Most people dress up their children for Halloween. Some even dress up their pets. But at Columbus’ First Baptist Church, they dress up their cars and trucks.
Turning a Silverado into a scarecrow or festooning an Accord with cobwebs in accordance with the day is all part of “Trunk or Treat,” one of several local Halloween events that offer an alternative to traditional door-to-door trick-or-treating Oct. 31.
At the church, volunteers distribute candy from about 20 car trunks and truck beds in the First Baptist parking lot.
“We know that some parents today have to be more protective of their children,” said Dave Doles, First Baptist associate pastor. “This offers people another safe place to bring their kids. And it’s also a simple way for us to say that we want to serve people in this community.”
He and other ministry leaders and event organizers want to shed innocent light on a day that some may see as darkened with the ghoulish. But they also want youngsters simply to have a chance for more than mere candy solicitation.
“I certainly realize that not every Christian looks at Halloween as something satanic,” said parent Vicki Smith, who organized a Fall Festival for young people at The Crossing church downtown in 2010. “I think many see it simply as a fun day for most kids.”
She said she understands why the area churches’ one-stop, alternative gatherings — which feature games, for example — have attracted hundreds of people in Columbus and the surrounding communities.
“I think these things can help families, especially when you have a parent of smaller children trying to take them trick-or-treating all over, but the kids are unhappy and crying because it’s cold outside,” Smith said.
Angee Leeds of North Vernon’s First Christian Church and a team of organizers of their annual “Sweet Street” event outside the church saw 2,000 children converge last year.
“We now call it the Halloween party we throw for the whole city of North Vernon,” she said, laughing. Occasionally, entire families attend to enjoy the free food, games and festivities.
In Columbus, Karen Brown, director of Hope Ministries at First United Methodist Church, is coordinating a “Street Treats” event.
She and others distributed about 80 bags of goodies — candy mixed with coloring books and small toys such as spinning tops and small airplanes — to youngsters during last year’s event from the steps of the church.
“We just want to let parents know that we’re a place where they can be assured their children are getting safe treats,” Brown said. “Some parents feel you have to be more careful these days.”
Columbus Police Department spokesman Lt. Matt Myers said that could be due to stories that make the national media. He said there have been no local Halloween-related incidents involving harm to children that he can recall. And as a father of three trick-or-treaters himself, he is still willing to take them to the streets.
“I’m not at all afraid to take them door-to-door if I know who we’re going to see,” Myers said. “But obviously, we encourage people to make sure their children are supervised.”
Meals, candy and two costume contests will be a part of The Crossing’s new Fall Festival Oct. 31 this year, according to children’s minister Jennifer Khurshid.
“We just want to bless families,” she said, adding that the event is not an attempt to recruit church members.
Meanwhile, Lincoln-Central Neighborhood Family Center wants to scare people a bit — all with lighthearted fun. The center’s Diane Doup said area teens will function as rather cool ghouls in a makeshift cemetery behind the center’s building.
“People can come and visit with our departed neighbors,” she said with a laugh.
Distributed treats will include candy, T-shirts, DVDs, posters and related items. Last year, 250 children visited.
Second Baptist Church will host Harvest Fest on Halloween night for all ages, said organizer Marsha Leggett. She said the gathering is more about simplifying options for families rather than safety.
Leggett mentioned that she took her children to church-related gatherings instead of going door-to-door.
“And,” she said, “I’d say they never really missed it.”
Alternatives are in the bag
Here are a few of the area Halloween alternatives slated Oct. 31 for youngsters and their families:
- Harvest Fest, Faith Hope and Love Church of God In Christ, Indiana 7 in Elizabethtown, 5 p.m.
- Trunk of Treat, First Baptist Church, 3300 Fairlawn Drive, 5 to 8 p.m. (Columbus trick or treating hours).
- Fall Festival, The Crossing Church, 12th and Washington streets, 5:30 to 8 p.m.
- Harvest Fest, Second Baptist Church, 1325 10th St., 6 to 8 p.m. Also open to teens and adults.
- Haunted Graveyard, Lincoln Central Neighborhood Family Center, 1039 Sycamore St., 5 to 8 p.m.
- Street Treats, First United Methodist Church, 618 Eighth St., 5 to 8 p.m.
- Sweet Street, First Christian Church in North Vernon, 108 E. Walnut St., 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.