OLD IRVING PARK — Skeleton pirates have made a pit stop on the Northwest Side for Halloween.
Loosely inspired by “The Pirates of the Caribbean,” the Halloween decoration takes over David Kelly’s front patio in the 3700 block of North Kildare Avenue, ready to entertain kids and adults.
The Old Irving Park Halloween display — which can be seen from blocks away — has red and purple lights that illuminate the 10-member crew on its ship, who are fighting to fend off a kraken.
The massive wooden ship is cracked in two, seemingly by the mythological creature, whose tentacles wrap around the ship and crew members. While some skeleton pirates are resigned to their death — two are about to walk the plank — others are fighting back, grabbing onto the tentacles and firing gunshots from the crow’s nest of the ship. It took six people to assemble the display, Kelly said.
“We built the crow’s nest to put on top of [the main mast], and then the flag and stuff like that. So I think the mask is what really makes the ship,” Kelly said.
The ship is the fourth elaborate Halloween setup Kelly and his wife have orchestrated to wow the neighborhood. Kelly owns his own event production company called Frost, which has made access to props, lighting and equipment relatively easy, he said.
All of the Halloween display reuse items from past productions, Kelly said.
The couple aims to go with a different theme every year — though, with the pirate ship’s success, it may show up again, Kelly said.
In 2019, Kelly and his wife set up a superhero display with characters on the lawn. That attracted lots of kids and families — and started a tradition important to uphold, he said.
In 2020, Kelly set up a drive-in movie theater, gave out popcorn and showed movies for children every night leading up to Halloween. It was a time when his company and industry slowed down, so he was able to put a lot of time into the display, he said.
But when events came back in 2021, he got too busy with work and travel to set up a Halloween display.
“I had no energy to do anything last year, and everybody was so disappointed,” he said. “I feel like I let the neighborhood down. This year, we’ve been still very busy, but I’m like, ‘We got to do something.'”
Over the span of about a week, the Halloween ship went up with help from Kelly’s employees. He still needs to finish up a few last-minute details, like completing the blue tarp around the ship that represents water. He also plans to play wailing pirate and ocean sounds from loudspeakers on Halloween.
The last big addition will be a cannon blast from the ship — a cryoblast that will shoot gusts of carbon dioxide, he said. And of course, he will give out candy.
“It’s a fun thing to do and everybody stops and you get a lot of satisfaction out of it,” Kelly said. “We like doing it just to bring some positivity to the neighborhood.”
Kelly, who has lived in the neighborhood for five years, used to live in Lincoln Park and said his block was busy on Halloween night with dozens of trick-or-treaters — but it’s nothing compared to Old Irving Park.
Hundreds of kids came to Kelly’s house the first year he lived in the neighborhood. Now, he expects it.
A father to four adult kids, Kelly said he enjoys seeing the smiles and hearing the appreciation from passersby.
“We’ll just sit out and give out candy and the kids are all so great,” Kelly said. “There’s so many of them. I would say 99.9 percent of them are all so polite and just appreciative. … You get a lot of satisfaction when you can put a smile on someone’s face.”
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