Rob Bonin’s costume is purrfect for Halloween. He will be transformed into a wildcat that’s “tamed” by a female companion

Red Deer bars gear up for Halloween

Halloween is the one night of the year when Rob Bonin can safely party in public in his briefs.

Halloween is the one night of the year when Rob Bonin can safely party in public in his briefs.

Rest assured, the Red Deer property manager will also be sporting a ton of body paint. Through the wonders of artistically-applied makeup, Bonin will be transformed into a wildcat that’s “tamed” by a female companion, who’s accompanying him dressed as a whip-wielding animal trainer.

On the Saturday, the final Saturday before Halloween, the city’s bar strips will be crawling with similarly scary monsters and Ziggy Stardust-like super-creeps. The annual celebration of everything uninhibited and un-Earthly will be especially hopping inside Red Deer’s many drinking establishments, where Halloween parties can be the biggest night of the year.

In terms of sheer customer numbers, January Barthel, manager of Bellinis Sonic Lounge at Red Deer’s Sheraton Centre, believes that fright night even surpasses New Year’s Eve — although it depends on whether Dec. 31 falls on a weekend.

Like other bar managers, Barthel is gearing up for the onslaught of colourfully attired customers by booking her full contingent of 35 bartenders, waiters and security personnel to work Saturday’s night shift.

Not only will Bellinis staff be dressing up along this year’s angels and demons theme at the bar, they spent several hours earlier this week hanging fake clouds and hellfire around the establishment that caters to an older crowd.

“It’ll be a really fun night,” predicted Barthel, who fondly recalled last year’s softer theme of Disney fairy tales.

Most Red Deer bars award big prizes for best costumes. At Bellinis, $500 goes to the first-place winner (last year it was split between members of a Ghostbusters crew), $300 will be awarded for second and $200 for third.

Prizes at Wild Bill’s Sports Bar at the Quality Inn North Hill will include big screen TVs and electronic car starters.

The bar’s deejayed music (with Ransom from The Kraze radio station acting as MC) will be interspersed with nods to Halloween, likely including Michael Jackson’s Thriller or tunes from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

“It’s one of the most entertaining nights of the year — and one of the safest,” said Wild Bill’s manager Marc Robichaud.

“I have been doing this for 20 years, I’ve seen everything” — from cowboys to aliens and beyond. He believes that most people tend to behave at Halloween parties because “they don’t want to mess up their costumes.”

“Halloween is when adults get to be kids again,” added Robichaud, who predicted a “fun, excellent night” ahead.

Bonin, the tiger man, thinks it would be great to win a costume prize. But that’s not why he’s spending three hours getting expertly body-painted in the same orange and black guise he wore to a Halloween party in Edmonton last weekend. (Bonin’s costume was initially applied by a professional makeup artist, but will be reapplied this weekend from photo references by a friend with an airbrush.)

The brief-sporting partier will have to slip on a coat and boots to face the below-zero temperature — at least until he gets indoors. But he maintains it’s all worth it because “Halloween takes you out of your character. . . . You get out of your normal, everyday lives and get to be someone else.”

The best thing about hitting Halloween parties at local bars is getting to people watch, added Bonin, who admires how elaborately creative some costumes get — such as the 12-foot grim reaper he saw last weekend that came complete with black cloak, bony hand and synthesized voice.

“It’s just entertaining.”

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