If E.T. were to trick-or-treat anywhere in America in 2017, it would be on Indianola Way.
In La Cañada Flintridge’s throwback neighborhood on Tuesday, residents perched in driveways in front of festively, spookily designed homes, their candy bowls well stocked and beckoning to little dinosaurs, DJs and Dodgers.
“There’s a nostalgia there that reminds me of what it was like when I was a kid in the ’80s,” said La Cañada High School drama teacher Justin Eick, who has been a regular visitor with his son, Hayden, for nine years. “You know, when Gertie takes E.T. out trick-or-treating in the streets and you see all of these kids roaming? To be able to share that with my son and with the La Cañada community is something I look forward to every year.”
As has been the case for the past 17 years, Indianola was closed to through-traffic from 4:30-9:30 p.m. on Tuesday between Houseman Street and Knight Way, as anywhere from 1,200 to 2,000 people — most of them in disguise and craving sweets — visited.
As per tradition, the city of La Cañada Flintridge issued a “parade/special event” permit, waiving the typical $300 fee for traffic control devices and $600 for Sheriff’s Department patrol services.
“[The event] helps highlight some of the strong community values which the residents of Indianola have,” Mayor Michael Davitt wrote in an email. “It’s a great event for the neighborhood and the community as a whole in a safe environment, an opportunity to share with the entire city and local area something that has become somewhat of an institutional event.
“It’s fun for the kids and fun for the adults as well.”
Indianola Way has been a popular Halloween destination for much more than 17 years, according to Clark Hubbs, a resident who was integral in turning the evening into an event sanctioned by the city.
“Our street is one of the few streets that has streetlights,” Hubbs said. “Our houses are 60 feet apart, we have quite a few houses in a straight row and all that made this street popular for the kids, and for the parents.”
Unfortunately, things got scary in the 1990s, he said.
“High school kids used to drive up and down the street in cars, they called them ‘war wagons,’ and they’d throw eggs and water balloons out the windows,” he said. “One year, one of them used a fire extinguisher on one girl in our front yard, and we ended up calling the paramedics.
“It got us to realize if we were going to keep this safe, particularly for the very young, we need to think about blocking off the street.”
And then, with the barricades up, the street got even busier when a local radio DJ went on the air and recommended it as an ideal place for trick-or-treating, Hubbs said.
Most of the residents participate, dressing up their homes with spider webs, planting gravestones in their front yards or blowing up larger-than-life ghosts to greet anyone brave enough to approach.
And loading up on candy, of course.
“We used to live on this street, we gave out billions of candies and now we’re back to collect!” joked Chris Suarez, who recently moved back to LCF from the Bay Area, and Tuesday accompanied his children, Ryan and Kate Suarez, both cloaked in Harry Potter costumes. “This is special, it is so neat. Really, the people on this street should be thanked.”
Before heading out themselves, Lucas and Charlotte Dien, 12 and 10, received some shy “thank-yous” from a trio of small children.
The siblings were stationed in their driveway handing out Nestle-brand sweets (of which there was plenty in reserve, hidden behind a table nearby) and complimenting early trick-or-treaters on their costumes.
They love the way their neighborhood does Halloween, Lucas and Charlotte agreed.
“I like to see all my friends,” said Lucas, appreciating how cool it is to be considered a destination.
“And I like to see all the little kids dressed up — they’re so cute!” said Charlotte, her eyes hidden behind a pair of oversized shades that totally fit her hip-hop attire, which also included a sideways-worn pink ball cap and a gold chain.
LCHS choral director Jeff Brookey said he heard stories about what happens on Indianola every Halloween from his students. So he started bringing his son, Jaxon, now 13, when he was just 4.
“It feels like a community event, like Music in the Park or something,” Brookey said. “It’s social, it’s fun. It’s a spectacle and a tradition.”