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Halloween is Winsted woman’s favorite holiday

October 29, 2007

The decorating for Halloween begins the end of September and continues until the arrival of the trick-or-treaters

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

Last Halloween, there were 450 trick-or-treaters who visited the home of Steve and Sue Kegler at 231 Andy Avenue in Winsted.

Gradually, over 25 years, the Kegler home has become a major attraction on Halloween. Sue is always coming up with new ideas for decorating. What began with a few cutouts hanging on the porch windows has been expanded to include items like the foggers that fill the air with a smoke-like mist.

The first year the Keglers used a fogger for an eerie effect on the front porch, it caused two police officers patrolling the town on foot to actually think the house was on fire.

Today, the Kegler home has so many lights it glows through the fog. There are ghosts hanging from trees, a coffin with a skeleton resident, tombstones, candle-lit jack-o-lanterns, and a cauldron filled with candy.

Halloween is Sue’s favorite holiday. “I live for Halloween – the kids coming in, and the parents,” Sue said. “It just makes you all warm and fuzzy.”

“I just started a new job this year,” Sue added. “The first thing I told them is I don’t work Halloween. I want the kids to start coming early. Little ones shouldn’t have to come at 7 p.m.”

Along with more and more decorations, are the number of visitors who stop by the Keglers on Halloween. Not just children, although all of the children know they get candy and a gift. But the adults line up for a cup of Chai tea, a cookie or a pumpkin bar, and some good conversation.

The house is usually overflowing, and sometimes a line forms outside of the porch.

“Usually the living room is full, the dining room is full, and the porch is full. You just can’t imagine how much fun it is once you are there and everybody is visiting and talking,” Sue said. “Some of the neighbors who don’t get any children trick-or-treating, come and just stay all night to watch or they will hand out candy for us.”

Asked when she is actually ready to begin the celebration on Halloween day, Sue answered, “As soon as I get up in the morning.”

She is probably ready because she has been planning for the event for the entire year. Getting ready is a lot of hard work and a year-around project.

Sue has lots of volunteers eager to help her. Her brother-in-law, Bob Kegler, and good friend, Tom Specken, are out looking for after-Halloween sales immediately following the big day.

That is when most of the decorations are purchased. The toys and other gifts that are given away to the trick-or-treaters are also something they keep an eye out for.

One year, the buyers were able to get a whole load of Halloween socks for less than 10 cents a pair. Another year they were able to get a four-pack of Play Doh for just a few cents by going to every Target store in Minneapolis when the product went on sale.

“This year, I have more toys than I have ever had before,” Sue said.

Decorating begins the end of September.

“All of the neighborhood kids, the minute you start decorating, start coming and knocking on the door and asking if they can help,” Sue said. “Or when I am outside, they will come over and say, ‘Are we going to decorate more today?’”

A chair is placed on the sidewalk in the center of the front yard because Sue has difficulty standing for very long. That is where, according to Sue, she “barks” out her decorating orders.

Besides Bob Kegler, and Specken, her helpers include John Bartlett of Winsted, her niece Jenny Scherping, who is now a neighbor, and Jenny’s fiance’, Chris Grosslinger of Annandale.

Sue’s husband, Steve, is responsible for putting the decorations away. The problem they are running into is finding a place to put them.

“My garage is full, Jenny’s shed is full, and my basement is full,” Sue said.

The Keglers’ four daughters are usually there to help, too.

Stefanie is married to Major Jacob Froehle. Jacob is currently serving in Afghanistan. He left in January and will not return until April of 2008. They have two sons, Steven, 7, and Wesley, 5.

Their daughter, Mandy, was always the one to organize putting the decorations away. Mandy is currently serving in Baghdad and will not be back until next summer, possibly in July.

Elizabeth just returned home from Japan, where she had lived for a year, and Mary (Mimi) just finished school in St. Cloud, becoming a vet tech.

“In all of the years that I have decorated, I have never had anything taken or destroyed,” Sue said. “I have had as many as 30 pumpkins in the yard and never had one smashed. No one has ever touched my yard.”

Pumpkin carving is a festival in itself

Twenty-five or more carved pumpkins are part of the annual decorations.

“One year, Liz and Mimi had 12 or 13 junior and senior girls in my dining room who had never carved a pumpkin. My girls showed them how to put the patterns on them,” Sue said. “Another year, skate boarders from the area came to our garage and they carved 25 pumpkins in one night.”

Next year, Sue will have a wish come true when Alan Fleischacker will plow up part of his farm so Sue can plant pumpkins.

Sue is not just going to plant pumpkins for herself. She plans to set up a wagon next to her home and for every child that promises to carve a pumpkin and display it on Halloween, she will give them a free pumpkin.

“Then Tommy (Specken) and I are going to hit every single Target store and buy all of the pumpkin master carving kits. Each child will get a pumpkin carving kit, too,” she said.

Sue’s costumes are award-winners

The day of the interview Sue and Specken were on their way to pick up material for a costume to be made for Sue’s daughter, who is a teacher in St. Cloud.

Costumes are included in Sue’s Halloween projects. She has made costumes for many Winsted children over the years, averaging around 20 to 25 costumes each year.

Some of the costumes she has made include clowns, Wizard of Oz Dorothy, Batman and the Joker, spiders, pirates, French maid costumes, rabbit in the hat (the hat was as big as a table), fairy princesses, Harry Potter, and Snow White.

Many of Sue’s costumes were contest winners. In fact, her daughters would not enter costume contests anymore because they wanted someone else to win.

“Because Sue’s costumes always won. And if Sue’s daughters didn’t win one of the prizes, someone would win wearing one of the costumes Sue had made,” Specken said.

Once the girls were in college, Sue thought she wouldn’t have to make anymore costumes, but she was wrong. “I was making them for their roommates, too.”

Sue tells one of her favorite costume story about a boy who was about 6 or 7 at the time – about 15 years ago. The costume was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume. It had 27 pieces to the costume and she almost broke her sewing machine quilting the turtle shell.

There were numerous fittings and this little boy was very shy. He never said one word to Sue all the while she worked on the costume.

The night of Halloween he went to a costume contest in Howard Lake and he won.

It was later in the evening of Halloween and she was sitting at the table in the dining room, where she always sits on her special night, and in ran the little boy.

“He ran over to me and threw his arms around my neck,” Sue said. “He said, ‘I won, I won.’ That was the only thing he ever said to me, but it was enough.”