SAN FRANCISCO - There's something magical about Halloween in San Francisco's Castro District, and it isn't just about the ghouls, and ghosts, and pumpkin decorations.
For years, "Castroween" has been a destination for people to show off their costumes and character.
Felipe Soltero is a San Francisco artist who used his face as his canvas to make a masterful pumpkin painting.
"It's very open here. Everybody accepts everybody in any way, so this is the perfect holiday to dress up and be yourself," said Soltero.
Even pets were dressed in disguise, dogs dressed up like lions and superheros.
"San Francisco, the parade of people that go by, there's so many creative people and they show up with themselves. It's wonderful," said Jessica Felix, a San Francisco resident who lives in the Castro.
This year, the Castroween celebration returned, with festivities kicking off on Saturday. It was a new beginning, after past years of violence and pandemic shutdowns forced the neighborhood to scale back.
On Halloween, police officers were visibly present along the street corners. Castro Street remained open to traffic and mostly local residents took to the sidewalks.
Joy Jones and her family walked down Market Street to a Halloween celebration dressed as Jurassic Park Lego people, with one daughter in an inflatable T-Rex costume and the other dressed as Disney's Frozen princess Elsa.
"The Lego heads took about 2 days and these took about a day," said Jones pointing at the cardboard Lego costume.
The landmark Cliff's Variety store on Castro Street was bustling with last-minute costume shoppers.
"I love it. I didn't grow up with this, but it is, it's exciting. It's cool," said Tanja Korkut, a San Francisco resident originally from Croatia.
"It's been steady. Even yesterday, people still shopping for Halloween. Today it's been nonstop," said the store owner Martha Asten.
After some scary years of slow business, she says she's happy to see merchandise is flying off the shelves.
"Halloween has always been a precursor to what our Christmas is going to be like. If Halloween is good, we know we're going to have a good Christmas," said Asten, adding with a smile that this Halloween is going well.
Neighborhood residents who have been doing Castroween for more than 30 years say they like this local lower-key atmosphere.
"It feels great. It feels really light and loose and local. Like, most of the people here are from very nearby. And that feels refreshing," said Lizzi Dierken, a local Castro resident.
Manny Gomez of Oakland and his friend Tomo were dressed up as a banana and a giant Minion. They said they enjoy making people smile and laugh.
"The Castro's the place to be for Halloween. It always has been and always will be," said Gomez.
Restaurants, bars, and shops were all full, perhaps, the biggest Halloween treat for Castro businesses and their bottom lines.
By 11 p.m., San Francisco police officers at the scene said they had made one arrest for drunken behavior, but otherwise, everything was calm and orderly.