Forty-eight percent of American adults plan on wearing a Halloween costume, according to the National Retail Federation, and 2017’s spooky spending this season will hit an all-time high of $9.1 billion, or $86 per household. Sixteen percent — that’s 50 million people — plan to put a costume on their pet.
How does that add up on college campuses? We all know dressing up for millennials is not just a Halloween thing, it's an all-year epic experience. Our campus correspondent tracked the Halloween trends for an entire week.
Christmas may be “the most wonderful time of the year,” but in the college town of Fredericksburg, Virginia, I’d argue it’s Halloween that takes the top spot on the University of Mary Washington campus.
The costumes on campus range from minimal to extravagant, with the most popular ones being superheroes and mythical creatures such as unicorns and mermaids. I’ve also seen a lot of Harley Quinn and Wonder Woman. Costumes on campus and in town seem to be trending more towards fantasy and less towards scary, but that doesn’t mean you won’t see any vampires or werewolves around.
Each year in October, the streets of downtown historic Fredericksburg are filled with festive Halloween decorations, and charming fall-themed chotchkes. Right now, you’ll see scarecrows galore, at the corners of intersections and in window displays of stores and buildings. That’s because of the “Scarecrows are Coming” contest, which the city started three years ago.
The categories include spookiest, funniest and most historic costume, and best use of business theme.
Fredericksburg-area bars and pubs also love to have fun with the Halloween theme. The Legume Kitchen and Bar had a Halloween-themed night of music, dancing, and a costume contest. The first-prize winners were a couple dressed as Jenny and Forrest Gump. They snagged a $75 gift card to Legume. Second prize? That went to yours truly, dressed as a (historically inaccurate) Roman soldier. I walked away with a $45 gift card -- almost enough to pay for my costume. Veni, vedi, vici!
Back on campus at the University of Mary Washington, there’s a whole world of students who love Halloween trappings. There’s as a costume contest, showings of scary movies like "Nosferatu," and the annual pumpkin carving contest judged by UMW President Troy Paino.
What are the favorite costume themes this year? Cartoon characters Stich from "Lilo and Stitch," as well as traditional jack-o'-lantern faces carved into all shapes and sizes of pumpkins.
Bev Kippenhan, a UMW alum, fondly remembers Halloween at her alma mater. She majored in theater and participated in the live "Rocky Horror Picture Show" reenactment done each year.
“I was in 'Rocky Horror' my freshman year and it's just such a fun, carefree… environment!” she said. The "Rocky Horror" show is put on by The UMW Rich Weirdos, a student-organized performing arts troupe.
Gussie Rivercomb, a 22-year-old senior at UMW, loves how the whole town gets involved with the holiday. “Halloween is my favorite holiday!" she said. "The atmosphere downtown really brings out the holiday spirit and makes it feel like fall… it just puts me in a good mood during the middle of the stressful school year. It also brings a lot of non-students on campus, which is great for the school and fun to see."
As for me? The magic of Halloween is largely about food. I love all the goodies and snacks put out around campus for the students. I often lurk around caramel apple stations and hot chocolate stands. The best relief after walking through a freezing cold campus is a warm cup of hot chocolate with mini-marshmallows… just add a nip of whiskey!