(Staff photos by Steve Dickerson/sdickerson@madisoncourier.com)
(Staff photos by Steve Dickerson/sdickerson@madisoncourier.com)
Switzerland County native Edie Butcher isn't one to shy away from ghoulish costumes around Halloween, but that doesn't mean the character she portrays has to be scary.

In fact, she's been the "friendly" Headless Horseman in Vevay for more than 10 years.

Butcher - always one to celebrate the fall holiday - began participating in the local celebration after friends asked her to do so years ago. Her annual costumed rides around the Switzerland County Courthouse square continued from there.

Butcher remembers walking into the welcome center in Switzerland County where workers were looking at a catalog of costumes. The center's staff had decided they wanted a headless horseman ­- or horsewoman, in this case - to go along with the other activities during the Sleepy Hollow Fall Festival in Vevay.

Knowing Butcher had a horse, they joked about having her wear the costume.

She walked out of the welcome center that day with the catalog and an idea. She purchased a costume and volunteered to participate just for fun. Since then, she's donned the costume of the fictional character made famous by Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."

"It just keeps blooming from there," she said. "I enjoy doing it so much."

Butcher has purchased other costumes over the years to replace the original one and often adds additional props to the outfit, like a lantern or pumpkin, to go along with the story.

While it didn't take much to convince Butcher to join in on the Halloween fun, it often takes a little more convincing for her horse to participate.

"She's sort of used to it," Butcher said, "But she's not."

Each year, Butcher brings out the costume to let the horse see it before the event and get used to the idea of having a costumed character riding in the saddle.

Next year, Butcher plans to use a younger horse she owns for her annual ride around Vevay. She expects it'll take the younger horse more time to adjust to the costume, much like it takes younger children more time to adjust to a costume than adults.

While Butcher's own children are used to the Halloween get-up, other children visiting the annual festival aren't so sure about the headless rider.

Yet they'll approach her to see her horse.

"Most kids love horses," she said.

Butcher often talks to children during the festival so they aren't scared, she said, but there are some children that just aren't sure what to think of the costume and shy away.

Adult visitors often pose for pictures and selfies with Butcher dressed as the fictitious character.

"People will stop me all over," she said. "How many times do you get to see a headless horseman run through town?"

Some visitors to the event already know who's in the costume, while others have no idea.

Some adults often get a surprise when Butcher starts talking. Most people expect a male to be the Headless Horseman character.

"I don't think it's a big deal, but it shocks people," she said.

The Sleepy Hollow festival isn't the only time Butcher goes all out for festivities. She also dresses up to take her children trick-or-treating and during other fall and Halloween events with the 4-H organization.

"We've always loved it," she said of the holiday.

Butcher and other friends often dress up in costume to celebrate festivities during local parades as well. During the Swiss Wine Festival Parade, she and friends rode their horses while dressed up as Disney princesses.

"It's fun to dress up and be someone else," she said. "It's fun to be a kid again."