Halloween in La Jolla: A safe and fun event for all

Befitting the spirit of the holiday, homes in the Jewel decorated with ghosts, ghouls and goblins await trick or treaters coming Wednesday, Oct. 31.

As usual, a number of costume contests and other youth-related activities are planned throughout La Jolla.

But, along with the fun, there is cause for concern among parents and neighbors about the frivolity of the holiday, which can sometimes get out of hand.

For the second year in a row, Bird Rock, in conjunction with the San Diego Police Department, has taken steps to ensure their community will be a safe and secure place for their children to celebrate Halloween.

"Halloween is always a fun night, and we want the kids and families to have a good time, but we've got to do what we can to minimize the alcohol consumption," said Michelle Fulks, spokeswoman for Bird Rock Community Council's Neighborhood Watch Group. "We can't have drunken driving and assaults like we've had before."

Fulks said Bird Rock has been plagued in the past by problems, primarily involving overzealous juveniles overindulging and engaging in malicious mischief, which has led to fights and other incidents.

Last year, Fulks said the community decided to take a proactive approach in stemming the tide of over-rambunctious celebration. "What we tried to do last year was create a physical presence," she said, "have uniformed police officers and resources out there to recognize criminal activity and address it before it evolved into something serious. We just wanted to give people an overall sense of security. This year, we're going to replicate the plan we had last year."

Lt. Brian Ahearn of the San Diego Police Department said police and citizens are pooling their efforts to ensure the community will be a safe place to celebrate Halloween. He noted residents are being asked to voluntarily restrict trick-or-treating hours to between 5 and 8 p.m. on the 31st. "We're asking people to turn their lights off at 8 p.m. and bring their pumpkins in," Ahearn said. "Then we're asking them to keep their lights off for a minimum of an hour before turning them back on at 9 p.m., or prior to going to bed."

Ahearn noted police will operate a command post at Beaumont Avenue and Camino De La Costa. "We will have multiple patrols including undercover and vice," he said. "The Bird Rock Community Council has hired four off-duty officers to help keep things safe."

The social host ordinance, which prohibits and penalizes adults from serving alcohol to minors, will be strictly enforced, said Ahearn. "No alcohol will be permitted on public streets," he added. "We will be looking for people vandalizing, including doing damage to decorations and defacing property."

Ahearn noted there is a section of Bird Rock that has been especially hard hit over the years. Police dubbed it the "Waverly wars." Outsiders were coming into the street of that name in Bird Rock, vandalizing and causing problems. "It's sort of shifted over the last four or five years," said Ahearn, "where there have been a lot of problems with our local kids, not only a ton of egging and smashed pumpkins, but multiple fights, one involving a local high school kid. Somebody had a knife. The police and the community said, 'Enough's enough.' "

No one is too young - or old - to participate in Halloween festivities. Many merchants, like La Jolla Shores restaurateur Barbara Beltaire, owner of Barbarella Restaurant & Bar at 2171 Avenida De La Playa, go all out to make their establishments "showpieces" of Halloween holiday decor.

Halloween is something special to the Shores restaurateur. "It is a non-religious holiday that's just for fun," she said. "It makes the older people feel young. It's just to make people laugh, smile, have fun, and be a kid again."

Beltaire credits her mother with inspiring her. "She used to decorate things for us," she said, "and now I've taken it to a different level. Every year I change it (decorations) a little bit, add to it. It's a major investment. Each of my rooms I do a little differently. The main dining room has skull angels. There's a mummy choir around the fountain. There's a headless guy holding a head that's chattering. We have life-size mannequins that are really amazing. They look so real we have to cover their faces sometimes for the little kids. Some kids come in here screaming and crying. Some say this is better than a haunted house."

Beltaire dresses up her restaurant especially for Halloween - not for business, but just for effect. "I don't care if people don't eat or drink here," she said. "It's for everyone to have fun. It makes their day. Once you see it, you're going to go, 'Oh my gosh, she really is crazy.' "

Halloween, or Hallowe'en, is a holiday celebrated on the night of Oct. 31. Traditional activities include trick-or-treating, Halloween festivals, bonfires, costume parties, visiting "haunted houses," viewing horror films, and going on haunted hay rides.

Halloween originated from the Pagan festival Samhain, celebrated among the Celts of Ireland and Great Britain. Irish and Scottish immigrants carried versions of the tradition to North America in the 19th century.

The term Halloween is shortened from All-hallow-even, as it is the evening of/before "All Hallows Day," also known as "All Saints Day." Many European cultural traditions hold that Halloween is a time of the year when spirits can make contact with the physical world, and when magic is most potent.

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