Man Resurrects Halloween Hayride Tradition
A Huntington Station man has decided to bring his Halloween tradition back in full force this year, after Superstorm Sandy wrecked his plans last October.
Mike Giarrizzo, 49, has built a festive trailer each Halloween for eight consecutive years to take children on a trick-or-treat hayride around his neighborhood.
Giarrizzo drives his pick-up truck at only about 2 mph while he pulls along the trailer of children. His friends and neighbors walk in front of and behind the vehicle with flashlights to direct traffic, while parents of riders usually walk alongside.
“Last year with Sandy, we were all ready to go but we cancelled it because it was too dangerous,” Giarrizzo said. “I wanted to make up for that and I wanted to make this year really special.”
On past Halloweens, between 100 and 150 people have gone to Giarrizzo’s home to take part in the festivities.
“Anyone is invited,” he said. “Every year it’s been more and more people. They range from little kids all the way to teenagers. We have a lot of high school kids come and walk along. They love being part of the group. It’s almost like a parade.”
Residents of the Huntington Station neighborhood, which includes a few streets around East 23rd, are involved in the celebration each year. Some homes are stops along the trailer’s looping route – riders can get off the trailer and receive popcorn, cotton candy and hot chocolate.
When Giarrizzo is finished making rounds, all are welcome back at his family’s home for fireside ghost stories, costume contests and games.
“All we ask is for people to bring a dish, maybe pizza or something homemade for dinner,” Giarrizzo said.
Each year, Giarrizzo said, he spends about $1,000 of his own money to decorate a trailer which is borrowed or donated to him for the ride. This year, Dimitri Mirissi donated the 12-foot trailer and John Brigati of White Post Wholesale Growers Inc. donated haystacks, corn stalks and pumpkins.
It all began one Halloween after Giarrizzo hooked up a wagon to his ride-on lawnmower and drove his two young sons around the neighborhood. Other children began asking for rides, and Giarrizzo realized he might need something bigger than a wagon.
“Seeing how many people were coming every year was phenomenal, and I just had to keep doing it,” Giarrizzo said.
Giarrizzo uses his skills as a contractor to decorate the trailer. He created and painted a fence to enclose it, and constructed wooden cut-outs of children in costumes that he hung on the fence along with ghosts, pumpkins and other Halloween decorations.
“I just make all the props, and it’s my imagination that turns the trailer into what it is,” Giarrizzo said.
He started with an 8-foot trailer, then a 10-foot trailer, and for a few years, he even had a 16-foot trailer. This Halloween, Giarrizzo was provided with a 12-foot trailer that he extended to 14 feet.
Giarrizzo made this trailer interactive, complete with a fog machine, motion-censored monsters and lights. It took about a month for him to complete it, he said.
“It’s going to be really special,” Giarrizzo said of this Halloween. “We’re really looking forward to it.”
Giarrizzo’s sons Michael and Frankie are now 14 and 12 years old and continue to enjoy their father’s Halloween spirit.
“I don’t ride in the trailer anymore, but when I used to it was fun,” Michael Giarrizzo said.