AUGUSTA — Water Street was a frightening, bustling scene Wednesday night as hundreds of people, dressed as superheroes, dinosaurs and everything in between, collected candy from local businesses.

Water Street was blocked off from 5:30 to 7 p.m. between Bridge Street and Winthrop Street while children and their families inundated downtown Augusta to watch dance performances, listen to live music and enjoy a safe, family-friendly Halloween night.

The event was planned by the Augusta Downtown Alliance, a group charged with revitalizing the city’s commerce downtown. MaineGeneral Health and the Central Church also co-sponsored the event.

The alliance’s Executive Director Michael Hall said the event originally was going to be just a trick-or-treat event, but the collaboration with Central Church transformed it into more of a street fair. Hall said the event has been in the works since August.

“It turned into something much, much bigger than we’ve done before,” he said. “No city around Kennebec County does anything on Halloween night, and we wanted to give a chance to Augusta to own (the day).”

Hall said he hopes the event becomes an annual affair in the state capital. He said the event is helpful in getting more visitors into downtown Augusta and familiarize them with new and old downtown businesses.

“We made a lot of progress in the last three years, so we want to show it off,” he said.

Wednesday’s event was the second event the alliance planned for Halloween, the first being a “Crawl of the Dead” pub crawl last week that visited six downtown bars.

Hall said a number of new businesses and apartments will be added to downtown Augusta in the near future, breathing even more life into the once-quiet district.

Some downtown businesses, most of which had their windows decorated for a related contest, set up tables and displays to welcome in visitors.

Water Street Barbersalon, at 321 Water St., was prepared for the spooky holiday. Co-owners Peter Allen and Ricky Pacheco were dressed in blood-spattered aprons, gleefully welcoming children in to help themselves to a bowl of treats. Allen said the barbershop’s group of four owners bought their workspace on Halloween in 2016, making the holiday special for them.

Allen said his business prides itself on atmosphere, and it did not disappoint on Wednesday night; the salon had a fog machine running and the interior dimly lit and ornately decorated to create a creepy ambiance.

Allen said downtown Augusta has changed for the better in the two years the barbershop has been in business, attributing downtown’s success to new businesses such as Cushnoc Brewing Co. and stalwarts such as Riverfront Barbeque and Grille. He said Friday nights in downtown Augusta have gotten busier with the addition of new businesses.

“We’ve seen tremendous changes on this street alone,” he said. “It’s been a welcome change.”

Other features of the spooky event included live music from the Central Church Band, ghost hunting at the Colonial Theatre and campfire stories at Old Fort Western. A dance group performed a routine to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” which gathered about a hundred onlookers.

Rain began to fall toward the end of the event, but children scrambled until the very last minute to gather as much candy as they could in bags, pillow cases or pumpkin-shaped bowls.

Augusta resident Shawn Goding said he these events are good for the community and help drum up patronage for the businesses that take part.

“It’s great to see (local businesses) going to this extreme,” Goding said. “(The kids) aren’t customers, but we are.”

Goding was supervising trick-or-treating for his grandson, 4-year-old Niko. The toddler, who was dressed as Woody from “Toy Story,” was not eager to comment on the evening’s events. When asked if he was having fun, he smiled and nodded his head vigorously while pulling his grandfather’s hand to coerce him to return to trick-or-treating.

Sam Shepherd — 621-5666

[email protected]

Twitter: @SamShepME

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