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East Capitol Street is a quiet, residential neighborhood with a few Halloween decorations in place.
Homemade tombstones stand in one yard, marking the final resting places of the Pontiac car brand, the dodo bird and “Larry King Live” (complete with suspenders). Other lawns are decked out with skeletons, spider webs and, of course, pumpkins.
But on Sunday this street will look quite different. Halloween brings thousands of costumed children to East Capitol Street for a trick-or-treat paradise. Kids can make a killing going door to door for candy on the row-house-lined street, and the residents are happy to oblige.
“What has happened over the last number of years is that East Capitol Street has become a mecca for trick-or-treaters,” said Nicky Cymrot, president of the Capitol Hill Community Foundation.
Schools and youth groups drop kids off by the busload, and residents have been known to shell out as many as 2,500 pieces of candy, Cymrot said.
Less than a block from East Capitol Street, it’s a different story.
Capitol Hill resident Paul Woodhull has lived on Ninth Street, near East Capitol, for 12 years. He said his house doesn’t attract nearly as many trick-or-treaters as his neighbors around the corner, who spend hundreds on candy, but the event is a spectacle in and of itself.
“It’s absolutely insane,” Woodhull said. “It’s like no other neighborhood I’ve seen before. It’s Georgetown without the grown-ups and the drinking.”
Hill resident and Walking Shticks tour guide Tim Krepp said he can get away with two bags of candy for spooky visitors on Halloween at his home near Eastern Market.
“We’d love to get a few more trick-or-treaters on our end of the Hill,” Krepp said. “We take in a lot more [candy] than we give out.”
For Woodhull’s six children, trick-or-treating on East Capitol is a fall highlight.
“For about a month and a half now, that’s all they talk about,” he said.
And candy’s not the only thing taken seriously on East Capitol for Halloween. Although decorations were sparse early this week, Woodhull and Krepp said decorations are just as important on that street.
Some residents are known for making their historic homes resemble haunted houses. Nothing is off limits — creepy sound effects and high-flying items on trees aren’t uncommon sights.
“People take their decorating very seriously,” Hill resident John Feehery said. “We’re a little off the beaten track, so we don’t have all that peer pressure. We don’t go to the lengths that some people do on East Capitol.”
What separates the Capitol Hill Halloween scene from celebrations in other parts of Washington is its emphasis on family fun. Trick-or-treating on East Capitol and Eastern Market’s Hilloween festival provide plenty of fun for kids to enjoy with their parents.
Feehery said it’s the diversity of the Hill that makes Halloween there special.
“People have been living here for a while, and I think they just get into the spirit of it,” Feehery said.
“There’s a surprising number of kids here. It’s a mix of young adults, interns and families. ... It’s not your traditional suburban wonderland.”