The angry tree in Carmine Vento’s front yard is snarling at passersby. The spider is wildly menacing and the guy with the pirate at the end of the driveway is just as suspect. Cars slow down with faces inside, gawking at the motely crew that is cackling, convulsing, spewing smoke and mingling with the undead.
“I enjoy doing it,” Vento said of the theatrical staging, animatronics, inflatables, audio devices and contraptions that require a hired crew to install this time of year.
It hadn’t always been this way. The longtime resident of MacDonald Highlands went years without participating in Halloween on such an extravagant level. Then one year, he picked up a couple of things. And then a couple more. Soon he was spending $2,000 on the holiday. Then $4,000. This year, he spent $8,000.
“Every year I think I have enough,” he said. The next year I get more. Last year, it was only one third of what it is now. This year, I just went all out.”
It’s not as if there isn’t demand. Vento draws a crowd on Halloween.
“Last year, I had 130 buckets filled with candy,” he said. “Those kids must have texted each other because I ran out. This year, I bought 200 buckets and 100 bags.”
He liked Halloween as a child. God was good to him, he said, so he’s giving it back.
Though his undertaking exceeds the usual cemeteries and collections of dangling ghosts haunting front yards in neighborhoods throughout the valley, it’s not entirely uncommon.
In one Southwest neighborhood a re-created pirate ship takes over the street. Crowds of masked revelers move past fog machines. Screaming witches are launched from mechanical contraptions at the trick-or-treaters below, then reeled back up.
It’s a joyous mayhem, and a wild uptick in foot traffic, on otherwise quiet suburban streets.
In Las Vegas entertainer Frank Marino’s Summerlin neighborhood, food trucks line the roads; Marino sets out a Sleepy Hollow coach; orange and purple lights are strung; and the entire neighborhood turns into a Halloween festival.
“It looks like our version of Sunset Park at Christmas,” Marino said, referring to the drive-through holiday display that has since moved to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“It’s just amazing. I always loved to decorate for Halloween. When I moved into Eagle Hills I really had to step up my game and take it to another level.”
This year, he’s working in “Legends in Concert” at the Tropicana on Halloween night and isn’t doing as much as usual, but he said he is still in the game.
Vento, however, will be home and waiting for the line of thieves, robots, soldiers, politicians and princesses who dare pass by the smoke-blowing dragon sculptures, animatronic movie characters and giant inflatables. A coffin rides in the bed of a coach with a red-eyed skeleton at the helm. Down the driveway, half of a man, chained to the house twitches and bounces. A carnival of clowns and grim reapers party in their element.
It’s worth it to him. The big costume party for the adults takes place in the DragonRidge clubhouse the week before. Vento is all about the 31st. It’s that one night of the year when the streets come alive.
“My grandkids come and pass out the buckets,” Vento said. “I love watching the kids.”