This Halloween starts with 110 pounds of sugar, a cotton candy machine, and ends with a line of happy trick-or-treaters

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Margie Delfelder and Lary Trowbridge pause their cotton candy making on Oct. 30, 2023 to show off their sweet treats. The couple had made about 200 bags by late afternoon, with the goal of making about 550 bags by Halloween.

Every good Halloween costume has an ample earhole. It is a necessity as costumed children scramble up and down sidewalks, fueled by sugar, occasionally bouncing off light poles. A good earhole lets you hear of the bounty that awaits.

Did you hear about the house that is giving away full-size Snickers?

Are those caramel popcorn balls?

Where did you get an entire can of pop????

As trick-or-treaters take to Lawrence streets Tuesday — on what is expected to be a cold night — those indeed are examples of some hot Halloween finds. But for those who know where to look, there may be one that trumps them all.

It starts with 110 pounds of raw sugar, and it involves a magical machine that hums and whirls and produces a product that has been known to delight everybody from your great grandpa to your baby sister.

In northwest Lawrence, the question of the night might well be: Do you know where the cotton candy house is?

If you are in the 1000 block of April Rain Road, you likely won’t have any trouble finding it. The line has been known to stretch around the block. The sweet smell of a midway coming from the open garage door also may be a sign you are near.

Or, perhaps, you just start to feel the stickiness. If you think eating a bag of cotton candy is sticky, just try making about 500 of them.

The husband and wife duo of Lary Trowbridge and Margie Delfelder have been making hundreds upon hundreds of bags of cotton candy for Halloween revelers for more than a decade now.

And yes — there is no way to sugarcoat this — it is messy. The couple spent Sunday evening lining their garage floor with sheets of paper and setting up the machine. By early afternoon on Monday, they had made 100 bags of cotton candy in about an hour-and-a-half, and Trowbridge had the proof of it hanging all over him. Cotton candy hanging from his arms, his ears, from the brim of his hat.

Only 400 to 450 more bags to go.

Why? That’s simple.

“I just want to make sure kids have fun,” said Trowbridge, who has worked with area youth for years both as a coach and also as a longtime sports official.

Ditto for Delfelder.

“It is just rewarding to see the kids light up,” she said.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World

Lary Trowbridge mans his household’s cotton candy machine on Oct. 30, 2023.

The excitement is easy to spot on the night of Halloween. Friend Heather Hughes — who is among a group of about 10 people who help pass out the bags on Halloween — said there is a story that frequently gets told about a young boy who came to the open garage door for his bag of cotton candy.

“He said ‘This is the reason I got out of bed this morning and went to school,'” Hughes said.

If repeat customers are a sign of success, there are plenty of those too. One area mother has 12 years worth of photos with her kids at the Halloween event.

Delfelder believes she and Trowbridge started handing out cotton candy during the Halloween of 2011. But those first couple of years were different. The couple actually purchased the services at a charity auction of a retired Lawrence couple who made the cotton candy as part of a church fundraiser.

But then the couple began looking for a buyer of the cotton candy machine. That’s when Trowbridge realized it wasn’t just the cotton candy that was sticky. This tradition seemed destined to stick around too.

“We figured we kind of started something, and we didn’t want to let the kids down,” he said.

So, yes, they bought the cotton candy machine. But, no, they don’t spend any time making cotton candy other than during Halloween.

“We get our fill of it,” Delfelder said, while attending to her task of grabbing and opening bags while Trowbridge twirled and shoved the equivalent of about three helpings of cotton candy into each bag.

The most bags the couple has ever handed out was last year, when they went through 650 bags. A little colder weather this year may depress the numbers, but Trowbridge frequently has the machine going throughout the evening, making more as kids and their parents line up for the treat.

Hughes said she was kind of amazed by the entire spectacle upon seeing it for the first time last year. She said it was heartening in a way to see kids get so excited about something so simple — so old-fashioned — as cotton candy.

“It is not high-tech or anything,” she said of the treat.

Indeed, everybody but the dentist agrees that cotton candy is wholesome.

Actually, Trowbridge said, maybe even some dentists agree.

“There is a dentist down the street who says that when we want to sell it,” Trowbridge said of the machine “he wants to buy it.”

Of course, he does.

But Trowbridge and Delfelder aren’t quite ready to sell it. Trowbridge said he knows the machine produces a lot more than a sweet treat.

He enjoys thinking about the memories it makes. A great part of life is thinking about those childhood memories that can make you smile well past childhood.

“As I think about over my lifetime there are a lot of events I’ve done and now say, do you remember when we did that?” Trowbridge said. “I just want these kids to say, ‘do you remember that house that had cotton candy?’ I just want them to have fun, be safe and enjoy it.”

About 200 bags of cotton candy begin to fill the garage of Lary Trowbridge and Margie Delfelder in northwest Lawrence on Oct. 30, 2023.


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.