For Lynnette’s Twirlerettes, it just

isn’t Halloween without a trip to Salem,

Massachusetts.

The Carbondale-based group, which boasts 122 students, has been invited to

perform in downtown Salem’s Haunted Happenings Parade for the past 12 years. Lynnette’s Twirlerettes owner and coach, Lynnette Lepre-Van Deusen, has accepted the invitation six times, including earlier this month.

“They just know us,” she said. “We’ve been going there so many times; I don’t even know how we ended hooking up in the beginning. Every year since our first performance there, we just get invited back.”

This year Lynnette’s Twirlerettes brought 26 twirlers ranging from 3 to 19 years old. Van Deusen opens the opportunity to travel to each of her students, making performance trips such as these first come, first serve. This year, Van Deusen also opened the trip up to alumni students and their families as well.

While The Twirlerettes do get invited back to perform each year, they do not go every year because of scheduling or if other performance opportunities arise.

“We can’t continually go each year so I pick and choose when we can slide one in there,” said Van Deusen.

Salem became a popular place for The Twirlers to perform because of the educational and leisure opportunities that Salem has to offer.

“I just investigate some areas where I think the twirlers would be interested in going, where I’m interested in going, it’s a little educational to them in the same respect of also having a good time,” she said. “I thought Salem would be great for that. It’s a little historical and it’s fun.”

This year’s performance was special in two ways. One, it was also their first out-of-state trip since the COVID-19 pandemic hit 19 months ago.

“The last trip we went on was Italy in June of 2019, we went from a really big international trip to not doing anything due to the pandemic,” Van Deusen said. “It felt good to just go back to doing what we like to do.”

In addition, the parade performance on Oct. 7 itself was a little different. Instead of the performers moving along a set path, the crowd does, allowing performers to stay stationary.

Elizabeth Pittsman of Mayfield, a twirler of 14 years, was thrilled to go back to Salem and perform there once more.

“It was definitely different, but it was a pretty good experience,” she said. “We didn’t have to move through the crowd or push the crowd out of the way because the streets get really crowded sometimes.”

Elizabeth’s sister Maggie Pittsman, who has been twirling for 12 years, is no stranger to reverse parades. She said they are just as fun as regular parades, especially considering the connection performers can make with parade-goers.

“I like that the people watching them can stay for as long as they want. They could watch you do the routine three times or just 15 seconds of it,” said Maggie.

Both Pittsman sisters also enjoyed the connections they were able to make with the audience in this new setting.

“It was nice to actually watch the people watching us because when you’re walking by, it’s just a quick glance, but when they’re standing there, you can look through the crowd during the routine,” said Elizabeth.

Maggie especially felt this when she was able to interact with a group of girls who came to watch The Twirlerettes, making her own experience more memorable.

“One of my favorite parts was the little girls watching me and I was able to wave at them,” Maggie said. “In a parade, you can’t really tell who’s watching you.”

Given the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe, Van Deusen was not comfortable taking her twirlers out of the country or to a venue that was completely inside, making Salem the perfect location for their first trip out of Pennsylvania.

“I was worried about their safety, so this to me, just filled the description of how we could start up our travel again, and it worked,” said Van Deusen.

Elizabeth and Maggie were equally as happy to travel outside of NEPA for their performances.

“We actually got to do something since the past year we haven’t been able to do much, so it was good to get back out and do things again,” said Elizabeth.