Halloween costume collection has grown along with Kathi Wilder’s family

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 26, 2003

When Kathi Wilder’s three sons were small, she began making their Halloween costumes.

“As they grew, the costumes grew,” she said.

And so did the collection.

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That was over 30 years ago. Now Kathi’s collection numbers 486 and she rents the costumes for others to enjoy as well.

Because she still makes costumes for the family, which now includes daughters-in-law and 10 grandchildren, some of her favorite stories relate to them.

When her oldest grandson was 6, he told her he wanted to be Batman. Having already talked with his mother, Kathi knew that and already had a pattern.

But she was unprepared for what he’d say next. “But Grandma, do you think you could make Robin for my daddy?”

“I have the world’s largest Boy Wonder,” Kathi said. “There wasn’t a pattern big enough for that, so I had to build it on my son.”

Another time, Kathi had made a baby skunk costume for a grandchild in Nevada. Before shipping it off, she said to her husband, Norbert, “Wouldn’t it be cool to make skunk costumes for the whole family?”

Since it was close to Halloween and the fabric supply was rapidly depleting, Norbert ended up driving her all over the region &045; Mason City, Rochester and Austin &045; to get enough of what she needed.

The results were well worth it. “Beth, my daughter-in-law opened the box in the parking lot of the post office. We had to send the costumes in a pretty big box. She was so excited that she screamed when she opened it.”

Every year, Kathi said, the skunks go out.

“I just love it when it’s time for the costumes to go out,” she said.

She gives a lot of credit to Norbert. He gives up his garage, rolls out a carpet there and sets up dressing rooms and bars so people can try the costumes on.

She typically opens up her costume shop on Oct. 1, but this year got a call around mid-September from someone who wanted to be first. She’s open by appointment only, and has never advertised what she has; she simply relies on word of mouth. She sees many of the same customers year after year.

The first costume to go out this year was her Native American chief. She said she’s excited because this year, for the first time, she has a gorilla costume for rent.

Halloween isn’t the only time of year when her costumes are in demand, however. At Christmas time, people rent her Santa suit. The Easter bunnies go out in the spring. For parades in the summer, people often want Uncle Sam or other themes. At Rendezvous time, people also get costumes from her.

It may be fun when the costumes go out, but it’s also fun for Kathi when they come back in. “People bring things back and tell me stories,” she said. “I love it when they say things like, ‘I took first place!'”

(Contact Geri McShane at lifestyles@albertleatribune.com, or call 379-3436.)