ATASCADERO – The Atascadero City Council honored long-time public works employee Mark Russo for ten years of service at a City Council meeting Tuesday.
He is one of eleven siblings in his family and a father and grandfather – and a Morro Bay oyster eating competition champion. He also had some left over dummy bodies from his volunteer job with the dormant Community Emergency Response Team. So the natural thing to do was to turn them into scary Halloween props.
Expect Russo to be dressed as an old man and some of his Russo siblings providing human scares. Russo used this year’s bonus on purchasing some more freaky Halloween props, as well as an impressive light display, jumping spiders and fog machine.
Russo said his wife can’t believe how many hours he’s spent working on his haunted house, which takes place primarily in his backyard.
“Last year it rained so we put raincoats on and stuff,” Russo said. “It was pretty cool. But this year I went all overboard.”
This is Russo’s third year as a local haunted house host, but he said his operations really became more legit in the past two years. His main goal of turning his back yard into a spooky haunted house is to bring back the true spirit of Halloween. When Russo was a youngster growing up in Morro Bay, his family was very poor, and the only time of year he was able to eat candy was when he went trick-or-treating on Halloween. He and his siblings used to make masks out of construction paper.
“It was a really memorable time for me that I share often,” he said.
Russo said he’d like to see the one holiday that’s all about the kids return to its original state.
“I want to keep the Halloween spirit alive,” he said. “Today it seems like so many people go to private parties and this and that, because they’re scared what their kids are going to be introduced to out there and whatnot and I understand all that. I just don’t want to lose the whole atmosphere of trick or treating – going to different homes, knocking on their doors – ‘Trick-or-treat?.’ I don’t want the new generations to lose sight of that… This is the one thing that’s just for the kids. You got Colony Days, you got this, you got that, but the things kids appreciate is that candy and the interaction you get with that. Getting scared a little bit and stuff. It’s just exciting!”
Mark Russo’s “Spooktacular” Lights and Sights Haunted House on Cortez Avenue, near the Jim Green Trail, will begin when it gets dark (about 6:30 p.m.) and will end about 9 p.m. tonight on Halloween.
Photos courtesy of Mark Russo. Pictured: Mark Russo in the hat with his wife Linda and the Atascadero City Council.