The up-and-coming village of Hazelwood is getting in on the trick-or-treat action this Halloween by hosting its first ever “Hazelween” event from 5-7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 30.
Borrowing a page from downtown Waynesville’s playbook, Hazelwood merchants are banding together to host an evening of trick-or-treating — with the dual purpose of creating community camaraderie and showcasing what Hazelwood has to offer.
“We are excited to invite the community to come down to Hazelwood,” said Stephany Semones, owner of Pink Regalia. “It may bring people who haven’t discovered how great is Hazelwood is yet.”
Hazelwood was once a bustling blue-collar town, but succumbed to a slow and steady decline as the hum of factories that anchored the town went dark. But it never lost its scrappy spirit. Over the past decade, Hazelwood has been reincarnated as a quaint and vibrant shopping district of its own right.
“It used to be the little town everybody forgot about, but we’re coming back,” said Chad Brown, owner of Hazelwood Gun and Tactical. “We’re bringing back Hazelwood.”
Hazelween is the brainchild of Alex McKay, an avid champion of Hazelwood. McKay, who is also Waynesville’s historian-in-chief, recalled Hazelwood’s glory days.
“There were always street dances and parades, and there was a lot more opportunities for the community to gather around,” McKay said.
Plus, he just loves Halloween.
“Halloween is one of my favorite holidays — that and Fourth of July,” McKay said.
Since there isn’t a formal merchant’s association in Hazelwood, McKay took it upon himself to organize the event, taking a letter to each merchant seeking their participation.
“It was a great response,” he said.
He also paid the $300 event insurance out of his own pocket to meet the town’s requirement for a street closure permit. Since Hazelwood was bereft of fall decorations, McKay called on his friend Justin Lee to donate corn shucks from his field.
McKay and Lee cut them down, and then McKay called on another friend — former Hazelwood Police Officer Clifford Ruff — to help lash them to light poles.
“He was all for it. As a Hazelwood native, he’s all for seeing Hazelwood succeed,” McKay said.
Last year, Hazelwood hosted its first Christmas Parade in years. The traditional downtown Christmas parade was canceled due to COVID, presenting an opening for Hazelwood.
Now, there’s already plans in the works to hold the Hazelwood Christmas parade again this year on Sunday, Dec. 5.
“I look forward to seeing more events happen down in Hazelwood,” Semones said.
While Semones said she hasn’t bought a candy stash for Hazelween yet, she and the staff of Pink Regalia have been busy working on their costumes. They’re dressing up as “the decades” of the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.
Meanwhile, Brown has stockpiled his candy for the night, but is still waffling on a costume.
“My wife is dressing up, and she’s been hard on me to do it, but I haven’t made up my mind,” Brown said.