Moonlight Madness going strong for more than 30 years

CONNIE SWINNEY • PICAYUNE STAFF

Maggie Ortiz, a store clerk at Salem's Fashion at 514 U.S. 281 in Marble Falls, decorates a front-window display with a fall and Halloween theme in anticipation of the upcoming Moonlight Madness on Oct. 24. The annual event involves local merchants decorating, offering customer discounts, staying open later and donning costumes to promote business. Staff photo by Connie Swinney

Maggie Ortiz, a store clerk at Salem’s Fashion at 514 U.S. 281 in Marble Falls, decorates a front-window display with a fall and Halloween theme in anticipation of the upcoming Moonlight Madness on Oct. 24. Staff photo by Connie Swinney

MARBLE FALLS — For the past three decades, Moonlight Madness has conjured up a business-friendly atmosphere and charmed local residents looking for Halloween festivities, longtime participants say.

The annual event, always on the Thursday before Halloween, features a business costume contest, customer discounts and later store hours with the idea of launching the Christmas shopping season, coaxing more customers into stores and spreading some holiday cheer.

“We always won best costume,” said Rose Metzler, who in the early 1980s worked at The Woodshed, a novelty and accessory store at the intersection of First Street and U.S. 281. Metzler recalled costume themes — some political and clever and others classical or nostalgic.

“The judges would come by,” she said of the ongoing costume contest. “I remember my husband, one year, he was a fabulous Michael Jackson. It was a big party all over town. It was so much fun.”

Since the beginning of the event, merchants from banks, retail stores, restaurants, churches and even a nursing home have participated by not only dressing in Halloween costumes but hosting fall festival-style activities in parking lots and inside businesses.

“It was always an annual thing that people expected. People always knew it was the Thursday before Halloween,”  said Susan Salem Judice, store manager for Salem’s Jewelry and Fashion, 514 U.S. 281. “Families would dress their kids up and bring them trick-or-treating at the businesses and go through the spookhouse, and they would shop.”

Salem's Fashion store clerk Linda Ortiz adjusts a Halloween display at the store, 514 U.S. 281 in Marble Falls. Staff photo by Connie Swinney

Salem’s Fashion store clerk Linda Ortiz adjusts a Halloween display at the store, 514 U.S. 281 in Marble Falls. Staff photo by Connie Swinney

The purpose of the event involved creating a customer-centered promotion.

“It was always a promotion to kick off the holiday season,” Judice said. “We kicked everything off with a big sale.”

At one point, Moonlight Madness planners took a hiatus for several years but rekindled the event in the mid-2000s with merchants touting the value to their bottom lines.

“We have a lot of things marked down crazy cheap,” Judice said. “It’s good for us to move things out that we need to move out to prepare for the season.”

connie@thepicayune.com

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