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Bernard Halloween house fights hunger with aquarium theme

The house plans their themes a year in advance to give young trick-or-treaters the best experience.

SPOKANE, Wash. — The annual Bernard Halloween House has reached its fifth year with an aquarium theme.

Surrounded by tropical fish, mermaids and a few familiar Disney characters, the Bernard Aquarium battles food insecurity with donations going to Second Harvest, a community services center in Spokane.

Suzanne Bemis, the head of the Bernard household, explained that the house welcomes dozens of volunteers every year to help fight hunger and raised thousands of dollars last year through donations.

“We almost didn’t do it last year because of COVID,” Bemis said. “But we've found ways of you know, being safe and wearing masks and it's been a really wonderful experience.”

All the festivities at the Bernard House are not planned overnight. According to Bemis, the house plans every theme as soon as the last one ends.

“We start planning for the next year's event the day after Halloween,” Bemis said. “It's a tradition we tear down on November 1. And I announced the casting for next year which I have all planned.”

Every year, the house attracts an average of 2,000 trick-or-treaters.

“It's huge,” Bemis said. “We give out hundreds and hundreds of pounds of candy and rubber duckies. It's just so much fun. And the expressions on all the kids faces is another reason why we do it. They're so adorable and it's wonderful.”

For Bemis, this year’s theme is a breath of fresh air from last year’s event, as trick-or-treaters had to socially distance due to the pandemic.

“I know last year we had a walkthrough, but we had it spaced apart with game spaces,” Bemis said. “And everyone was behind Plexiglas, so it does feel good to be a little more interactive this year.”