By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily
Ghouls, zombies and killer clowns roam the streets of Gillette each Halloween season. But for those brave enough to pass through them, there is a mighty reward.
Lots and lots of candy.
Scott Brady, owner of Sunshine Custom Paint and Body, is the host of the ghosts.
“If you come through and your sunroof is open, we’ll dump a bucket of candy in your sunroof, right over your heads,” Zane Brady, Scott’s oldest son and general manager, told Cowboy State Daily. “It just rains candy on the kids – and just the laughs and giggles that you experience is priceless.”
But the show actually starts before the cars pull into the shop. Brady said they set up wrecked cars and trailer houses to make the approach to the body shop intentionally spooky.
“My dad spends all year collecting cool decorations to make sure this event is fun and exciting for the kids. We have some abandoned cars that people have left with us over the years, so we put them in the ditch and make it look like it’s ‘The Walking Dead,’” he said. “Scott keeps a couple of trailer houses that he literally brings out for this event and puts them on the streets that have broken windows with ‘blood’ splashed on them and make it look like bodies are hanging out.”
‘Safe Place For Kids’
The event, which the Bradys call “Street of Treats,” has been an annual tradition in Gillette since the mid-2000s when Zane’s mother, Julie, heard about a couple of local children who were hurt when they were given tainted candy.
“She wanted to have a safe place for kids to go trick-or-treating,” he said.
The first year, Brady said they spent about $800 in candy. But he said they never guessed how popular the event would become, last year spending just over $20,000 to fill bags to give away to those who are willing to wait in lines that can stretch 3 miles.
“It never was anticipated to get as big as it is now,” he said. “It’s a staple of the community, if you will.”
Setting The Scene
Brady said it takes all of the business’ employees, plus volunteers, to put on the event. A local 4-H Club chocks up community service hours opening up bags of candy, sorting and bagging before the event.
“It takes about 20-25 people to run the show,” said Brady.
And all of them are in costume.
“One year I was a blow-up dinosaur, walking back and forth down the street,” he said. “I was a zombie clown one time. I had adults jumping out of their own cars, they were so scared.”
Worth the Wait
Each year, cars begin lining up around 2 or 3 p.m., although the event doesn’t begin until 4. Families may stay in line up to two and a half hours, Brady said, with the line stretching down Mohan Street, west on Highway 59 to the stoplight at Southern Drive, and at its peak up to a mile and a half down Southern Drive.
“Our babysitter’s kids went through for the first time, and she said they waited for two hours,” said Brady. “But she said all the kids talked about once they got through is how fun and exciting it was.”
Popularity Grows During COVID
Brady said that when COVID-19 shut down normal Halloween activities, Street of Treats became even more popular.
“The protocols we had already followed, just naturally because you’re not face to face, it’s more of a drive-thru kind of thing,” said Brady. “But you could tell the community was aching or itching to get out and about.”
He said since the pandemic hit, they’ve had to purchase 30% to 40% more candy just to keep up with demand. Last year the event went through $20,000 worth of candy.
“We figure we get around 700-plus cars that come through that night,” he said. “It starts at 4, we usually don’t end till about 10:20-10:30 is when the last car usually rolls through.”
But Brady said they won’t run out of candy – unless Gillette runs out.
He said last year, the initial purchase was $16,000, but it wasn’t enough.
“We had to make a run at 8 to Walmart and Albertsons to buy truckloads of more candy to keep going,” said Brady.
In the last few years, the community has rallied around the event with sponsors helping with the cost of the candy in amounts up to $10,000, but the business covers the rest.
“We do have sponsors that help us out that donate anywhere from $100 to $500,” Brady said. “We have a few businesses that love what we do, that donate $1,000 to help us out.”
And over the years, Brady said they’ve received thank you cards from parents of children with disabilities that, before the Street of Treats, haven’t had the opportunity to trick-or-treat.
“They get to stay in their car, and if they’re wheelchair-bound or something, or not comfortable being around other people, we’ve been told they get to experience Halloween for the first time,” he said, “which is kind of a cool thing that never was anticipated.”