A nice witch reveals her Spooktacular magic

Witches. The mean ones we know from their clammy green skin, long pointy noses covered with warts, sharp crooked teeth and chilling cackle. The nice ones comfort us with their rosy cheeks, warm smile and sparkling eyes. What do they have in common? Magic.
Did you know Middlebury has its own witch? Her name is Nancie Dunn — don’t worry, she’s a nice one.
Most days she looks nothing like a witch. Most of us know her as the lady who’s been running Sweet Cecily in downtown Middlebury for the past 30 years. Others know her as the artist who draws those bright and whimsical handmade cards. But at this time of year, she wraps up in her black dress, lets down her long silver hair and peers out from beneath her pointy purple velvety witch hat (complete with stuffed rats and a spider). Ready to lead the annual Spooktacular parade.
Now in its 10th season, Middlebury’s Spooktacular will take place this Sunday, Oct. 29, 1-3 p.m., on the town green. Families and children of all ages are welcome to this free community event put on by the Better Middlebury Partnership. There will be music, games, a solar bubble maker, face painting, a fortune teller, cider and doughnuts from Happy Valley Orchard, and cupcakes and cookies by Erin Bettencourt of Sweet-E’s. Oh, and don’t forget all the great costume photo-ops.
At 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, guests will be invited to line up for the main event — the Spooktacular parade.
Dunn grabs her witch’s’ broom, holds it up in the air and leads the parade from the crosswalk at the Post Office down one side of Main Street, turns around before the rotary and heads back up the other side of Main Street.
“Every business that’s normally open on Sunday (plus a few more) will be there handing out treats to the kids,” Dunn said. For the businesses that participate that don’t have Main Street locations, representatives from the company stand outside with goodie-baskets. “I’m always worried if we have enough candy… Every five minutes I’m ordering more, just to be sure everyone has enough.”
Nice witches never run out of treats.
Plus, this isn’t Dunn’s first Spooktacular.
“The first year we did this, it was a freezing cold October day, it was even raining (or snowing?!) We thought we were going to have to cancel the event,” said Dunn, who had the idea to bring back a local Halloween celebration. “But then 800 people showed up, and it made us realize that when you’re four years old, you could care less what the weather is doing. So when we say rain or shine, we’re not kidding.”
Dunn’s inspiration for Spooktacular came from the bonfire celebration the Rec-Park used to host when her two sons were young. Having been a member of the BMP (and many previous incarnations of it) for decades, she was well supported in starting this annual tradition.
“It’s a great, sweet, nostalgic local event,” said the Middlebury resident of 45 years. “I like these traditions and I like to keep them alive.”
Dunn remembers coming to Calvi’s for coffee after camping trips in Lake George. She moved here in 1972, where she and her husband Bruce Baker (a local jeweler) have stayed ever since. Coincidently (or maybe it was magic), Sweet Cecily (Dunn’s shop) is now in the old Calvi’s space.
“Sweet Cecily is like the neighborhood store,” Dunn said. “I have tons of local people who do all of their gift shopping here… It’s an affordable, eclectic mix of gifts from stocking stuffers to exquisite pottery… I want my shop to be for the community.”
The store keeps Dunn very busy. So she and Baker take one month off (typically February) and head to Mexico to do their artwork.
“It’s a luxury to sit down and do art,” she said. “Bruce works on his jewelry and I work on my cards… and we say hello to each other.”
But even witches can’t force art.
“Sometimes I’m sitting in paradise with nothing to do but make art, and I come up with nothing,” Dunn explained. But that doesn’t last long. Soon she’s hand-drawing and hand-lettering her line of cards.
At the end of the month, the couple returns to Middlebury and their places in our community.
“I like small town life,” Dunn said. “I like to keep up and encourage community events.”
And that’s just what we can expect from this friendly witch.
“I’m going to keep on keeping on,” she said. “I may be an old witch, but I’ll still be a witch.”
May her magic be with us for many years to come!

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