MADISON, NJ –  A big red fire engine ushered ghosts, goblins and the occasional superhero into the streets of downtown Madison on Saturday to kick off the Madison Chamber of Commerce’s 2010 Halloween Hoopla.

On a crisp, breezy, fall afternoon, families from Madison and surrounding areas were treated to a fun-filled day that included a Halloween parade, a magic show and trick-or-treating throughout downtown shops.

“This is even more fun than trick-or-treating to houses,” said Douglas Hoeflin of Madison, who was uniquely costumed as a vine of green grapes made out of balloons. “There’s a lot more people around here.”

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Indeed. Douglas was one of hundreds of children who showed up for Halloween Hoopla. The day began at Noon with a short parade along Kings Road, down Green Village Road, across Main Street and dissipated under the train underpass where Waverly Place meets Lincoln Place.  When all had marched, children were then treated to a magic show, courtesy of magician Joe Fisher. Fisher chose several children from the crowd to participate in his program, which had children laughing out loud.

“This is a giveback from our stores to the community,” said Karen Meyer, executive director of the Madison Chamber of Commerce. “It’s so important. These people live here, they shop here, it’s home for them. People love a reason to get together and this is for the kids.”

The afternoon saw crowds of children and their families, in costume, scurrying from shop to shop in order to receive treats from downtown shops, which kindly opened their doors to accommodate smiling young faces.

“With the holidays on the way, it gives people an idea that downtown Madison is ‘their downtown,’ ” said John Morris, president of the Madison Chamber of Commerce and president of Stewart-Morris gift shop in Madison. “We have more events for the holiday season coming up so this event in particular is the ‘opening day’ for our downtown winter season.”

Madison shopkeepers say that Halloween Hoopla, and other events like it, give them the ability to establish and deepen relationships with their customers. Of the hundreds of children and families streaming into Madison Photo on Saturday, President Jerry Harman suspects he’ll find a few new customers.

“Having hundreds of people stream into my store on a Saturday who normally would not be here, is great,” Harman said. “Based on (the outcome from) last year, there definitely should be new customer interest.”