When Crystal Boulton’s husband Patrick jokingly suggested two years ago that the COVID-19 pandemic might shut down her favourite celebration of the year – Halloween – Crystal not only didn’t believe him, it caused her to think of a way to make Halloween bigger and better. Crystal got to work and singlehandedly created Celebration of Frights – a tour based mainly in Sarnia of homes that take Halloween decorating of their homes very seriously. “I’m not a Christmas person; I’m a Halloween person and I have been since I was a kid,” Crystal proclaims. “When my husband joked about possibly missing Halloween, I said, ‘You cannot cancel the spirit of Halloween! You may cancel the Halloween parties and you can cancel Trick or Treating, but people still want to celebrate the occasion.’" Armed with the knowledge that Sarnia had a successful Celebration of Lights tour, she began creating its Halloween counterpart - the Celebration of Frights.
Some of the homes on the tour are in Corunna, some in Petrolia, and a few in Bright’s Grove, but for the most part, it’s Sarnia. Citizens submit their homes for the tour, and Crystal gets to work building maps that she releases on the Facebook Page she's created. “The maps tell people where to go so they see all the decorated houses and group displays by neighbourhood. You can do part of the tour on different nights if you want to see the whole thing” Crystal says. The first year the response to the event was impressive - but overwhelming for the one-woman-show. "I probably wasn’t prepared to have as many people involved as we got,” Crystal recalls. “The second year I was more prepared, and it grew even more. This year people started talking about it in the summer and many people who weren’t part of the tour the first two years have expressed interest in participating this year." In 2021, 90 houses participated, with more like 100 expected for 2022.
The tour, which takes part for the 11 days leading up to Halloween Night, draws various levels of interest from those who simply decorate their homes to others who make it spectator participation experience. Some houses are more child-friendly, and those get marked on the maps with a pumpkin. "Then there are other houses that I have marked as more scary or interactive. Those are the houses that are likely to have somebody jump out and scare you or they might have a path for visitors to follow to see the decorations and they may have somebody pop out to scare the people. Last year one house had a gargoyle that had wings and smoke came out of its mouth. I think it talked, too.”
Crystal worked solo to get the first tour off the ground, but last year she asked others to help her manage the Facebook page. “I don’t want anything inappropriate on the page,” Crystal says, “So I got people to monitor the comments and I have to approve all of the posts.” As part of the Celebration of Frights, Crystal asked people to donate canned goods, and they were able to donate 1,100 pounds of food to the local St. Vincent de Paul. “The Halloween spirit definitely kicked in and I think it will kick in this year, too."
Stay up to date on the latest from Celebration of Frights by visiting their Facebook Group.