Yudof offers third annual Halloween bash

V. Paul

Entering the 1922 colonial-revival home of University President Mark Yudof and Judy Yudof on Friday, visitors will find a pumpkin cookie proffered by Cleopatra or a pirate.
As visitors pass through the foyer into the courtyard, a straw-floored tent envelopes them, and they are greeted with catered munchies, face paintings and the music of a local, children-oriented music group.
Back in the house and down the steps, three witches mix their brew, a ghost floats and a mummy unravels in cobwebbed darkness.
In this manner, the Yudofs will host their third annual children’s “Halloween at Eastcliff” party.
The haunting is expected to draw almost 200 children of University faculty and students as well as neighborhood children to the Yudofs’ home.
“It is obviously opening up Eastcliff as a place for the University community to celebrate with their families,” said Maggie Towle, director of Coffman and St. Paul student unions.
Towle attended the event last year with her four daughters and will attend again this year. “It’s great for the kids to see the president in costume instead of the usual business suit.”
After hunting through the Guthrie Theater’s costume collection last week, Judy Yudof came away with a gold-embroidered, maroon gown with bauble-encrusted neck gear and crown. The outfit promises to be more comfortable than the three-inch heels necessary for previous costumes, she said.
Judy Yudof acquired a maroon gown with gold netting and a pin cushion-like hat for her husband. Last year, Mark Yudof wore a wire, rooster-like headdress that hid his face. This year, he will just sport heavy makeup.
“I think we all like to play dress-up,” Judy Yudof said. “I think it’s kind of fun.”
For the last three years the Yudofs have transformed their Eastcliff home.
Piles of pumpkins and gourds will be strewn about, and bales of straw in the backyard will serve as furniture. The basement walls will be plastered with black paper and decorated with plastic ghosts and cotton cobwebs, and the party will be set up amid paintings and sculptures borrowed from the Tweed and Frederick R. Weisman museums, as well as furniture from the Goldstein Gallery.
“It’s amazing when you turn out the lights, how you can change a space,” Judy Yudof said. “It’s all very tame. I’ve been to spook houses where things jump out at you. No jumping out at anybody here. We’re not interested in scaring.”
Indeed, because the guests will be so young, the party has been designed to avoid harm to visitors as well as the house.
The party will be catered by University Dining Services, whose employees will also be costumed.
It’s a bonus “for a lot of us who don’t get a chance to hand out candy anymore,” said Gayle Hanson, the catering director. “It’s a chance to see the kids in costumes. It’s a good thing, what they’re doing for faculty and staff kids.”
Held outside and in the basement, the party is meant to become a tradition for University families, Judy Yudof said. It will be paid for out of Yudof’s office budget.
Although the Yudofs did not throw Halloween parties when their own children were young, this event — the only Eastcliff party that is open to the public — is expected to become popular enough to be self-sustaining in future years.
“My husband’s feeling is that it heightens a sense of community when you invite family,” Judy Yudof said. “Our kids are college-age and beyond, so it’s kind of fun to remember what it’s like again.”

V. Paul Virtucio welcomes comments [email protected]