborhood.
“I liked the movie and display because it was kid-friendly and did not include all of the blood and gore that Halloween has turned into,” Powers said.
Powers enjoys putting on the show for the community and though the work at times makes him wonder if he should just pass, he said, “when I see all of the hundreds of people who come to see this and how the little kids’ faces just light up, I suddenly think I will go for another year.”
When he first got the idea for the show, Powers said, “I went around to a lot of stores only to find out there’s nothing you can get there or on the internet,” he added. “I spent months building all the characters and the columns.”
Witches and ghosts in the graveyard sing, encouraging spectators to join in as they go through popular songs from movies like “Ghostbusters,” “The Addams Family” and, of course, “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
This year he has singing pumpkins to lead sing-alongs.
The pandemic has given him more incentive to go on with his show this year.
“Many parents have told me that so much is cancelled that they are excited that the show will go on,” Powers said, adding “masks required this time.”
And he stresses, “This is a kid-friendly sing-a-long using video projections and with singing pumpkins and animated props –no blood and gore.”
“Last year I changed it up a bit and it was a hit,” he said. “We had many, many kiddos singing along to “Ghostbusters,” “The Addams Family,” and “Nightmare Before Christmas.”
He also said the show is twice as long with bumbling ghosts “as friendly as Casper” thrown into the mix.
Powers said he’s starting earlier this year, with a first show Friday, Oct. 2, to promote social distancing by spreading crowds across five weekends.
He said the least crowded weekends will be this coming weekend and the last one in October. He also said that crowds thin out a bit after 8 p.m.
He said people should “use common sense with mask wearing” and that “I do ask that everyone wear masks when you can’t stay 6 feet apart…. The characters will have masks."