South Charlotte

A truly hallowed evening on Biltmore Drive

Ghosts and goblins turn out in style on Biltmore Drive in Eastover.

The annual Halloween parade and costume contest on the street are beloved traditions in this neighborhood.

Former Eastover resident Marcia Teal lives in Myers Park now but fondly recalls her childhood on Biltmore Drive and taking part in the parades as a young girl. Her first experience was in the late 1950s or early '60s, when her family moved to the street, but she isn't sure exactly when the parades began.

Teal says a favorite parade memory is of twin boys on the street whose mother was a gifted seamstress and crafted handmade costumes. One year the boys dressed as matching pumpkins. Another year it was footballs.

"They just were always precious," said Teal.

Even then there were contests for best costume and ribbons awarded by judges.

The parade preceded the night's trick-or-treating.

"I had two brothers and a sister, and we always had to compare sacks when we got home - you know, see who got the most candy," she said.

When she was too grown up to be a parade participant, she was a spectator.

"I can remember in high school walking up to the parade just to check it out and see the kids," said Teal. "It was fun. It was the kind of thing anybody would enjoy because they were so cute, particularly the little ones."

Current Eastover resident Nancy Carlton, 47, lives on Biltmore Drive; she and husband, Kern, are parents of four children. Her own experience with the "Biltmore Halloween organization" began about 17 years ago.

"It's such a great opportunity for the adults to spend time with each other and just to see the children grow over the years," she said.

Costumed characters gather in late afternoon Oct. 31 to walk behind a decorated jeep, truck or trailer for the procession along Biltmore Drive, which is blocked by permit for the parade.

Some years, residents arrange for a Charlotte Fire Department truck to visit, a change from Teal's era when the event was simpler.

A stage is erected at the driveway of the household hosting the costume competition.

Debuting onstage is intimidating for some kids, so everyone who crosses the stage receives a trinket for being a good sport. There also are awards for top children's costumes. A costume contest for the adults was added several years ago.

The procession, contests and refreshments served are preludes to a night of trick-or-treating after the festivities conclude.

A committee plans the celebration to ensure all aspects are covered.

"It's definitely a group effort," said Carlton.

Pets aren't left out.

"Last year my daughter and our dog were hot dogs," she said. Daughter, Anne, 10, is recruiting friends to go this year as the Three Little Pigs.

And Carlton's costume?

It's a classic: She says she's dressed as a witch for the last 17 years.