This Halloween, McDonald Avenue won't so closely resemble a late-night scene from Disneyland.
"It's definitely going to be low-key," said Cappie Garrett, one of the neighbors on Santa Rosa's grandest old residential street who has loved doing it up for Halloween but agrees that last year things got out of hand.
Elaborate and spooky decorations on the stately homes have for years drawn legions of trick-or-treaters. But on Halloween 2011, something of a perfect storm visited McDonald Avenue.
IT WAS BALMY, for one thing. A lovely night.
And John and Jennifer Webley celebrated the gorgeous restoration of the street's centerpiece home — Mableton, the McDonald Mansion — by transforming its front yard into Jack the Ripper's London. The PD mentioned that attraction twice just before Halloween.
Aficionados of steam punk contraptions brought several on the big night. Musicians performed in the street, and throngs of older kids and adults lingered for hours after the little ones went home.
"It got a little crazy," said resident Michael Ellis, who freely admits he contributed to the 2011 excess by doling candy and keeping his Halloween scene's music cranked up into the night.
"We're tamping it down this year," Ellis said. "I think our decorations are going to be somewhat more modest."
Neighbors have agreed to cease handing out candy between 8 and 9 p.m. And this year, nobody will borrow steel barricades from City Hall and block off several blocks to car traffic.
To do so has become too complex for residents, who resist having the city view Halloween on McDonald as an organized event like a street fair or a block party. It isn't that.
Each year, each family on the street decides if it will or will not dress up the house and yard and buy the 3,000 or more pieces of candy they might need to meet demand.
THOUGH HALLOWEEN has never been an organized public event on McDonald Avenue, some of the city officials who met with residents following the Disney-esque scene of 2011 suggested they consider applying for an event permit, taking out insurance, renting portable toilets and/or paying to have police present.
The very thought of elevating Halloween to an organized street event makes residents' heads swim.
"We don't want to be responsible for the liability that comes with being an event," Wally Wallace said. He or Garrett had borrowed barricades in the past, but both said the situation's now too complicated for them to obtain barricades any longer.
So kids and adults planning to go to McDonald Avenue Wednesday night need to be aware that though the street's been car-free for several Halloweens, that won't be the case this year.
Garrett said the dialing back of trick-or-treat night on McDonald "is not a &‘Bah, humbug!' thing. It's just time to tone it down and let it be another normal neighborhood Halloween thing again."
(Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and email@example.com.)