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Halloween on Obama's Block a Fun but Private Holiday

By Sam Cholke | October 30, 2013 9:28am
 Neighbors of the president still have fun on Halloween, even with Secret Service.
Obama Halloween
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KENWOOD — On one block of Kenwood this Halloween, trick-or-treating is by invite only.

That would be the 5000 block of South Greenwood Avenue — President Barack Obama’s block.

The area is protected by the Secret Service 24/7, cordoned off by agents 365 days a year. And that includes Halloween.

“Our security perimeter is always going to be intact regardless of the time of year,” said Derrick Golden, assistant to the special agent in charge at the Secret Service’s Chicago field office.

Year-round, the block is off limits unless you have an invitation from a resident and the Secret Service knows you're coming. But for those who know someone at one of the 10 private homes on the block, it’s a fun and frightening time over Halloween.

“It’s most fun when the neighbor down the street would fire up his chainsaw, and streaks of frightened children would flash past, bags of candy trailing like kites in a stiff breeze,” said Addison Braendel, who lives on the block.

The Secret Service agents know what’s a threat and what’s in good fun, according to Golden, and allows the neighbors to enjoy the holiday.

“A couple of years ago, the neighbors asked Secret Service to let us do Halloween because there were so many kids on the block,” said Adela Cepeda, who also lives on the block. “But the super-fancy Halloween is on 57th Street and Harper Avenue.” 

The neighbors on that block notoriously go all out with full costumes on all ages, giant faux spiders and creepers and pounds of candy.

Last year, Sasha Obama went trick-or-treating in Washington with a group of her friends wearing a mask to hide her identity. This year, Michelle Obama will be handing out candy near the White House, the first lady's office said.

"As the first lady always says, as long as you’re eating healthy the majority of the time it’s OK to enjoy treats once in a while — especially on special occasions like birthdays and holidays," a spokeswoman for Obama said.

In 2011, Michelle Obama told reporters she "confiscates" her daughters' treat bags after a few days. "It's like, you don't need to have this in your room. It's not good," she said.

The White House hands out treats to Washington area schoolchildren. Goodies in the past have included cookies, M&Ms and dried fruit snacks. (In 2011, extra pieces of candy were added to the offerings after the president publicly worried that the White House would "get egged" after hearing of the fruit snacks.)

One Halloween experience on Obama's Kenwood block did not go well.

As a candidate in 2008 and still living full time in the house on Greenwood, Obama decided not take his two daughters trick-or-treating because he didn't want to disrupt the neighborhood, a spokesman said at the time.

Didn't work. That year Obama snapped at reporters taking photos as he walked Sasha, then 7, to a neighbor's house for a Halloween party. In what was seen as a rare crack in his cool demeanor, Obama chastised journalists: "All right guys. That's enough. Leave us alone."