West Hartford, Connecticut, U.S.A. – My hometown of West Hartford, Connecticut is a place that I feel is often plagued by plodding suburbia. Perhaps I’m biased because I’m a lifelong resident, but I truly do find myself longing for a Stars Hollow-like community or a New York City-style bustle.
That is, until October rolls around each year, and I get to experience the extravagant Halloween displays of Prof. Matthew Warshauer.
Warshauer, a history professor at his alma mater, Central Connecticut State University.
He describes himself as having a “quirky sense of humor,” and brings passion to each of his endeavors.
As a professor, Warshauer is constantly interacting with young people, and he wholeheartedly acknowledged that they will be the ones to shape Earth’s future.
With this in mind, he seeks to inspire, inform, and best of all, spark conversation.
This dual mentality of the present and the imminent promotes what many see to be Warshauer’s magnum opus: his annual Halloween presentation.
Ever since the beginning of the Iraq War, Warshauer has been dreaming up, building, and executing demonstrations in his front lawn on North Main Street that represent a current American political situation.
In classic history professor fashion, he tries to build deep roots for every project he makes.
According to Warshauer it’s impossible to garner a complete understanding of current events without digesting those in our past. He often sees political displays make their way into history curriculums.
The professor referenced the efficacy of the Boston Tea Party during the American Revolution in expressing the impact of his genre of activism.
Setting up an exhibit in his front yard helps Warshauer reach a multitude of demographics. He makes information easily accessible – a person has to simply pass by his house in order to learn.
This year’s showing focuses on the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Central to his display is his assertion that the rioters are not patriots, and the riot is not democracy.
When choosing politically charged issues such as this one, Warshauer said he knows there will be some discontent.
It’s easy for him to slip into the worry that someone of a different mindset will do something violent to his display, but he stays grounded by remembering that others have stood up for their beliefs in far more dangerous scenarios.
Sometimes, people don’t grasp the whole essence of Warshauer’s designs. He knows that all he can do is present information in his own personal way, and it’s up to the public to take it from there.
Warhsauer’s annual display focuses on the future and the need for change. For youth to be able to step up and voice their opinions is of the utmost importance to Warshauer. He is striving for a future filled with inclusion and social responsibility and acknowledges that the youth population will be the ones to deliver it.
Citizens are part of a great experiment in self-government, the professor said. This experiment requires shifts along the way, and he said our current reality is one in need of change.
With his annual Halloween display, Warshauer hopes to spark a flame under someone and queue them to act on their beliefs. If this ever occurs, he said, he’ll be the true beneficiary.
Baylee Krulewitz is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.