There is a small street in the midst of the historic Village of Romeo, Michigan called Tillson Street, an approximate two-block-long neighborhood that becomes something other than what it normally seems during the month of October. It turns from a street lined with beautiful historic homes built in the 1800s, to a haunted mecca for thousands to visit on a frightful walk. What started as a typical Halloween and a few decorations for the season has turned into a walk of fear, fun and amazement of the talent and creativity for all to enjoy.
The uniqueness of this street has the historical touch of neighbor helping neighbor, neighbor knowing neighbor, which is quite rare these days. Because of this uniqueness, the street has evolved into this annual Halloween event. On any given weekend in October, you will see neighbors walking back and forth helping each other put up some of their props as many are very large, taking as many as six to eight people to set up. This is how it all works: we play together, work together and back each other up. It’s a real neighborhood.
Most people decorate in some form or another, though it is not a requirement when you move on the street. It is an ongoing preparation for the big finale on Halloween. The creativity of this neighborhood is amazing. Many decorations are being worked on throughout the year, hoping to be finished before Halloween. Everything is done by the residents of the street – their timeless hours and enjoyment to do something special for families. The neighbors work at their own speed. Weather always has a way of interfering with our set ups. Most of us have “real” jobs, so you hope you have good weather on the weekends to accomplish everything. Some tweaking is always going on right up to the time trick-or-treaters start showing up. A majority of the decorations are handmade by this very creative group of people, all provided from their own pockets.
It’s a generational thing
We all include family and friends to help out, which they all look forward to each year. At my house, we now have the fourth generation of helpers. My mom, who is 81, pretty much does the supervision role these days, but, in a way, she started this with me. I was born on Halloween and she always put a little more effort in the decorations for my sake. I continued this with my own children and it has just grown from there. Over the years, as younger families moved on the street, the bigger our Halloween event got.
Keeping Tillson secure
As my sons became older and still wanting to be involved with the festivities, they set up what is now known as the “Bulldog Security.” The Bulldog is Romeo High School’s mascot and the Bulldog Security is a group of athletes that volunteer their time to patrol the streets on Halloween night. They wear bright colored shirts, keeping an eye for troublemakers (not many to speak of) and lost children (maybe I should say lost parents). At one point these were just young teens wanting to be involved, now we have a few generations of athletes that help us out. Some of these young people still come home from college just to help us out.
More than just a scary night
We have three special events through our Halloween festivities that benefit the community and the surrounding areas. One is the Buzz Lee Memorial Scholarship Fund. This was a fund that was started by my late husband that is a golf outing to provide a vocational scholarship. Funds also go to the Wounded Warrior Project, as Buzz was a Vietnam Veteran. When Buzz passed away from a brain tumor, my family and I decided to honor him in this way. Additionally, each year we sell a limited edition “Tillson St.” Halloween shirt, hot cocoa and cider, can koozies and our very own Tillson St. cookbook. The cookbook is put together by all the neighbors and friends, with all proceeds going to the scholarship fund.
We also use the funds to provide a special event for Kids Kicking Cancer. This will be our fifth year, giving these kids that are fighting for their lives an afternoon of no worries and a huge amount of fun. We close the street for a couple of hours and the kids and their families come down the street and trick-or-treat. Because many are going through treatments, they cannot be around a lot people during normal Halloween hours, and many have never trick-or-treated before in their young lives. I’m really not sure who has more fun: my neighbors or the kids. This is an event that makes it all worth the hard work we put in to the decorations! It has, at times, been a very emotional day for the neighborhood, but so rewarding and something the Tillsonites look forward to every year.
This will be our third year for a food drive that provides canned goods for our food pantries in the area. We usually do this the Friday and Saturday evening before Halloween. So far, hundreds of pounds of food have been donated by many generous visitors. A vehicle on each end of the street that will collect the non-perishables.
Make sure your trip to Tillson is extra spooky!
We now have approximately 2,000 trick-or-treaters coming in on Halloween night. The Village has allowed Tillson St. to be blocked off on Halloween night, for safety purposes, during the two hour trick-or treat time of 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Just a little tip for when you come to visit, it’s best to walk and see everything. There will be bumper-to-bumper traffic, so it is very hard to see the displays in your vehicle. You do not have to wait in any line, although a line does seem to form during the evening, but that is not planned by anyone! Expect the walk to take you at least an hour to get through. There is parking on the street and neighboring streets, but usually hard to find. There are different parking lots all around Tillson St. that may charge to park, but are not associated with Tillson St. Tillson St. is free of charge. The only items that are available for purchase are at the tent, which is mid-street at 171 Tillson. All proceeds from those purchases go to the scholarship fund. We all hope everyone enjoys their evening visiting this one-of-a-kind neighborhood. Visit www.terrorontillson.com to find maps, info and many pictures from past years. We will be looking forward to seeing everyone this year.
Vicki Lee is a 35-year resident of Tillson Street who loves participating in the gory fun!