It will be a dark night at a favorite trick-or-treating spot in the Racetrack Road-area this Halloween.
Shawn Harris has been dressing as Batman and handing out candy from the rooftop of a Racetrack Road-area home for many years, but this year will retire his Batsuit. File photo/Union Democrat, copyright 2012
After 21 years, the Harris family has decided to discontinue its annual Batman production, which has grown to attract upward of 700 kids.
Each year, trick-or-treaters gathered in the front of the Coats’ home on Racetrack Road, where a member of the Harris family would stand on the roof dressed in a Batman suit and summon kids by name to receive their candy.
Shawn Harris has played the superhero role for the past six or seven years and said he and his family agreed not do the event this year because the Coats family is moving out of state.
His uncle and the original Batman, Bob Harris, said setting up the production at another house and redirecting all of the trick-or-treaters would be difficult, so it seemed like the right time to call it quits.
Shawn Harris said the Aurora, Colo. movie theater shootings during “The Dark Knight Rises” premiere this summer is also a factor.
“People are getting goofy,” he said. “I’m not worried about getting hurt, it’s just anyone else.”
The Halloween tradition began when Bob Harris, an avid Batman fan, improvised a Batman suit out of a black bath towel and greeted trick-or-treaters.
“The following year, I got the bright idea to get up on the roof because that’s what Batman does,” he said.
Year after year, his neighbor Ed Coats walked through the crowd in the driveway with a walkie talkie, asking parents
for their kids’ names and radioing the information to Batman who would call them out.
The families expanded the production over time, adding a homemade candy chute, a Bat-Signal, music, four fog machines and more than 30 lights and lasers.
As the production grew, so did the attendance, and the families found themselves spending hundreds of dollars on candy alone. Bob Harris said Safeway donated about $300 worth of candy each Halloween for the past years to help the families.
Bob Harris invested in a $500 Batman costume when he handed the role over to his nephew, who he referred to as a “junior Batman in training.”
Shawn Harris said the role has taken a toll. It’s costly, labor-intensive and time-consuming.
Nonetheless, he knows ending the tradition will leave many kids devastated this Halloween.
He said that each year he would see many of the same kids. Although some were terrified to see his 280-pound 6-foot-five frame up close, others were anxious to take photos with him.
Bob Harris recalled a time when he was buying more Batman goods and overheard shoppers urging others to check out the Batman house.
His sister-in-law, who owns a salon in the area, overheard clients talking about how their friends were coming up from Los Angeles to see the production.
“We had no idea it was getting that big,” Bob Harris said.
One summer, he received a handwritten invitation from a 5-year-old who wanted Batman to attend his birthday party. Bob Harris put on his costume, purchased a Batman-themed gift and rode to the party in Coats’ black BMW Beamer.
“They were absolutely overjoyed,” Bob Harris said. “That little guy really went out of his way to make that happen.”
Although the families are set on taking the year off, Shawn Harris said there is a possibility that the bat signal will one day shine again.