What a treat — Arroyo Grande won’t lose Halloween in the Village after all

A chicken, three princesses, a firefighter, a dalmatian and an-anything-but cowardly lion marched into Arroyo Grande City Council chambers on Tuesday night — and walked out knowing where they’ll be trick-or-treating this Halloween.

After concern erupted this month over the sudden revelation that Arroyo Grande’s annual Halloween in the Village event would not take place as usual due to lack of a sponsor, families and businesses rallied together to bring back what they described as an important tradition.

On Tuesday night, some of those concerned parents and Village workers marched over to the City Council, costumed kids in tow, to present an application for their own Halloween event.

“Let’s save the city!” declared one Batman-clad kid during discussion.

After the parade of Halloween-ready children was over — during which a little kid dressed as a lion ferociously roared at Mayor Caren Ray Russom — the City Council voted unanimously to set aside $5,000 to implement the necessary safety measures for Halloween in the Village and approve a conditional use permit for the celebration.

“I am 100% sure that this event is going to be the best Halloween in the Village ever,” Ray Russom said during discussion. “It’s going to be an incredible event and it’s because we had to make a very hard decision and tell this community it is time for somebody to step up. And darn it, they did.”

Now the event can take place as usual, with trick-or-treating set to take place between 3 and 5 p.m. on Oct. 31, Halloween.

“It was very exciting to know that we as a community rallied together to make this happen,” Cafe Andreini manager Joslynn Flowers told The Tribune on Wednesday.

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City of Arroyo Grande

Arroyo Grande merchants rally together

The annual event, which has been going on for at least 18 years, was at risk of disappearing in 2019 after the Village Improvement Association said it could no longer afford to host it.

The association is undergoing a organizational restructuring since its executive director retired earlier this year, and is changing some of its longstanding practices.

During Wednesday night’s meeting, council members lauded the efforts of those trying to save the event, but cautioned that given the VIA’s restructuring, other beloved events might similarly be at risk in the future.

“Through the years, all of the work the VIA did, it became expected,” Councilwoman Lan George said during discussion. “Things happened because there were people working really hard behind the scenes, and the volunteers slowly fell off. And that’s where we got to where we got to two weeks ago.”

“I urge merchants in the Village to step up,” she added. “I urge you to step up and care for your Village and care for your community the way that these young ladies have done.”

On Wednesday, Krista Bandy of children’s consignment shop Hello Village said she was “happy with how everything went last night and the support from the council and the community.”

Bandy said the entire ordeal opened up her eyes and helped her to appreciate all that the Village Improvement Association previously did for the community.

She also urged other members of the community to come forward and defend the traditions they hold dear.

“I think that a lot of us don’t really know how much goes into these events,” Bandy said. “We just think they happen, but a lot of them are volunteer-based. I would recommend that if you don’t want to see something like this happen again, that you become more involved in the community, the Chamber and with the steering committee.”

Bandy said she wanted to thank everyone in the community who helped to save the Halloween in the Village event:

“Thank you to everyone that has commented and shown support, a huge thank you to the families and businesses that have donated candy, to help offset the cost,” Bandy said, “and thank you to the City Council for giving us a chance to put this together.”

How to donate to Halloween in the Village

Monetary donations to offset the city’s cost of implementing safety measures can be sent to City Hall care of City Manager Jim Bergman.

Candy donations can be dropped off at Hello Village at 121 W. Branch St., where they will be divided among participating Village businesses.

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Kaytlyn Leslie writes about business and development for The San Luis Obispo Tribune. Hailing from Nipomo, she also covers city governments and happenings in the South County region, including Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach and Grover Beach. She joined The Tribune in 2013 after graduating from Cal Poly with her journalism degree.