Tonight, I took Sparkle and Irish to our little townlet's Halloween party for elementary school kids. It was very well-run, and both kids had a blast.
Then, stamped kids could play the carnival games, run by the local teenagers. (If Dino hadn't had to be in band, marching for the football game, he'd have been helping.)
I had to laugh a bit, for it was a real community event, and many people had brought their dogs, who were running loose in the crowd, gallumphing past children, dodging people balancing plates, sniffing each other and being as happy as doggies can be surrounded by kids and fun. You know it's a real neighborhood event when no one is the least bit bothered by the canine contingent, and not one dog caused a single problem the entire event, not with each other, and not with any of the costumed people.
The games: There were lots of little gourd pumpkins on a table. The kids were given four glow ring bracelets to toss, trying to get them on the long stems of the gourds. If they ringed a little pumpkin, they got to keep the glowing bracelet. All summer and fall, one of our neighbors had these gourds growing up and hanging prettily from her chain length fence, which gave the vines some place to grow all leafing out, and her yard a bit of privacy. This year, she said she finally had something useful to do with all of her little pumpkins! Sparkle got hers on the first try. Irish did not, but ended up getting two bracelets by the end, while Sparkle was unable to repeat her triumph.
There was a game of corn hole, with four bean bags tied up in white towel ghosts. If you threw the ghost back into the afterlife down the corn hole (Go Bucks!), then you got a little bag of candy. If you couldn't, you got one tiny piece. Sparkle got hers on the first try. Irish did not. Sparkle was very good at this game, and was able to toss four ghosts back down the hole with great accuracy. Most kids overthrew, but Sparkle would "bowl" the ghosts, and they'd skid right down the center, and be gone. After the first bag of candy, kids got single pieces.
There was a dish tray basketball toss. If you tossed a bouncy bouncy fully inflated basketball into the dishpan without it bouncing out, you got a little pumpkin, (also supplied by the little pumpkin grower.) Sparkle got hers on the first try. Irish did not, and kept going back until he finally got it. He was determined to get a little pumpkin for himself!
There was a guy in a devil mask doing a cup game. A little pumpkin was hidden under one of three pumpkin cups. One had to keep your eye on which cup the pumpkin was under, and you got a candy prize. Irish got his on the first try. Sparkle did not, until he messed up and she got a peek of pumpkin sliding under the cups.
Our neighbor ran the sound system and played silly Halloween songs, and the littles ran around the outdoor cement dance square of our community club. Sparkle got up on stage for a bit, but was strongly encouraged to get down so the other littles wouldn't get up and fall off of it. Sparkle enjoyed running around in circles, and seemed to get an extra kick in her gallop every time she passed the strobe lights.
When we ate our treats, there was a big commotion around the trash can, set up as usual on a square cement slab in the grass. There was a vole of some sort, running in squares around the garbage can, and trying to hide under the cement overlap to not get stepped upon. Small children kept following it around and around and around. Sparkle joined the parade to get a peek at the rodent. No one really messed with it, but the kids sure didn't want to get close enough to throw away their paper plates, either!
To my surprise, Sparkle wanted to get her face painted. She asked the guy to paint an R2D2. He looked like a deer in headlights. I told him I could do it, and he let me. It came out surprisingly well. I gave the guy advice on how to make butterflies for the little girls until his wife came, and he could leave. Except, he now knew how to make butterflies, and all the little girls wanted them, so he obliged, having gotten his groove on. His wife did full face masks, and also did up the teenagers who would man the Scare Walk.
The Scare Walk was perfectly done for the small set. It started at the base of the hill that I ride down, and followed the curve around the block toward my house. The neighbors along that stretch always "do" it up for Beggar's Night, so they made sure that their decorations were up and shining and strobing and glowing early. There were harvest stalks, dry ice mist, skeletons on the ground, skeletons hung from trees, skeletons behind rocks, and a mannikin with a glowing skull in its lap outside a skeleton in a cage. Irish said the woman had died of an epileptic seizure from all of the strobe lights.
I gave names to all of the cast along the walk, labeling them, so that if Sparkle actually got spooked, she'd have words to describe what was bothering her.
There were teens in zombie, ghost, witch, reaper, and chain gang outfits along the trail. They all stood quietly, without making really scary sounds.
One Teenage Zombified Girl (and yes, I sang her label tto BIll Roper's "Teenage Popsicle Girl") held out her hands in "sleepwalking" mode and chirped "Ug. Ooh. Ah. Brrrrr-ay-nzzz." conversationally as she walked down the center of the road through the guests. She was, despite white face ghoulish makeup and Frankenstein Bride hair, so cute, that all the little kids ran up to her for hugs.
Each harvest stalk had a Child of the Corn hiding behind it quietly. There were lots of those. ("Oh, look! It's another Child of the Corn! See him?" ) Each one had Sparkle say "AHH!" in a delighted to be a wee bit scared kind of way. She held my hand, but not tightly. A tree had Gorilla Guy, a gorilla suit man behind it, looking through a split in the branches, and the fake fire hydrant from another neighbor's yard had been brought over for the Wolf Man to be by. (This amused me greatly.) Sparkle as a precaution said, "Don't bite me," conversationally toward the Wolf Man.
The reflective sticks lining the road's curve for cars to know where the road is when it is covered in snow were decorated with balloons covered in sheets like ghosts. Behind them, in a field, trotted a neighbor with a dark horse, dressed in black with a pumpkin head mask. (Awesome sauce and win!) Sparkle squealed "IT'S THE PUMPKIN KING, COME TO CRASH THE PARTY! AHHH!" She sounded so excited, rather than so scared.
Lighting this darkest part of the path were iron garden plant hangers, which held suspended big carved lit pumpkins. Most were not faces, but pretty pictures. I think they came from the Victorian house with the wrap around porch from the "main" street through the townlet, because they often decorate their house with elegant carved pumpkins.
Irish recognized a friend in costume, and tried to say hi, but the friend stayed in character and did not respond. (Good for him.) He was a Grim Reaper in a gold shiny skull mask, and ragged black robes. Sparkle was unfazed by him, but girly "AHHH"ed the Silent Screamer, a costume based on Edvard Munch's "The Scream", and actually held onto my hand tightly for him.
The Chain Gang Guy, dressed in striped prisoner clothes, rattling real chains and hand cranking an old fashioned waist high drill in a box of rocks to make them chink and clank bothered a lot of the littles around us, who moved to the far side of the road away from him, just to be sure. One little boy boldly went up and looked in the box to see what was making the sounds, and Chain Gang Guy paused for him to peek. When Chain Gang Guy cranked the drill, clanking the rocks, the little boy went scampering back to his daddy, grinning madly.
Our next door neighbor was a green faced Witchy Witch. She was by an outdoor pottery chimney oven, with a fire burning in it. Her face looked pretty eerie as she peered over the chimney top and was lit from below by the fire. Another child cried out "She's a witch! She's going to EAT US!" which caused several littles to dive toward their parents. A smart daddy said, "No, she can only go after bad children who eat her house. You got all your candy fair and square from the games." A little boy told his even littler sister that he'd push her into her own oven if she tried to cook them. My neighbor's cackling fake laughter was replaced by girly giggles at this point, and tee-hees are just not scary, even from a Witchy Witch.
Earlier, when she was strolling the outdoor party, she'd told me our snacks looked good, and I said that's why she'd turned green with envy.
Secret Garden Child stood quietly under a trellis that led up to a side door from the alley coming back toward the community club. She did not move, just looked spooky as anything. Many kids startled to notice her, because she was in such shadow. She reminded me of the pretty creepy dolls they sell in Halloween stores, all big eyes, pale skin, and Wednesday Addams combed hair.
Ghost Girl all in white was too pretty to be scary, and like Teenaged Zombified Girl, the little kids wanted to touch and hug her.
Almost nobody noticed Corpse Bride and Corpse Groom, standing in a yard by a fence, because limping down the alleyway along the stretch with solid wooden fences to the right, and a garage wall to the left was Chainsaw Man. Now, I recognized my other next door neighbor from the beard behind the hockey mask, but he is a guy who is built big and tall, and even though his "chainsaw" was a kid's toy with unrealistic buzzing, he caused the only real, actual, frightened screams from any of the kids. Sparkle was certainly intimidated by him, and even the blase Irish said he had actual creeper potential.
One little guy, while not crying, had full-on scared face going on until he got back toward the light riding his daddy's shoulders.
As we walked back into the lighted Community Club area, the Headless Horseman (aka Pumpkin King) galloped along the start of the trail and across the field back and away, making many children suddenly run after them as if he were the Pied Piper of Hamlin. It looked really kewl and creepy, and was for me, the best part of the walk.
Irish, in pre-teen fashion, said I had to come up with better descriptions for the people than the lame ones I'd used. I told him that I'd done it on purpose, for Sparkle to have words and labels for the event. After all, things with names are less scary. He looked thoughtful. But as we mingled back in the game and dance area, I heard my appellations between parents and their offspring.
"There were sure a lot of Children of the Corn, weren't there, honey?" chirped a mom to a little witch with a candy corn skirt.
"Well, my little Scooby Doo, I bet you liked Gorilla Guy and Wolf man best, huh?" said a dad.
"Did you hug the Teenage Zombified Girl? Annnd the Ghost Girl? You were so brave!" said a mom to her little bride.
"Mommy, can I be a Secret Garden Girl and be under the trellis with the dead roses? Pretty please?" (She'll grow up to read Seanan McGuire, I bet.)
"Look! There goes the Pumpkin King!"
"That's the Headless Horseman."
"No, that's the PUMPKIN KING."
"Really. That was the Headless Horseman."
(Many voices) "THAT WAS THE PUMPKIN KING! THE PUMP-KIN- KING!"
I hadn't realized that I had been quite so loud as to have my voice carry quite so far. I certainly had been using Cheerful Teacher voice, which carries. Still, everything I'd said, having the goal of keeping my Sparkle in good space about the Terror Trail applied equally well to the other young kids walking, too. And so, I Helped. And other parents glommed onto my wordage, and all was well. It helped also that the cast was well-aware of their audience, and was not actually trying to freak out the kids, just be a bit spooky and fun. It was perfect for Sparkle.
And it was great family fun. I have a bit of small guilt for not having helped my neighbor ladies put it on, but we all enjoyed going. And my darling husband went down and bought baked treats for himself, too, after we came home.