Halloween turned soggy but didn't lose its festive air Wednesday night on McDonald Avenue, as throngs of trick-or-treaters trekked through steady rain to take in both candy and scary sights along the historic Santa Rosa street.
Neighbors who had promoted a more low-key atmosphere this year may have gotten a little help from the drenching skies. But the Dixieland band and Mardi Gras-themed happenings at Mableton, aka the McDonald Mansion, were reminders that no other street in the city has such a reputation for stately homes and costumed frivolity.
"The people have been great and we're having a great time," resident Kathy Helleskov said. She sat with her umbrella in a chair at the bottom of her front porch so that no children would have to climb slippery steps.
The rain did seem to cut the number of this year's revelers, especially compared with 2011 when the mercury hit an unseasonably warm high of 81 degrees.
Noreen Carvolth, a resident and former city school board member, said her family gave out fewer than 1,400 pieces of candy Wednesday. Typically they give out about 2,000, though last year they handed out 3,000.
And the crowd seemed less likely this year to venture far from the main drag. Around the corner on Spencer Avenue, resident Stephanie Evans said she normally hands out about 1,200 pieces of candy on Halloween. This year she thought it would be closer to a third of that amount.
The rain made for leaf-strewn sidewalks gleaming in the street lights. It also made for plenty of puddles on sidewalks and streets.
Along Fourteenth Street at McDonald, the drains clogged and water stood across the entire width of the road. Many adults and some children nonetheless splashed through.
This year, neighbors didn't put up city barricades and keep cars off McDonald. Traffic nonetheless remained fairly sporadic and drivers generally crept slowly along the street.
And Carvolth said the neighbors around her stopped handing out candy by 9 p.m. as planned, considerably earlier than last year.
For many, Mableton was once more a must-see attraction, set off by its amber porch lamps and the soft light reflected off its turret-like lattice work high atop the roof.
Last year, the mansion's theme was Jack the Ripper's London. This year, the grounds had a New Orleans flair, complete with alligator swamp. Children waited patiently in line to climb the mansion's stairs and receive candy and Mardi Gras beads.
Nearby, a booth provided visitors free tastes of jambalaya, saffron mussels and alligator meat.
"It's a big hit with the kids," chef Gerard Nebesky said of the 12 pounds of prepared alligator meat. Nebesky, a relative of Mableton's owners, John and Jennifer Webley, said the cooks also planned to serve up 400 pounds of mussels.
Spencer Byrne, age 10, tried a piece of alligator and declared it, "Not bad. Tastes like pork."
Byrne, a Strawberry School fifth-grader dressed as Dr. Evil from "Austin Powers," said he wasn't going to let the rain deter him.
"No," he said, "you have to get candy, no matter what."
You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285 or firstname.lastname@example.org.