To this casual observer, one business looks recession proof: pumpkins.
No one wants to hear about big-ticket items like diamonds or SUVs. But go to any local fruit stand to see where the real retail action is.
A Long Island grower says that during the days leading up to Halloween, school children visit in numbers up to 3,000-4,000 weekly. Some spend the entire day.
Wherever I travel throughout western Pennsylvania, roadside vendors display pumpkins by the thousands while customers haul them away in truckloads.
From what I can see, few ask about the price. The sticker—whatever it may be— deters no one. In fact, the $30 jumbo varieties appear more popular than the mini-pumpkins at a couple of dollars each.
Be prepared to wait in the long lines leading up to the scales where your pumpkins will be weighed.
Not only do consumers spend freely on pumpkins, they appear ready to fork out for related products like Indian corn, gourds of various sizes, shapes and colors, hay rides, carving classes and pie baking seminars.
Inventive local farmers create characters like Peter Pumpkin, an orange-faced person who sits on a tractor and explains how pumpkins grow and how their color changes from green to orange when they ripen.
Pumpkin enthusiasm heartens me for two reasons. First, it is obviously good business for farmers who these days need all the help they can get.
And second it proves that on a practical level, parents resist the considerable effort among the politically correct crowd to relegate Halloween`s innocent fun into another of its victims.
According to the National Retail Federation, two-thirds of American families participate in Halloween spending an average of $60 per family with half that sum going to candy purchases. In the aggregate, Halloween generates $6 billion in revenues.
Still, the War on Halloween, waged by factions of the left, right and center, have made considerable progress in eliminating the quasi-holiday altogether.
Reflecting the irritation of sane citizens everywhere, Maryland councilman C. Edward Middlebrooks introduced a resolution that mandated that his county`s schools hold Halloween parties.
Middlebrooks initiative responded to a nearby school that cancelled all its Halloween fun after 40 of 490 parents complained.
According to simple math, that would mean that in today`s politically correct atmosphere, the wishes of less than seven percent represent a majority.
But Middlebrooks, whose non-binding resolution passed, sees it differently.
Said Middlebrooks: "I just think this political correctness thing has gone too far. We have to start standing up for things like this. I don`t want my kids missing out on Halloween, and I don`t want them being told it`s something else it`s not." [Just Call it Halloween and Nothing Else, by William Wan, Washington Post, October 21, 2007]
October 31st mania reached its peak three years ago when Washington State`s Puyallup School District banned in-school Halloween celebrations on the absurd basis that it is offensive to real witches.
According to a school district spokesman: "Witches with pointy noses and things like that are not respective symbols of the Wiccan religion and so we want to be respectful of that."
The statement was consistent with the school`s policy that "administrators should not tolerate such inappropriate stereotyping (images such as Witches on flying brooms, stirring cauldrons, casting spells, or with long noses and pointed hats) and instead address them as you would hurtful stereotypes of any other minority."
In case you think these remarks were made in jest, I assure you they were not.
In his excellent analysis of the whys and wherefores of the attack on Halloween, The Passion of the Pumpkin: Who Killed Halloween? Reason Magazine`s Jesse Walker lays the blame on Archie Comics character Waldo Weatherbee-type "risk-averse school bureaucrats."
Summarizing, Walker says: "The typical bureaucrat prefers to err on the side of jackassery."
The best solution is Middlebrooks`—to stop the craziness before it goes too far.
Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.