Sharing the spirit of Halloween in Ripon

Community costume closet helps connect a small town and brings the spirit of giving to the spookiest holiday season of the year


Something about the air just feels different when the calendar turns to Oct. 1.

There’s a certain crispness and a sense of excitement.

It makes the mind immediately go to one thing: Halloween. 

In my small community of Ripon, located at a far south corner of San Joaquin County, every holiday is a reason for the whole town to come together to celebrate in some form. 

Scrolling through Facebook one afternoon in October last year, I came across a post in the Ripon community group page posted by one of my neighbors down the street. 

Tonya Bentulan had started a community costume closet for children, teenagers, adults, Ripon residents and surrounding residents to have the opportunity to save money by not buying new Halloween costumes. 

Neighbors came and chose costumes she had collected, but they also donated costumes they had taking up space in storage bins and even donated money to purchase more costumes when inventory ran low. 

It was kind of like one of those Free Little Libraries, but with Halloween costumes.

Early this year, back on Facebook, I saw a post from Bentulan again on the same subject. This time, though, she was looking for someone to take the costumes because she was moving out of town. 

She suggested the idea that if said person found the closet to be too much to manage, it could be passed around from house to house each year. 

I looked to my husband.

 “We’re doing this,” I said. 

He sighed, but he agreed to help me load the inventory and store it in our studio room until we decided how much of the responsibility we wanted to accept. I, however, knew in my mind that we would carry on the tradition until we moved out of Ripon ourselves if we ever did. 

There were a lot more costumes than Bentulan’s Facebook post showed.

Apparently, people donated more than expected.

Families would come and take a costume or two, but they’d leave an entire bag of them.

One big box was filled entirely with princess costumes. There was every superhero you can think of. There were ninjas, zombies, scary movie characters, infant costumes, even costumes made to accommodate wheelchairs.

The last week in September, I lugged out the many boxes and bags of costumes and accessories. 

Two days later, with help, all of the costumes were hung up, stacked on shelves, and accessories were organized in bins. 

Then I made my own post in the Facebook group. I received an overwhelming response. 

Like a kid on Christmas morning waking up to check if Santa ate their cookies, I go out each day excited to see what’s been chosen and what new things have been left. 

Maybe it’s because we’ve had nothing but time this year to watch movies, but I’ve found that a good amount of the Marvel character and princess costumes have been taken.

People are not very excited about the cliche zombie and monsters this year.

A beneficial part of looking through the costumes that have been donated is that I get ideas for my own costume.

One family left an electrifying plug and outlet couple’s costume.

Another family left a bag that had a cow onesie- complete with a rubber udder, a red sequin corset with red angel wings, and a multitude of wigs.

With the pandemic putting restrictions on Halloween celebrations, it feels particularly rewarding to be able to offer my community some semblance of normalcy by being able to shop for costumes for the family without spending the money. 

Sure, there are plenty of stores to purchase new Halloween costumes at, but maintaining this small-town tradition means spreading some spooky joy.

Now Oct. 1 now has a heightened feeling for me. 

The air is even more crisp, I’m that much more excited, my mind immediately reverts to Halloween mode.

Come next Halloween season I’ll be back at it and pull out the bins.

To donate or for other inquiries regarding the community costume closet, I can be reached through my student email: