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The annual event in St. Helens attracts visitors from Portland and well beyond.

COURTESY PHOTO: CITY OF ST. HELENS - A parade is one of the the scary features at the yearly Spirit of Halloweentown in St. Helens.The Spirit of Halloweentown is not just a St. Helens event.

The spooky haunts in Old Town have attracted visitors from as far away as Western Europe.

It's an annual tradition in St. Helens, inspired by the filming of two movies in town: Walt Disney's "Halloweentown" and "Twilight," a vampire novel turned into a movie.

Events kicked off Sept. 18 and will run through Oct. 31.

This year, tourists and residents will be able to welcome celebrities from both movies.

Ashley Greene, who played vampire Alice Cullen in "Twilight," will be on hand Saturday, Oct. 23, for exclusive photo ops, autographs and a VIP meet and greet.

J. Paul Zimmerman and Phillip Van Dyke, actors from "Halloweentown," will be at the event Oct. 23 and Oct. 24. These actors will be available for a VIP lunch and question and answer session.

Both first-time visitors to St. Helens and long-time event patrons will enjoy a highlight of the multi-week attraction: the lighting of the giant pumpkins.

Two giant pumpkins are lit up in the town square. One pumpkin is a replica of the giant pumpkin featured in "Halloweentown," and the other is a work of steampunk metal art.

The pumpkins are available for photo opportunities each day until the end of October.

Crystal King, St. Helens city spokesperson, said this year, the pumpkin lighting will be scaled down from previous events.

"For the last several years, we have done a lighting every Saturday in October. That is not going to be the case this year," King told the Spotlight. "We're only doing one pumpkin lighting ceremony, which will be October 2.

"We anticipate that there might be larger crowds than there have been in the past several years."

While crowds this year may be larger, that wasn't the case last year.

"Last year, we had to limit the number of people who could be at the event, due to COVID restrictions in Oregon at the time," King said. "At the time of October last year, we were limited to 250 people at events. The event was entirely ticketed, in order to control the number of people at the event."

King continued, "This year, thus far, there aren't any crowd restrictions. There won't be any fencing anticipated at this time. The plaza will be open to the public. It will look a lot more like it did in previous years."

Halloweentown is becoming an event known worldwide.

"We have a lot of people coming from the Portland metro area," King said. "But we do also get people who fly in from all over the country and internationally. I personally have spoken to people in year's past that have come as far as England and Barcelona to the event."

King added, "I have alerts set up on my computer for 'St. Helens' and 'government.' I saw an alert yesterday, I believe, that we were featured in a Canadian article for top destinations for Halloween."

The Spirit of Halloweentown wraps up with a special parade for children. According to the city, parents, guardians and children are encouraged to dress in their best Halloween costumes and join in the Little Trick or Treaters Costume Parade on Oct. 30. The free event, with prize opportunities, lets kids enjoy a parade downtown.

General admission tickets to the Spirit of Halloweentown, along with special celebrity engagement tickets and a full event list can be found at spiritofhalloweentown.com. The latest COVID restrictions will be observed.

The Spirit of Halloweentown is an event that's important to the community, considering the toll COVID-19 has taken on area businesses.

"We heard a lot of testimony, a couple of council meetings ago, from local businesses who are thrilled to have people come back to town," King said. "COVID has been very hard on businesses the last couple of years. I think It means a lot to the downtown businesses, in particular, that we have an event and people are able to come to kind of bolster some of the lost revenue from the past couple of years."


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