JoeBill Muñoz wrote this post with contributions from the other reporters.
In the weirdest city, on a weird holiday, San Francisco’s celebration of Halloween offered a barometer of pop culture and politics. Donald Trump masks, no longer funny, were nowhere to be found. A man dressed as Colin Kaepernick popped up at the corner of 18th and Valencia streets and then disappeared. Two trash bags emblazoned with 2017 floated towards Belvedere.
Some traditions remained the same: On Belvedere in Cole Valley, thousands of kids and parents gathered at the family-friendly event. And in the Bayview and Mission, flocks of kids chased candy and cavities. Fillmore Street filled with humans dressed as animals and animals dressed as humans, and when the sky’s orange burn dimmed, the smell of marijuana perfumed the Castro and the party began.
Some neighborhoods seemed unaware of the specialness of Oct. 31. At sunset in the Haight-Ashbury, once an oddball enclave of the city, only a handful of people on the street wore costumes. When asked why, one man shrugged, “maybe Haight Street isn’t that kind of thing anymore.”
But Belvedere is. Two older women, Carolyn and Erin, decorating their Victorian-style home, said they had bought “either 80 pounds, or $80” worth of candy. Most of their foot traffic came from as many as a thousand or more kids who paraded around the closed-off street in search of scares and surprises.
Dressed as a giant candy corn, dentist Scott Levus, and his assistant, Kuljit Singh, handed out toothbrushes — a kind of business card for Park Smile on 9th Avenue. He would have plenty of business, as three separate music scenes on the four blocks of Belvedere carried kids from one cavity stop to the next. A light acoustic band played at one end of the street, a five-man mariachi band played in a garage and a minion-themed dance party was put on by the St. Anthony Foundation.
Moti Bycel, dressed in a T-shirt and baseball cap, dropped by for 10 minutes with his eight-month-old owl before leaving to catch the Dodgers-Astros game.
At Dolores Park, the mood was less hectic. Brennan Kirk and Michael Striker were there from Ohio, looking for Halloween in San Francisco.
“Honestly, we’re just walkin’ around,” said Kirk, bespectacled and in a red hoodie.
A pair of officers chatted intermittently behind the statue of the Mexican priest, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla.
“It’s been calm,” said one. The other noted that the parties there happened over the weekend. “I’m sure people are Halloweened out,” he said.
As the sidewalk lamps flickered to life just in time for the encroaching darkness, a blonde incarnation of the devil crossed the lawn, flanked by two casually dressed mortals. A vampire posed for a photo before moving on.
For Melody Kelly, Dolores Park was a brief stopping point on the way to some livelier destination. Fresh off a breakup, she had transformed into a “crazy ex-girlfriend” for the night: her nose splotched with black makeup, half her face and neck smeared with white, one of two pigtails dyed red and black.
“I’m surprised, actually, that it’s this empty,” she said from a bench overlooking the entire park. Within minutes, she was off to dance at ConfiDance Fitness.
A few blocks south on Fair Oaks — the Mission’s Belvedere — McGill Hort chased kids around with a bubble machine: “It makes all the kids really happy,” he said.
Mary Joblin, dressed as Disney villain Cruella de Vil, has owned a house on Fair Oaks Street for 35 years and hasn’t missed a single Halloween.
“[It’s] is a chance for everyone to be their fantasy. I’m nice every day; today is the day I get to be mean,” she said laughing.
Standing on the busy corner of 23rd and Fair Oaks, Cesar Romero sold light wands and other paraphernalia for $5 a pop. “Business isn’t as good as I expected,” he said.
At dusk in the Bayview, music blasted out from the Bayview Opera House for its annual Halloween party for kids, and the music spilled up and down Third Street as people hustled from work to home, grabbing snacks from the market before heading back to wait for trick-or-treaters.
Four men on motorcycles paused at a red light. One stuck his arm out and snapped a selfie of himself and his friends, riding down 3rd Street in Bayview wearing masks.
A fireman and a panda bear waddled up the street, crossing paths with another fireman, who was walking with his sister, an astronaut.
At Palou Market, one block up from the Opera House, owner Ali called people in from the street. He happily handed out candy to all his customers — children and adults, with or without costumes. Men buying cigarettes broke out in smiles by the unexpected gift of free caramel M&M’s.
A 10-year-old vampire wearing a marvel backpack was disappointed Ali didn’t have Skittles.
“I love people — to talk to them,” Ali said, snacking on his own candy.
At Fillmore, a local animal rights organization, the San Francisco SPCA, hosted their annual pet stroll with the Fillmore Merchants Association.
“Who doesn’t like pets and kids and costumes?” Ron Benitez, 39, owner of Assembly Hall and President of the Fillmore Merchants Association said.
When the sun set, the Castro came to life. There were giant walking bananas, a woman dressed as bacon and one Barney. “I work at a non-profit, this is the only costume they had left,” explained the young man dressed as Barney.
A Jack Sparrow, smelling of dangerous waters, told tales of his lost ship. In the Castro, pirates seem to be the costume of choice. “Love Shack, baby love shack,” spilled from The Edge Bar into the streets. Inside, the booty: $1 well drinks.