“We need something fun’: Sonoma County residents celebrate Halloween after fire, evacuations

Usually, Halloween in Windsor is an event.

Leslie Carlson said her community near Foothill Regional Park typically sees more than 500 people who drive to the area for the big candy bars the neighbors hand out. After a week of mandatory evacuations because of the Kincade fire, though, a lot of residents decided not to partake this year.

But that didn’t stop some families from celebrating the spooky holiday.

Carlson, who has lived in the area for about 30 years, had to flee to San Jose before going to Concord with her two daughters when the Kincade fire threatened Windsor and forced the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office to place a mandatory evacuation order on the entire town. After the Sheriff’s Office lifted evacuation orders for more than 140,000 residents, Carlson was able to come home.

Even though it had been a difficult few days, and her house had no heat because PG&E cut gas in the area to reduce fire danger, she still took her daughters trick-or-treating Thursday night.

“She’s so happy,” Carlson said of her 3-year-old daughter, who dressed up as Tinkerbell and was skipping away in search of more candy. “Keeping her life and her traditions normal is important to me.”

Even though the usually festive Windsor Town Green was empty Thursday, Emmili Reyna and her two daughters, Annika and Jubilee Stallings, enjoyed a fall stroll through the park. Jubilee, who turns 2 next week, was dressed as a pepperoni pizza, and her 5-year-old sister dressed as Uma Thurman’s The Bride character from “Kill Bill.” Annika had never seen the movie, but her mother helped her pick out her costume.

“She said she wanted to be something scary this year,” Reyna said with a laugh.

Reyna’s family had just come home the day before, after living in motels in Woodland and Cloverdale during the evacuation order. Reyna said the last week has “taken a toll” on her kids, but she wanted to make sure they were still able to go trick-or-treating.

“We still feel the ... holiday spirit,” Reyna said. “It provides the much-needed groundedness for the kids.”

During the day Thursday, LandPaths - a nonprofit whose mission is to “foster a love of the land in Sonoma County” - held a Halloween celebration at Bayer Farm in Roseland. Kids participated in a costume parade, snacked on candy and carved pumpkins after almost a week of being stuck at home, with Sonoma County schools being closed the whole week.

Maria Dominguez lives in the neighborhood and brought her 16-month-old son, Noah Hunt, to the celebration. He was dressed as a pumpkin.

Dominguez said her family was “really proud” of the Roseland community for coming together during hardships like the ones Sonoma County has experienced over the last week.

In the evening, McDonald Avenue was Santa Rosa’s Halloween hotspot as always. The street was crowded with families and friends in costume, and one house blasted old ’70s music for people to dance to. Through the celebration, community members still felt the weight of the hardships from the last few days.

Santa Rosa resident Jake Yarnal’s neighborhood was still pretty empty; it also was in one of the mandatory evacuation zones, and not everyone had returned. Still, he and his wife agreed they wanted the kids to still be able to celebrate Halloween, and so took them to the festive street.

“There’s so much stress after the fires, I think we need something fun,” said Maria Villegas, who was trick-or-treating with her 6-year-old daughter.

At one point, a fire engine drove down the street, eliciting cheers from the families out trick-or-treating. People called out thank-yous to the first responders.

Roselyn Delgado, 10, who trick-?or-treated in her Windsor neighborhood near Foothill Regional Park, was almost invisible in her black costume Thursday night. She was dressed as a robber.

“I’m robbing candy,” she said, smirking.

Her family returned home Wednesday after staying with family in Stockton during the evacuation order. Delgado said she noticed the town wasn’t as busy as it usually was on Halloween, but she still wanted to go out for the holiday.

“We (should) have fun because we only have one life to live,” Delgado said. “It feels good to be home, and it feels good to be trick-or-treating in the area that I live in.”

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