N.H. Neighborhood Known For Halloween Excess

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Every Halloween, one street in Concord, N.H., attracts hundreds, sometimes thousands, of kids with hard-to-believe treats. One home scoops up orange sherbet; another hands out full-sized candy bars. Families on the block spend hundreds of dollars on candy every year — nobody wants to be the house that runs out.

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Americans are expected to spend nearly $7 billion on Halloween. If you're wondering exactly how, let's go to one street in Concord, New Hampshire, where families take the ghoulish holiday very seriously. New Hampshire Public Radio's Dan Gorenstein reports.

DAN GORENSTEIN, BYLINE: On any day, Auburn Street's impressive: well-to-do, historic homes, long lawns, towering trees up on a hill above the city. But on Halloween, Auburn Street becomes a city of gold, a place, a place where a kid can pack a pillowcase full of candy and be dazzled by the outrageous.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: There's one that's a Grinch house.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: Candy canes sticking out of the ground.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #3: They have, like, Christmas lights all over the place.

: It's, like, this big yellow house...

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #5: They have, like, this huge tree, somebody dressed as the Grinch give out candy, and like all these fake presents laying around. It's just fantastic.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRINCH'S THEME SONG")

THUR RAVENSCROFT: (Singing) You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.

MELA STEWART: We have music. You can hear it for blocks up the street, which I think a lot of our neighbors hate.

GORENSTEIN: For the past six Halloweens, Mela Stewart has transformed her lawn into a vision of Dr. Seuss's Whoville. She buys 4,000 mini candy canes every year to give it that authentic feel. Auburn Street's reputation for excess and the exotic offering is known well beyond town limits.

TERESA ROSENBERGER: I am known in New Hampshire as the Ice Cream Lady. People will go, oh, my God. You're the ice cream house.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ROSENBERGER: And I think no, I'm Teresa Rosenberger. No, you're the Ice Cream Lady.

GORENSTEIN: The last few years, Rosenberger, her husband Eric and their team of friends have scooped up well over 1,000 cones of orange sherbet on Halloween. And, Eric says, the crowds keep growing.

ERIC ROSENBERGER: So this year, I've - last night I was trying to figure out, you know, how to estimate what to buy. So I'm going to go with 1,800 and see what happens.

GORENSTEIN: That's 50 gallons of sherbet.

How much are you spending?

ROSENBERGER: Oh, gosh. I'd say probably close to $1,000.

GORENSTEIN: Rosenberger says her treat sometimes can be a great trick.

ROSENBERGER: And it's just great fun to see these little kids who have never been before, and, all of a sudden, they see ice cream and they'll squeal: ice cream, mommy, look, ice cream. And then sometimes they'll take it, lick it, and then turn it over into their bag upside down. And it's so much fun to watch the parent panic.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ROSENBERGER: They say, oh, my God. You just put your ice cream on all of your chocolate candy.

GORENSTEIN: Not everyone on the block delights in the festivities. Ana Burtnett says she enjoys the kids on her porch in costume. But she thinks the celebration's too much.

ANA BURTNETT: We have a culture of excess, and we're just - we're continuing to feed that by buying hundreds and thousands of dollars worth of candy. And it would be OK if we gave back a little bit.

GORENSTEIN: Back across the street, Eric Rosenberger is sympathetic to his neighbor's view. He says he thinks it's important to make substantive contributions, like donating to food pantries. But Rosenberger says he thinks scoops of orange sherbet ice cream do some good, too.

ROSENBERGER: In the economic times that we are in, I think it's nice to do what you can to bring a little more joy into the world.

GORENSTEIN: That's certainly the way seven-year-old Colin Hagin sees it.

COLIN GAGIN: Everything about Auburn Street on Halloween is just great - not great, but fantastic. It's like the best street you've ever trick-or-treated on.

GORENSTEIN: For NPR News, I'm Dan Gorenstein in Concord, New Hampshire.

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