By Juli McDonald

WINCHESTER (CBS) – Chances are, your social media feed has been full of people getting creative with solving the problem of making trick-or-treating safe during the pandemic. But a Winchester man has gone all out with an elaborate mechanical delivery system that he’s turned into a fundraiser for the Boston Resiliency Fund to help those impacted by coronavirus.

John Downs, of Winchester, is known around town for his elaborate Halloween displays in his front yard. But after taking a few years off, a friend challenged him to make a candy chute like the ones that have been popping up on social media. He loved the idea. “I was like, wow, I can really make this into something that’s going to be an experience that people are going to want to come by every day and press the button and get some candy,” he said.

John Downs, of Winchester, designed the ultimate Halloween candy delivery system. (WBZ-TV)

And an experience it is. There’s a whole lot more than gravity going on here. When you press the button, you hear a chiming sound (eerily similar to an MBTA car when the doors are about to open) and an announcement that the candy is on the way. There are lights and a smoking chimney from a box – about 30 feet away and about 20 feet high – attached to the PVC tube where the candy comes rushing down to a neatly designed tray.

That box is where all the mechanics are. There’s a shop vac that creates the force, a pneumatic cylinder that moves the candy into the chute, and a fog machine that’s connected to an air compressor to create the puffs of smoke.

The candy chute created by John Downs of Winchester. (WBZ-TV)

How long did this all take to design? John says he put in about five or six hours worth of design work and about 80 hours putting it all together.

Temperance and Nate Cormey live across the street and watched it all come together. “I watched from my bedroom window, and I was like, that is going to be awesome,” Temperance said. The Cormey middle school twins were among the first to try it out. “It’s really fun,” Nate said.

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John says it makes him feel great to see the kids and their parents enjoying it. “When parents walk by, they really love watching their kids get excited about something that not everyone is embracing this year because of the current situation. So I think everyone is enjoying it, and at the same time, they are enjoying the fact that here is an opportunity to donate to this fund,” he said.

This is not John’s first effort. We first introduced you to him back in 2017 when he created an elaborate Halloween wonderland to raise money for Children’s Hospital. This work is his passion. He’s an art major with a knack for engineering and someday hopes to make a full-time career out of it. He’s already started with some small projects, but his dream job is designing exhibits for a large amusement park or even Disney.

So far, he’s raised $300 for the Boston Resiliency Fund.

Juli McDonald

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