Why trick-or-treaters descend on River Oaks each year

The affluent Houston neighborhood is stockpiling King Size candy bars for kids from all areas.

A group of friends go trick-or-treating together in West University on Halloween, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, in Houston.

A group of friends go trick-or-treating together in West University on Halloween, Thursday, Oct. 31, 2019, in Houston.

Marie D. De Jesús/Staff photographer

During the holidays, Houston's River Oaks draws thousands of families who drive down its streets to see "Oooo" and "Ahhh" at homes bedecked in twinkling decorations. But this affluent area unearths a different crowd for another beloved annual activity: trick-or-treating. Each Halloween, sugar-hungry children descend on the neighborhood, trudging door-to-door in search of elusive full-sized candy bars.

River Oaks Patrol Capt. Mark McMahon says he's seen costumed kids from all over travel to his section of town throughout the years, and his unit will be fully staffed to keep an eye on the neighborhood. Though he said some areas of the River Oaks are more difficult for tiny legs to travel — bigger houses mean more land, which means a more intense trek for Kit Kats and Reeses Cups.   

"There are areas in the neighborhood where you have estates. That's hard to cover ground there,"  McMahon said. "Some of the other areas where the homes are closer together, there's a lot of trick-or-treaters there."

But the hype around River Oaks as a Halloween hotspot also brings traffic, a word that always strikes fear and dread into the hearts of Houstonians. River Oaks resident Julie Longoria Chen said her family has stopped leaving the neighborhood for Halloween parties because travel in and out of the area is so tedious.

"I certainly think it's fun and probably a safer place for some of these kids to trick-or-treat than maybe in their own neighborhoods," Longoria Chen said. "It does kind of create some congestion in the neighborhood that is a little bit unwanted, I would say. But I think overall, people are happy to give as usual in Houston."

Some River Oaks residents welcome the nomadic trick-or-treaters. This is Frances Moody Buzbee's first Halloween living in River Oaks, but she's crossing her fingers for a busy front porch. She and her husband, Tony Buzbee, have decked out their yard with witches, scarecrows and other Halloween decorations. 

"I also am one of those people that loves the holidays and loves celebrating with others, so having people from other neighborhoods come in to trick or treat makes it fun for me," Moody Buzbee said. "We're definitely going to have our gates open, and we're going to be handing out candy, but I have no clue what to expect."

But River Oaks' residents are ready for the holiday and are stocking up to avoid disappointing any trick-or-treaters, whether they live in River Oaks or not. "The first year, we ran out of candy," Longoria Chen said. "That was very embarrassing."

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