ALAMEDA -- Here's a fun way to get ready for Halloween and help your fellow Alamedans: Decorate your home and put out a collection box for canned goods as part of the annual Alameda-Haunt Your House contest.
"It's all about getting into the spirit of the season and we have many different categories of decorations for participants," explained Patti Cary, an event organizer and volunteer.
This Island tradition began in 2006 and supports the Alameda Food Bank's yearlong food drive. Last year, more than 1,200 pounds of nonperishable items were collected — and the Haunt Your House decorating contest played a big role in that food drive, according to Cary.
Contests can go for a traditional scary theme, like ghoulish graveyards, or more imaginative subject matter that younger children might enjoy.
"It's all in good fun and for a great cause," Cary explained. "Some contestants take the decorating very seriously."
The contest is organized and funded by a small group of local Halloween and Alameda Food Bank enthusiasts known as the Boo Crew. Participants only need to take a donation box and share 10 cans of food to enter.
The Boo Crew pays for about 90 percent of the costs of running the contest and very much appreciates donations of goods and services from local merchants and residents for its prize baskets, Cary said. Winners may also receive trophies, champagne and balloons.
"Some decorating-contest participants have their friends and neighbors donate canned goods, which makes it a real community contest," she noted. "The event is getting better every year, and the Food Bank will be happy to take any donations at Halloween from those not participating, as well."
Go to www.alamedahaunts.com for all the gory details -- and be sure to sign up by Oct. 27.