HIGHLAND PARK – Highland Park will be transformed into an enchanted land of haunted tours, hay rides, music, dancing and fun for the ninth annual Autumn in the Park festival.
The festival is from 6-9 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 28 along Raritan Avenue between Adelaide and Sixth avenues. Main Street Highland Park (MSHP), the event’s sponsor, is bringing back the “Harry Potter” theme after it was a hit during a Random Acts of Fun event.
“The movie for the first part of book seven comes out in November and it’s right before Halloween, so it’s perfect timing,” said Jenni Chapman, a member of the MSHP board and promotions committee. MSHP promotes the businesses along Raritan Avenue in Highland Park.
Since the borough was transformed into a “Harry Potter” theme a couple of years ago, people have been asking when MSHP would bring back the theme, Chapman said.
A number of merchants will participate by taking elements of the books and incorporating them into Autumn in the Park. For instance, Over the Moon Toys will be a joke shop that night, and Through the Moongate, will become a wand shop. There will be human-size chess game in the Stop & Shop parking lot.
There will be crystal ball readings at the Yellow Brick Road nursery and day care and palm readings at Raspberry Beret consignment shop. Eden Organix spa will have a face painter for the kids and spa services for adults. Unity Bank will be giving away edible golden knuts or wizard coins and there will be magician moving his way up and down Raritan Avenue. Lampposts and traffic light stands will be decorated with corn stalks, balloons and other harvest festival flair.
“You don’t have to be a Harry Potter fan to enjoy this,” Chapman said. “There will be music from local musicians and refreshments from restaurants.”
James McCrone, executive director of MSHP, said “The event is designed to provide family fun to all who attend and to introduce them to downtown Highland Park’s fine shops, emerging arts community and vast array of international restaurants.”
Free horse-and-buggy rides will return to the festival, along with the Haunted Highland Park tours.
“All stories told on the tours are rooted in the genuine history of Highland Park, which is then ‘expanded’ creatively to give tour-goers a window into understanding the personalities and places of our collective past,” Harry Glazer, tour guide and 20-year Highland Park resident. “The Haunted Highland Park stories are offered in a light-hearted manner and not intended to be regarded as fact.”
Glazer said he gets the tour material from “Images of America: Highland Park” by Jeanne Kolva and Joanne Pisciotta.
“I tend to find the photos there and that becomes the foundation,” he said. “The foundation is true, but the tales are light hearted and fanciful.”
Glazer’s Haunted Highland Park tours will feature an old factory that was used to make medicine cases, the predecessor of the now closed Corner Confectionary and a tale from the high school.
The 30-minute tours will cost $5 per participant and $1 for participants under 13. Tours are not recommended for children 7 or younger. The tours will begin in front of the MSHP offices, 421 Raritan Ave.
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