Market Place the spot for tricks, treats

Seeking to get your spook on this Sunday?

For many locals, the best (and most cost effective) way to get into the Halloween spirit each year is at the 14th annual Trick or Treat Festival at the Orange County Market Place, which offers copious quantities of candy, costume contests, chilling shows and silly spectacles.

A favorite element of the day for many is the 12th annual Halloween Hearse Procession and Show, which will feature more than 50 spooky vehicles, including hearses and funeral coaches, limousines, souped-up Cadillacs and ambulances. They will begin the day with a cruise through Costa Mesa before their grand entrance, led by a custom-made "kasket kar" and coffin go-kart.

To learn more about the life of a hearse owner, we spoke to needle felt artist Cheri Wilson, who spends her days as the sponsorship director of the Newport Beach Film Festival — and her free time with her beloved Hursula.

Daily Pilot: When did your love of hearses begin, and when did you acquire yours? Could you describe it?

Cheri Wilson: I attended the Orange County Market Place Halloween and Hearse Procession six years ago, and immediately decided I wanted one of my own. I was impressed by the unique craftsmanship of the individual cars. In my opinion, they are drivable works of art. A few months later, after test driving a couple different models, I chose mine — or rather she chose me: a burgundy 1984 Cadillac Superior 3-way.

DP: Did you name it? If so, how and why did you choose the name you gave it?

CW: My son named her Hursula, and that particular vanity plate was available, so it was meant to be.

DP: What made you choose to participate in this weekend's event?

CW: I have participated in every Orange County Market Place Halloween and Hearse Procession since owning my hearse. This show is one of the highlights of the Halloween season for hearse owners. The event is well organized, the entertainment is great and it's a lot of fun for the whole family.

DP: Are there any misconceptions out there about hearses that you want to clear up?

CW: The most common question I get is probably, "Aren't you scared to drive that thing?" My usual response is, "People don't die in hearses, so there are no lingering spirits" — at least not in mine. I believe that hearses are the Grand Chariots that carry the departed from this planet to… well… wherever you end up.

DP: How can people get more information about getting involved, if they have (or want to have) a hearse?

CW: Our car club, Phantom Coaches Hearse Club, has a website with a public forum on it. Anyone can visit the forum to ask questions about owning, purchasing or just participating in hearse related events. The website is http://www.phantomcoaches.org.

DP: Can you describe the local community of hearse owners? Do you frequently do events together?

CW: There is a strong community of hearse owners in Southern California. We do get together for events, especially during the Halloween season. Our club meets once a month for different activities throughout the year as well.

DP: Is there anything else you think people should know?

CW: No. 1: It's probably not a good idea to cut off a hearse while driving; they don't stop very quickly. No. 2: The correct pronunciation is "hearse," not "hurst."

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More mayhem…

This year's hearse parade grand marshal is Reverend Tommy Gun, the Minister of the Macabre for FreakShow Deluxe. Those who vote for their favorite hearse between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. will receive free popcorn.

But there's much more to the Market Place event than hearses. Sideshow favorites FreakShow Deluxe will perform at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m., in a performance including a bed of nails, sword-swallowing antics, a ladder of machetes and more.

For the little ones, face painting will begin at 9:30 a.m., followed by Monster Mash Up puppet shows at 10:30 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Kids will have the opportunity to trick-or-treat for free at nearly 100 locations throughout the Market Place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; the first 500 kids on site will receive a free gift. All children are welcome to participate at noon in a Halloween costume parade, where everyone's a winner, and receive a ribbon and prize.

World-class pumpkin sculptor "Farmer" Mike Valladao will spend the day carving two 400-pound pumpkins into the Wolfman and an intriguing pumpkin face; they will be completed around 3:30 p.m.

Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour will host an I-Scream for Ice Cream Contest at noon, and there will be a Come as Your Favorite Freak Costume Contest for prizes at 1:30 p.m. for those aged 13 and older; no advance registration or entry fee required, and all contestants get a commemorative dog tag.

Join Ukulady and Velvetina Evilwich for a sing-along and hula hooping event at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., or a Halloween Karaoke party where you can "Sing for Sweets" at 11:30 a.m., 12:30 and 1:30 p.m.

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For other thrills and chills

For a menacing marine experience, try the new Ghost Ship haunted cruise of Newport Harbor, departing Friday and Saturday night. Admission is $59 and includes 75 minutes of frightening fun, like a faux execution and a psychiatric treatment facility; don't worry, there's a "sane" area, too. Information: (310) 993-8289 or ghostship.com.

Pop into the Costa Mesa Courtyards shopping center at 19th Street and Harbor Boulevard for free trick-or-treating from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday. The first 500 kids will receive free treat bags at Coldstone Creamery, and face painting and balloon art also will be available. Information: costamesacourtyards.com or (714) 259-1046.

The annual Pumpkins & Pancakes benefit at the Crate & Barrel wing of South Coast Plaza from 8 to 11 a.m. Sunday will include a gourmet pancake breakfast, petting zoo, arts and crafts, hair feather artists, surprise character visits and more. Admission is $35 per person at the door; kids ages 2 and younger are free. Information: southcoastplaza.com/pumpkins or (714) 435-2171.

If You Go

What: The 14th annual Trick or Treat Festival and 12th annual Halloween Hearse Procession and Show

When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday (cruise 10 to 10:30 a.m.)

Where: Orange County Market Place, OC Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa

Cost: Admission $2 or free with a canned food donation or for those 12 and younger; parking is free

Information: (949) 723-6660 or ocmarketplace.com

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