When it comes to COVID, the Halloween cones on Auburn Street have melted away

  • Halloween tricker treaters line up at the Rosenbergers’  home on Auburn Street. COURTESY—Teresa Rosenberger

  • A line of servers scoop ice cream at the Rosenbergers’ Halloween party in their garage on Auburn Street during a past year. Courtesy of Teresa Rosenberger

  • A line of servers scoops out ice cream at the Rosenbergers’ Halloween party in their garage on Auburn Street. COURTESY—Teresa Rosenberger

  • Halloween tricker treaters line up on Auburn Street. COURTESY—Teresa Rosenberger

  • Halloween trick-or-treaters line up at the Rosenberger’s€™ home on Auburn Street during a past year’s celebration. Courtesy of Teresa Rosenberger

  • Halloween tricker treaters line up at the Rosenbergers’ home on Auburn Street. COURTESY—Teresa Rosenberger

  • Teresa Rosenberger shows one of her many masks that she has collected from around the world at her Auburn home on Wednesday, October 28, 2020. The Rosenbergers will not be serving ice cream from their garage this Halloween because of COVID-19 concerns. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Eric Rosenberger shows where their table f they used to serve the ice cream as his wife, Teresa stands in their garage on Wednesday, October 28, 2020. The Rosenbergers will not be serving ice cream this Halloween because of COVID-19 concerns. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Eric Rosenberger shows where the ice cream serving table was set up as his wife, Teresa, looks on in their garage on Wednesday. The Rosenbergers will not be serving ice cream this Halloween because of COVID-19 concerns. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Teresa Rosenberger shows one of her many masks that she has collected from around the world in thier garage with her husband, Eric on Wednesday, October 28, 2020. The Rosenbergers will not be serving ice cream from their garage this Halloween because of COVID-19 concerns. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Teresa Rosenberger shows one of her many masks that she has collected from around the world in garage as her husband, Eric brings in an ice chest that they used to store the ice cream on Wednesday, October 28, 2020. The Rosenbergers will not be serving ice cream from their garage this Halloween because of COVID-19 concerns. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor columnist
Published: 10/29/2020 2:32:01 PM

The house on Auburn Street has remained yellow, just like the Rosenbergers, Teresa and Eric, had promised the previous owner, a man they called Dr. Tracy.

Included in the deal to purchase the home, the Rosenbergers agreed to keep the doctor’s family-treasured weather station – with arrows to indicate barometric pressure and wind speed – on the wall in his former office.

They even stuck to the hardest part of the agreement, reached before they could close the deal at 29 Auburn, back in 1994. They promised to hand out ice cream and sherbet cones to all trick-or-treaters who came to the house. They had to do it each Halloween, like the doctor and his family had done for decades, and they had to have enough supplies to handle any and all crowd sizes.

They had to become part of a traditional block party blowout, with bold, theme-park like monsters, crazier-than-usual costumes, and treats seen no place else.

And they did, serving cones 26 years in row, before COVID forced residents to cancel their annual Auburn Street festival, certainly one of the coolest Halloween presentations in the state and, who knows, maybe even the world.

The city of Concord considers trick-or-treating part of tradition and doesn’t officially give residents orders to stay home or go out. Still, with a deadly virus floating around, most people knew that venturing out to knock on doors would be risky, perhaps too risky. Something meant to be fun could go horribly wrong.

“We could not do it this year,” Teresa Rosenberger said. “There are so many people here when we do this that when you walk down the street, it’s like New York City.”

The Rosenberger cones have been a big hit. Just don’t tell anyone that old Dr. Tracy’s ice cream back in the day was homemade.

Anyway, they hand out orange sherbet cones and have added ice cream now and then. They were rookies in ‘94, on a block of seasoned veterans.

“They didn’t tell us how many people would want (cones) and we did not think to ask,” Teresa said. “We just give out a few cones. That’s what we were thinking.”

She soon discovered that Auburn Street was – and remains – a human-interest story every October. Teresa misjudged her supply needs, buying sherbet and ice cream for 75 cones, and adding an insurance policy of 75 Nutty Buddies, just in case.

That’s 150, she knew. That’s a lot, she thought. She was wrong, and Eric was away on a business trip that first time.

“We had 325, not 150,” Teresa said. “The babysitter helped me and there was ice cream all over the floor and all over the freezer and she kept scooping and scooping.”

They learned. And they loved it. They also heard whispers that some in the area believed the Auburn display was over the top and too loud. Why not give the money to charity, instead?

Eric said the money the neighborhood would have spent to create the 2020 fantasy has or will be used to benefit various charities.

When asked about the criticism, Eric, calmly, said, “It provides joy for the community. It’s just a joyful event, similar to coffee after church, happy and friendly and you want to be there.”

The neighborhood celebration went far beyond a Jack-O-Lantern on someone’s front porch and a mini Snickers tossed into a bag. The police shut down Auburn Street for safety as kids from all over go house to house, seeing and tasting what they’d see and taste nowhere else. Not this year, though.

The street will remain open, but the houses will be closed to Halloween traffic for a show that began too long ago for anyone to recall its origin.

The Rosenbergers were happy to become part of something that dazzled the senses and the taste buds, with monsters and air-filled ghouls and goblins, some taller than Shaq, dominating the landscape, along with music and lights and gigantic chocolate bars and toys and the Lollipop House and a pirate ship and orange sherbet.

Other nearby streets were skipped during big storms to shorten a messy night, but not Auburn. No one walked past Auburn. No one rushed to get home because of rain or cold.

“It became multigenerational,” Eric said. “You’d get little kids with their parents and their parents would tell us, ‘I came here as a kid.’ ”

In recent years, Eric and Teresa said they’ve seen their team evolve into a well-oiled machine, a conveyor belt of efficiency, a “wall of servers,” as Teresa called it.

They line up behind folding tables that stretch across the width of the garage, each person with a job. Retrieving boxes of cones, spreading cones out on the tables, scooping sherbet or ice cream gently onto the cone, handing the cone to anyone and everyone in sight, throwing the boxes in the trash.

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

“People are coming fast and furiously at that time, like always,” Eric said.

And they’ve kept coming, year after year. Teresa said they gave out 1,800 cones last Halloween, but Eric corrected her, saying they handed out 2,032 cones.

The mass production features rotating crews, which is welcome when hands sting from the icy feel of the spoon, used for scooping because the Rosenbergers agree that it works better than a real scooper.

After each Halloween, the team recalls the crazy, cute costumes, like the box of Cheerios and Mozart, and they begin the process of cleaning up and thinking about next year.

Five months after last Halloween, non-essential businesses were ordered to close, leading to a bottomless pit of heartache and inconvenience, and showing the effects of the pandemic, effects that grew and grew and grew, closing day-to-day living.

The story is groundhog-day repetitious. A great institution or tradition or start-up business or established business is forced to shut down, layoff workers, furlough them, all because of COVID-19.

Eric has been keeping a log since 1997, documenting weather, the number of visitors, gallons of sherbet and ice cream used and so on. More than 200 half gallons are needed to pull this off annually.

The log says 18 inches of snow fell in 2011. It says Eric plowed Halloween Eve and Halloween morning to prepare for the big day.

“Clear, windy, 38 degrees,” it reads, referring to Halloween that year. It was “Cloudy, light rain, 66 degrees” in 2009.

In 2020, some trick-or-treaters will be out, but Auburn Street will be quiet. The log will skip this year.

Meanwhile, the houses are nondescript, as far as Halloween goes, and that includes the cone house, the one Teresa and Eric bought 26 years ago because they promised to respect three conditions, required by the family that had lived there for 50 years.

Only COVID could throw a monkey wrench into this tradition – just like it’s affected so many other areas of life.

When will it end? Do we dare look forward to Auburn Street returning to life for Halloween, 2021? At one time, in the spring and early summer, that was taken for granted. No more.

Yet Teresa remains optimistic, excited like a child eying a cone, before it’s passed across a table.

“Next year, we’ll have two scoops,” she said.




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