Inside Look at Terror on Tillson: A Pure Michigan Halloween Experience
Year after year, visitors flock to a small neighborhood in Romeo to experience Terror on Tillson, one of Michigan's largest neighborhood funded Halloween attractions! Today, guest blogger Vicki Lee, a 35-year resident of Tillson Street shares a behind the scenes look at what goes into creating this undeniably unique All Hallow's Eve experience.
It's that time of the year again. A quaint street in the middle of the Historic Village of Romeo transforms from a street lined with majestic maple trees and historic homes, dating back to the late 1800’s, into a haunted habitat. Once a typical Halloween, with a few scarecrows, some pumpkins and 350 trick-or-treaters, has now evolved into a Halloween Extravaganza!
Trick-or-treat numbers have risen to about 2,000. Tens of thousands of visitors wander down the street during the last two weeks of October just to get a sight of all the hard work these neighbors put in to make this a memorable experience. Terror on Tillson Street provides a safe, family oriented Halloween experience at zero cost to visitors. The elaborate displays will be mostly completed the weekend of October 24th, although everyone decorates right up until Halloween. Trick or treating is only on October 31st from 6-8pm, but visitors are welcome to stop by and take a gander at the devilish displays beforehand.
Tillson Street is a little more than two blocks long. Most people decorate in some form or another, but it is not a requirement when you move on the street (although many visitors think it is). Most of the time there are about 32 houses that do some type of display. This is a neighborhood that plays together, works together and watches out for each other. Some of my favorite memories from Halloween on Tillson Street are of neighbors spending time together like one big family. We wind down at the end of the evening and chat about the friendly visitors who strolled through and highlights from the night's events.
Throughout each weekend in October, you will see many neighbors walking from house to house, as help is always needed for some props that are too hard to put up yourself. It is an ongoing preparation for the big finale on Halloween. The neighbors work at their own speed. As most Michiganders know, unpredictable weather always has a way of interfering with our setups! Most of us have “real” jobs, so you hope you have good weather on the weekends to accomplish everything that needs to happen. Some tweaking is always going on right up to the time trick-or-treaters start to arrive.
We always include family and friends in the festivities, which they all look forward to each year. Their help is always much appreciated! At my house, we now have the 4th generation of helpers. My mom, who is 81, pretty much does the supervision role these days, but in a way she started this with me. I was born on Halloween and she always puts a little more effort in the decorations for my sake.
I continued this with my own children and it has just grown from there. As younger families moved on the street, the bigger our Halloween has become. The creativity of this neighborhood is amazing with the majority of decorations being handmade. Many residents work on their decorations throughout the year, hoping to finish before the next Halloween.
Everything is done by the residents of the street, their timeless hours and their enjoyment to do something very special for a free night out for the families is how this event has become what it is. We all hope everyone enjoys their visit to this one-of-a-kind neighborhood.
As my sons grew older and still wanted to be involved with the festivities, they created what is known as the “Bulldog Security” after Romeo High School's mascot. Bulldog Security is a group of athletes from the high school that patrol the streets on Halloween night keeping an eye for troublemakers (not many to speak of) and lost children (maybe I should say lost parents). At one point these were just young teens wanting to be involved, now we have a few generations of athletes that help us out. Some of these young people come home from college just to be involved! The Village of Romeo has allowed Tillson Street to be blocked off on Halloween night for safety purposes during the 2-hour trick-or-treating time.
Tillson Street has a few special events that are included in our Halloween. One is the “Buzz Lee Memorial Scholarship Fund.” This was a fund that was started by my late husband with a golf outing to provide a vocational scholarship. When Buzz passed away from a brain tumor, my family and I decided to honor him in this wonderful scholarship that now provides not only a vocational scholarship, but also a pay-to-play scholarship and donations to the Wounded Warrior Project (Buzz was a Vietnam Veteran). We sell a limited edition “TILLSON STREET” Halloween shirt, hot cocoa and cider, can koozies and our very own Tillson Street Cookbook, put together by all the neighbors and friends. ALL proceeds go directly to the Scholarship Fund.
We also provide a special event for KKC, “Kids Kicking Cancer.” This will be our 6th year giving kids an afternoon of no worries and a huge amount of fun. We close the street for a couple of hours and the kids and their families come down the street to trick-or-treat. I’m really not sure who has more fun, my neighbors or the kids! This is an event that makes it all worth the hard we put in to the decorations! It has at times been a very emotional day for the neighborhood, but so, so rewarding!
If you're planning to visit Tillson Street on Halloween this year, use these tips and information to make the most of your experience:
- It’s best to walk to see everything, there will be bumper to bumper traffic, so it is very hard to see the displays in your vehicle.
- You never have to wait in any line, although a line does seem to form during the evening, but that is not planned by anyone!
- Expect the walk to take you at least an hour to get through. There is parking on the street, but this usually hard to find.
- There are parking lots all around Tillson Street for a small donation, but are by no means associated with Tillson Street.
- Tillson Street is free of charge. The only things you might want to purchase are in the tent at 171 Tillson Street with all proceeds going to the scholarship fund.