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Get the Details: Hilloween 2021 at Eastern Market

UPDATE, Oct. 28 1:45 p.m.: Hilloween is on, rain or shine. The pumpkin decorating, spooky photo frames, face painting, and 360 degree photo booth will all be inside of the North Hall. The Scare-culator (DC Circulator) and other organizations giving away candy and other freebies will be outside but covered. Do not forget, masks are required inside of the North Hall at Eastern Market. Free Covid Testing will be available on-site provided by First Assist Health.

Hilloween has been an annual Capitol Hill tradition for more than 20 years. Taking place the Friday before Halloween, the event brings together Capitol Hill families, schools, businesses and organizations.

They’ll celebrate the Hill’s favorite holiday on the plaza, walkways and under the farmer’s hood around Eastern Market’s North Hall (Seventh at North Carolina Ave. SE) from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 29.

There will be loads of trick or treating, faceprinting and glitter tattoos, a 360 Photo Booth, the popular “Haunted Circulator” bus, pumpkin decorating, games, prizes, and more. It’s a chance for kids and parents alike to meet, relax, have a laugh, and connect with all their best friends, old and new.

The event is free, and open to all. Costumes are very encouraged –but not required.

COVID restrictions will be in place. Attendees must be masked and will be asked to following social distancing protocol. Organization tables will be spaced, and volunteers will be on hand to keep the event safe for all.

Note that this year, Seventh Street will NOT be closed to vehicles, as the planning timeline was too shortened this year to arrange for those permits. Organizers hope to arrange to close the 200 block to vehicles for future Hilloween events.

Jackie von Schlegel and her cats from an ad in the July 1996 issue of the Hill Rag.

History of Hilloween

Souces vary on how long Hilloween has been ongoing. According to former organizer, realtor Heather Schoell, the event was founded by Capitol Hill real estate agent Jackie von Schlegel almost 25 years ago. She continued to organize it with fellow realtors before handing it to Schoell in 2015. Schoell was at the helm, usually dressed as the Mistress of Market Darkness, Maleficent, until 2019.

The event has changed through the years, starting mainly as just a hay ride. Schoell said that it became all that it did due to the involvement of local schools, organizations and businesses. In 2017, insurance and safety concerns put the kabash on the hay ride. In the years following, the event evolved from a harvest festival to more of a carnival atmosphere.

Organizer Heather Schoell poses in her Maleficent costume at Hilloween 2019. Photo: Nathaniel Liu.

This year and last have been times of change for the festival. After the 2019 event, Schoell passed the organizing torch on to April and Kristyl Nelson of local early childhood institution Kiddie University Capitol Hill. (There are two campuses: at 806 H St. NE and 728 F St. NE).

The sisters immediately put together a committee to organize the 2020 event, only to have to move it online due to the pandemic. It was the first time in almost 25 years that the in-person event was cancelled, Schoell said. “And of course, it was just not the same,” Nelson added.

Back to Live

The 2020 pause on live events together with the change in organizers could have marked the end of Hilloween. But, in a phone interview, April Nelson said the committee was determined to have Hilloween in-person in 2021. Necessary consent from District officials was only received a few months ago, creating an uncertain rush as the committee attempted to procure all the necessary permits and insurance.

A rainbow of costumes appeared at Hilloween 2018. Photo: Abigail Svetlik

The result is a somewhat smaller Hilloween event –but the important thing, Nelson said, is that Hilloween is on. More than a dozen businesses, schools and organizations will be on-hand to put on activities, hand out treats and sell food and beverages. There will be pumpkin decorating, face painting and costumes galore. Missing this year are the popular moon bounces, which were discouraged by the Department of General Services (DGS) during the pandemic.

But Nelson says this is only the beginning. Hilloween has a team that is very invested in kid’s activities –and they’re in it for the long haul, she said.

“This is kind of an introduction,” Nelson said of the reduced-2021 event, “but we plan to make it bigger and better as the years go by.”

Learn more about Hilloween by visiting Hilloweendc.com.  If you have any additional questions or would like to volunteer, please do not hesitate to email us at hilloweendc@gmail.com.

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