Pilot story and photos by Bill Lundquist
Hospitality Tours took a bizarre turn Halloween by launching its first, and maybe last, OOPS Parade.
Organizer Jan Norwood first said OOPS stood for the Order of Outrageously Positive Seniors.
By Halloween, however, that had changed to the Order of Outrageous Paraders and Shoppers.
In either case, the paraders encountered scary sights such as a real hearse with flames painted on the hoods and fenders, a chain saw-wielding dentist, and (shudder) a car salesman in a genuine 1970s leisure suit.
The tour focused, however, on downtown businesses on both sides of Chetco Avenue.
Most participants were in costume, as were the merchants, and received snacks, discount cards, or goodies from each store they visited.
A special participant was Mike Vest, who plays Seymour in the Chetco Pelican Players production of "The Little Shop of Horrors." He was accompanied by Audrey II, the man-eating plant from the play.
The tour got off to a fitting start when participants posed in front of a genuine 1981 Cadillac hearse, owned by a mysterious woman in black who identified herself only as The Messenger.
The Messenger, it turns out, is really a business. Perfect for those "over-the-hill" birthday parties, the business will deliver messages and balloons from the hearse.
Participants then toured The Marketplace, the Windjammer, Linda's Legacies, and the Banana Belt Trading Company, all in the mid-600 block of Chetco Avenue.
Marketplace owner Wes Warne was dressed as a pirate, but said that was no reflection on his prices.
Paraders found a lot more pirates a few blocks down the street at Coast Auto, where most of the staff were costumed as buccaneers.
More frightening, however, was salesman Corley Watling, dressed in a 1970s suit from a second-hand shop, plus a fake pot belly and buck teeth. Watling listed the dealership's services and showed off some 2004 models.
Crossing the street, the paraders perused the used clothing at Judy's Resale Shop.
They then examined the eclectic collection of Connie Crider at the aptly-named Connie's Corner.
Crider was dressed in a purple tinsel wig, and wore a pendant that doubled as a bubble-blower. She called it her "Alaskan hippy" costume.
Crider has quite a collection of items already, but plans to go into the costume-rental business soon.
Paraders also went next door to the Half-Baked Tanning Salon (as if some of them weren't half-baked already).
They also discovered 23,000 used books at Earl E. Books, next to the Redwood Theater (which fittingly was showing "Scary Movie 3").
The parade ended at the perfect location, a "haunted house" put on by the Pacific Actors Theatre.
Actually, the haunted house was being set up for that evening's entertainment, but plenty of spooky sounds emanated from it.
Cliff Robison, from the Pacific Actors Theatre, said it was one way of getting the word out about the new actors group in town.
Some of the "horrors" were old props from shows. A Shakespearean throne became an electric chair.
"There's a ton of people here, adults, who love Halloween and have lots of props," said Robison.