VENICE — Some Halloween traditions of families, like the zombies and ghouls of the night, are reborn every year.

Some families do it because they enjoy scaring others; others do it for the pure pleasure of fun and still others do it as a bonding experience.

“I just do it to make people happy,” Pat Mazzoccoli said.

Mazzoccoli has more than 300 real and plastic pumpkins set up — along with The Pumpkin Pool Party set up in her yard in the 900 block of Gulf Coast Boulevard off Tamiami Trail.

It started at 20 pumpkins and three skeletons in 1991 when she moved here from New Jersey. It has, obviously, grown. Each year, she and her family determine a new theme. A few years ago, The Grateful Dead was the set up outside and that one was very popular.

The Pumpkin Pool Party, with a variety of skeletons partying and a mermaid skeleton taking a bath in a kiddie pool, is this year’s theme.

“I have a following and I like doing it. ... I make people happy,” she said.

Over in Ventura Village off State Road 776 in the 5100 block of Layton Drive, Joe Cardaro tries to outdo himself every year with his Halloween fright fest.

“I enjoy it. Halloween is my favorite holiday,” Cardaro said.

He’s been setting up a scary scene for a dozen years.

“I’ve always been into horror movies and like scaring people,” Cardaro said. “I always wanted to be a special effects person deep down in my soul and always enjoy it.”

For Rachel Hague, who lives with her family off East Venice Avenue near River Road, her family has always enjoyed Halloween. One of her aunts had her wedding on Oct. 31.

So the season is a special one.

“On Oct. 1, my dad and I have a little tradition of decorating our house inside and out,” Hague said. “Halloween has always been a bonding season for my family because we all love watching scary movies.”

Family is a big part of the tradition for Mazzoccoli. Her grandchildren help her decide the them and then go to work with her.

“They help me put all the pumpkins out,” she said. “It takes me about a week to put it up.”

Mazzoccoli’s daughter, Jennifer Roush, loves watching how it has grown through the years.

“It keeps her going,” Roush said. “She interacts with everybody throughout the city of Venice.”

They expect about 250 people at the house on Halloween night — and people stop by throughout the week and month.

Mazzoccoli decorates with a bunch of bunnies for Easter and a Christmas scene as well, but Halloween is special to her. But with all of it, she tries not to spend much money — using thrift shops, garage sales and donations to help with her themes.

Over in Ventura Village, Cardaro spends a bit more — special effects makes that a fact of life. He estimates that through the last decade, he’s spent a total of between $8,000-$10,000 overall.

But he builds all the props from scratch.

Along with Halloween, it gives his family a chance to have a great Halloween party, he said.

However, Halloween is about making something harrowing.

“I really like having the older kids and adults freaked out,” he admitted. “When the adults get really scared, it’s funny. The most fun stuff is when adults don’t know what’s going on... Last year, with my maze, people were too scared to go in it. “

He keeps the decorations up for about a week for people who want to make the attempt.

But if he’s in there making adjustments or hammering something together, don’t be surprised.

“Last year, I was working on it up until the last minute — until the first kids were coming up and getting candy,” he said.

And he and Mazzoccoli both said they don’t want to scare young children. Cardaro has an area in the driveway where children can simply come up and get their trick-or-treating done. Mazzoccoli said the reason she dresses the skeletons up is so they aren’t scary to kids.

Roush said residents look forward to her mother’s house every single year.

“We have nonstop people,” Roush said. “They’re out taking pictures with the skeletons. Closer and closer to Halloween, it gets busier.”

“Florida is the best place to do Halloween,” Mazzoccoli said. “I enjoy making people happy and the smiles.”

Smiles might be one thing Mazzoccoli likes to see. Screams might be one thing Cardaro likes to hear.

“This year, it’s going to be an interesting night,” he said.


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