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Trick and Treat

This North Salem couple has Halloween in the bag



Hosts Renea and Duncan Dayton come out of the attic dressed to thrill.

Photos by Tyler Gustin

Renea and Duncan Dayton are no strangers to entertaining. In addition to welcoming friends and family at home, they regularly host events at Hayfields Café and Garden, which they own and operate. Stop by on a Sunday afternoon and find a workshop on how to build succulent pots or Christmas wreaths. Or come in on a Thursday evening for a rousing night of trivia or to listen to a local band while sipping on a glass of wine. 

The Daytons have interesting although very diverse backgrounds that happened to intersect at just the right time and place. The two met at Lime Rock Park in Lake-ville, where Duncan was racing cars and Renea was the director of marketing. For those who know them, most would probably agree that although Duncan has the horsepower behind him, it’s Renea who has the creative edge.

Prior to moving East, Renea also worked in marketing for the San Antonio Spurs as well as an event planning company who had a lot of sports clients. The company was called Outside the Box and proving herself worthy, what started as an internship while she was at Trinity University turned into a full-time job after she graduated.

“I learned the greatest things at this job—literally how to think outside the box, which is not always one’s natural tendency,” says Renea. “As an employee, the first thing you had to ask yourself was, ‘Why would they call us? What makes our company unique and different from the others?’ It’s about doing things that people haven’t seen or experienced before. It’s a combination of all the little details and unique elements, whether it’s interactive, themed or the setting.” 

So when asked what motivates someone to throw an over-the-top Halloween party Renea replied, “When I first started dating Duncan he had always hosted the traditional Christmas fête. It was large where 150 people were invited—you know, all the things one would expect from a party that size. The checklist approach, but not very personal.”

So, after hosting it together for a few years and fulfilling the social niceties they decided it was time to have a more intimate affair with close friends. “We wanted to have fun—do something different and it just so happened that that year Halloween fell on a Saturday.” 

The venue was the first consideration and on their property there was a horse barn, which sat empty from a former life begging for good use and attention. It had a large, long open aisle perfect as a communal gathering spot and individual stalls that beckoned for a creative mind to fill their space. Renea had a hay day—no pun intended. “This isn’t the kind of party we could throw every year because it would just be too hard to duplicate. Our first one was in 2010 and it was extravagant to say the least. When I proposed it to Duncan this time he agreed as long as I could do it on half the budget.” So Renea turned back to her “outside the box” schooling and took on the ultimate challenge of an event planner—make it great and do it yourself.

This time, instead of hiring professional actors from New York City, they hired high-school drama students. Renea designed everything from the invitations to each of the themed rooms. Unnecessary expenses like space heaters were eliminated and many decorations from the previous party had been saved and were used again. Owning Hayfields was a big help because it meant they weren’t paying retail for food.

The expectations for this past year’s party ran high, but no one was disappointed. The Daytonsthought it was as successful as the first and are already planning their next event. Friends had fun dressing in outrageous and original customs and a vote for the best one was awarded at the end of the evening.

Guests also moved among the stalls (each with its own vignette), either having their portraits taken, testing their vocal cords for the loudest scream, searching for their tombstone or just enjoying eating and drinking. 

“To me it’s all about the décor and ambience. If you have that nailed, no one’s really paying attention to what vintage year your wine came from!” exclaims Renea. “It’s a different take—that special little spin.” Different and special? Yes, we’d agree.

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