Halloween on Hanover

For many, Hanover Avenue is THE place to be on Halloween night in Richmond. Here we talk to resident Joe Jernigan about his experiences living on a stretch of Hanover populated by a particularly devoted group of Halloween-loving homeowners.

Hanover Avenue is known as Halloween central here in Richmond. Every October 31st, residents try to outdo the previous year’s display… and each other. Extension cords trail from second story windows to illuminate orange lights wrapped around orange leaved trees. Ghouls, spiders, skeletons, intricately stenciled pumpkins, and other eerie decorations transform the street for the night. There are also tales of a man who hangs from a noose and moves just in time to scare kids. Going all out on Halloween is classic to Hanover.

But Hanover resident Joe Jernigan has a different decorating approach. “You don’t want to scare the kids but so much” he says. He opts to keep it less ghoulish and is going with a spider theme. But whether you are with friends looking for gory sights, or want a safe place likely to be a gold mine of candy for the kids, the 1900 block of Hanover is sure to please. Each year the block is closed to traffic from 5pm to 8pm so the crowds can navigate safely from house to house. Celebrations continue along Hanover Avenue down towards Fox Elementary on the 2300 block.

Residents are prepared for the swarming masses. “I go through about 2,500 to 3,000 pieces of candy,” says Jernigan. Before the festivities start, residents meet up like a team preparing for a big game. They renew their insurance policy required for petitioning to close down the block, and the city provides police officers to make crowd dispersal easier when streets are opened to traffic again. Ghosts are hung from the trees the night before. Dud tree lights must be replaced and, most importantly, the block determines who is on board. Of the 28 homes about 16 to 18 typically return for another round each year.

“When there’s new homeowners coming in, we indoctrinate them and try to explain to them what’s going on…they get scared to death and run in the house and shut the door,” Jernigan says jokingly. While the block’s Halloween celebrations have been running smoothly for quite a while, the tradition of closing off the streets started just five years ago. Jernigan has been participating for seven years, ever since he moved to the neighborhood.

Even if you think a pirate handing out candy from ship or a kitchen with a ghoulish menu (some of last year’s antics) is over the top, it can’t be denied that Hanover is the perfect spot for kids. “We all enjoy the kids and the costumes and [it] gives a lot of kids a central place to go to.” Jernigan says, “A lot of parents just drop their kids off in vans and car loads.”

Some Hanover Avenue residents celebrate in a more adult way with beer, costumes, and friends with about four or five parties dotting the block each year. Jernigan himself parties every year in honor of Halloween and his birthday, which are on the same night. He dresses as a “young lady” to mark the occasion and was a cheerleader last year. He is debating whether or not to retire the theme, much to the chagrin of party guests. However, Jernigan will not retire the night of fun. About the ruckus he says “We’ll still be partying after the streets are open.”

While the majority of the more “extreme” decorations will go up right before Halloween, a few Hanover residents have already gotten into the spirit of things. Take a look at some images from this Halloween-loving part of town.

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Leah Small

Leah served as our editorial intern during the Fall of 2009. She is a VCU student who thoroughly loves Richmond, its niche culture, and all there is to see and do.

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