By Anna Skinner
Trick-or-treaters come to Jolie Renee’s house for more reasons than candy on the evening of Oct. 31.
Starting in September, Renee began constructing an elaborate village full of spooky figurines, Halloween-themed buildings and a scary terrain. She’s been creating the spectacle since 2004, when she and her husband Brian Paulson moved to Westfield.
“I put villages together on a smaller scale before, but once we moved here and had more space, I decided to use the dining room to display villages and have the trick-or-treaters come in and see them,” she said. “Over the years, my villages have been getting bigger and bigger. At first, the trick-or-treaters were kind of reluctant to come in. What I found was the parents would come in with them and then the parents ended up liking it so much so that now every year when the trick-or-treaters come, the parents are coming in automatically to see it as well.”
Renee tries to switch up her Halloween layout each year, changing the terrain from mountains to riverside villages and locating the buildings and figurines in new spots. Adjacent to her dining room, she sets up a Halloween gallery in the living room.
Many Halloween decorations are made outside of the U.S., because once an original artists’ work becomes mainstream, it is then reproduced and imported back into the nation. Renee attends various Halloween events across the nation to purchase one or two new unique Halloween decorations made by a U.S. artist. She also acknowledges purchasing items from a local store for a spooky effect
“I will go to Party City and get little skeletons because there is no way to get original artwork of something like that for a haunting atmosphere,” she said.
Renee began collecting in the 1990s at country folk events and always gravitated toward Halloween items.
“When the trick-or-treaters are here, I have scary music going, and the candy and some of the animated things like sensor items that activate when you reach to get candy,” she said. “I enjoy it. I get a little carried away with it because I feel like I don’t want to do something average. I don’t think it’s worthwhile to do anything unless you really do above average.”
Renee said of all the materials, Styrofoam is the easiest to use as a terrain because holes for electrical wires or tree figurines and other materials are simple to create. She purchases her figurines from two manufacturers and doesn’t necessarily use all of the figurines and buildings each year. She said she frequently purchases items on eBay because many users sell the items in good condition.
Renee sets up her village in her Pines of Westfield neighborhood home, but she said kids from bordering neighborhoods also trek over to see her exhibit.
Approximately 110 kids and families stroll through her display during trick-or-treat hours. Besides her village, Renee said she also goes “above average” in the candy department.
Jolie Renee’s favorite holiday
Although she goes all out for Halloween, Jolie Renee said when it comes to her favorite holiday, it’s a tie between Christmas and Halloween.
“It’s a toss-up between Christmas and Halloween,” she said. “As far as Halloween is concerned, I love the association with the fall colors and harvest season, the mums and the pumpkins and the whole nine yards. The fact that people have fun and it doesn’t matter their economics (situation), Halloween is a season you can have fun no matter what.”
Yet she decorates for Christmas as well, and she always created a Christmas village until she recently began to have less time to decorate and sold all her Christmas pieces except for two.
“I have found it’s just a lot of work. I just thought I would cut down on the Christmas village, but this whole (living) room would be decorated with Christmas items,” she said. “It’s become a gallery room.”