Chris Caskey, The Union Democrat

With many homes so far apart on the rural streets of Tuolumne and Calaveras counties, and many subdivisions lacking in lighting and safe sidewalks, a handful of neighborhoods and events play host to most of the trick-or-treating families every year.

Popular places include the Racetrack Road area in Sonora, Chicken Ranch Road in Jamestown, Willow Springs near Soulsbyville, Rocky Hill Road in Murphys and Columbia Country Estates in Columbia. And with the trick-or-treaters have come the decorations.

Playing to their audiences, many residents in those areas go big when it comes to decorating.

Take Bill Curnow, who lives near Racetrack Road, atJohnny and Nashua roads, in Sonora.

Curnow moved to the neighborhood a few years ago and quickly found out that it was one of the city's Halloween hot spots.

"My first year, I was like 'Oh my gosh,' " he said.

He started decorating for Halloween and now turns his yard spooky every October with lights and a graveyard motif.

Last year, he said, he gave out 1,500 pieces of candy.

"It's for the kids," said Curnow, who was working on his decorations Tuesday.

Tracy and Richard DeGregorio have lived in the Racetrack neighborhood for a dozen years.

Their home is decorated with spider webs, graves and a grim reaper theme with Richard dressing up as the reaper to spread the shivers. Tracy DeGregorio said kids come from as far away as the Bay Area, and the DeGregorios easily spend $300 to $400 a year on candy for the throngs.

Tracy DeGregorio said she sees trick-or-treaters from years' past now returning with their children.

The spirit is infectious, she said, noting most houses on the street are decorated, lighting up the road as well as any street light could.

"It was me at first, and now my husband is so addicted," she said of her household's "big tradition."

Other small communities are starting their own traditions.

In Tuolumne, the Park and Recreation District holds an annual parade and trick-or-treat walk at 4 p.m. on Halloween near Memorial Hall. A "Light up the Night" event in the park, with food, entertainment and activities, begins around 5 p.m.

Organizers have been running the event for about 10 years, with parade participants trick or treating around the downtown park where local merchants give out candy.

Cindy Wano, an office employee with the Tuolumne Park and Recreation District, said the trick or treaters originally went door to door at the downtown businesses. The event was moved to bring everyone closer together.

Like Tuolumne, Groveland's downtown merchants host an annual "Spook Fest."

Sponsored by the Yosemite Highway 120 Chamber of Commerce and run by volunteers, the evening runs from 5 to 8 p.m. on Halloween with the businesses handing out candy.

There will also be events at the community hall, with games, prizes, storytelling and more.

Linda Flores organizes the festivities. It was put together because most homes are spaced far apart - making trick-or-treating nearly impossible.

Flores said the event attracts families from Groveland, Greeley Hill and Moccasin.

"We want it to be safe and sane," Flores said. "All the businesses thoroughly enjoy all the kids up here."

While events and traditions will attract the ghosts and goblins of the Mother Lode, sometimes the Halloween spirit can as well.

Trinity and Bill Baughn live on Snell Street in Sonora with their children Trevor and Rylie. Because their street doesn't have a sidewalk and isn't too well lit, they didn't have a lot of knocks on the door on Halloween a decade ago.

Bill Baughn, an electrician, started decorating the house with Trevor, making it an annual tradition.

Today, their set-up rivals any front-yard Christmas display. It includes multiple inflatables, choreographed light shows, automated ghosts and dozens of pumpkins.

After decorating, Trinity Baughn said, the trick-or-treaters started showing up.

"We never used to get them, but now they drive up. The kids want to see," she said.