On Thompson Street in Bordentown, Halloween is usually over the top. This year, it's over the rainbow.
Residents inspired by an accomplished pair of design professionals in their midst have transformed the charming block of 19th-century wooden houses into a Wizard of Oz fantasy.
Ruby slippers are suspended like sneakers from utility wires. Witches' hats, gnarled "talking" trees, and other decorative riffs on the classic 1939 movie adorn facades and front steps; a yellow-brick pattern is painted on the pavement.
And on Halloween night, the narrow one-way street will be free of cars between Second and Third so an estimated 1,000 visitors, many of them youngsters in costume, can enjoy the green-lit spectacle.
"You have no idea how many memories we're creating for the kids," says Frank Rios, who with his partner, Pat Patrizio, launched the changing series of high-concept, handcrafted Halloween extravaganzas a decade ago.
People on the block still marvel about an enormous dragon the men built for their debut. A pirate ship, a circus, and The War of the Worlds also have been popular concepts.
Last year, an unwelcome guest named Sandy dampened but did not destroy the festivities, which had an ancient Egyptian theme featuring a Temple of Luxor replica and a hieroglyphics quiz for children.
"The show went on," Patrizio said, laughing.
We walk down the yellow-brick road to a life-size outdoor Wizard of Oz tableau featuring the green-faced witch, her crystal ball (with Dorothy inside), and a flying monkey. Each time we walk by, a motion sensor triggers the signature music of the menacing airborne beasts.
Patrizio, 62, and Rios, 52, select the annual theme and alert everyone on Thompson in early September. They offer advice and some materials or accessories - such as the 300 ruby slippers, 200 witches' hats, and 38 Oz banners, one for each house.
Some local businesses donate money. While I'm visiting, two women driving slowly down the street to admire the view contribute $100.
Everything else is up to neighbors such as Kim Poedubicky, a Thompson resident for 21 years. She has turned mesh, wire, and quilt stuffing into a tornado that spirals five feet skyward from her front garden.
"I love seeing the reactions," Poedubicky says. "I think the adults have more fun than the kids."
"Everybody loves it," says Cindy Longo, 64, a licensed practical nurse who has redesigned the front window of her home as a fanciful shop called Ruby's Shoe & Hat Emporium.
At the Third Street corner of the block, like a bookend to the Rios-Patrizio installation, Wade Roberson's yard displays more than 100 jack-o'-lanterns. He hand-carves pumpkins donated by Hlubik Farms in nearby Chesterfield Township.
"I'll have kids five and six deep around the fence," says Roberson, 40, a father of four who works in construction. "I keep the pumpkins lit and talk to everybody. It's just a real good night."
Once a predominantly Irish neighborhood in what was a rough section of Bordentown known as the Third Ward, Thompson Street in recent years has become home to a merry mix of longtime and new residents.
Neighbors say they bond with one another while creating the displays, which have become a citywide and even regional attraction.
While greeting visitors on Halloween night, Rios will be costumed as the mayor of Emerald City and Patrizio as one of the guards at the witch's castle.
"We do this year after year because the kids expect it," Patrizio says, likening the Thompson Street experience to those of his own childhood.
Rios also is a Halloween purist, despite having grown up in Venezuela, where the holiday doesn't exist.
Those bloody monsters, ax-wielding maniacs, and ravenous zombies that have come to infest the festivities?
"Halloween isn't about killing," Rios says.
On Thompson Street, it's about magic.
To view video of Bordentown's Thompson Street 'Oz'-themed Halloween, visit www.inquirer.com/ozEndText