MANATEE -- There's usually nothing scary about Crime Stoppers of Manatee County, the organization dedicated to solve crimes in the community.
But, once a year, Crime Stoppers invites scarily dressed tots, tykes, teens and their families to a night of Halloween fun, including gobs of free candy, bounce houses and slides and games of skill.
This year is special because Crime Stoppers' 11th Annual Halloween Safe Kids Night has moved to a new location inside the Exhibition Hall at the Manatee County Fairgrounds across from Palmetto High School at 1303 17th St. W., Palmetto.
The event is set for 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday and, as usual, is free to the public, including no charge for entering through the main entrance on 17th Street West or 14th Avenue West, across from Church on the Rock, said Manatee Crime Stoppers Executive Director Frank Brunner.
"We started this 11 years ago as a safe venue for kids who live in neighborhoods that may not have sidewalks or good lighting," Brunner said Monday. "We have had it at the Bradenton Auditorium. But this year, in order to have room for their terrific exhibit, The Da Vinci Machines, the South Florida Museum approached the Bradenton City Council about leasing the Bradenton Auditorium for six months."
The Da Vinci Machines is coming to the South Florida Museum in mid-November for a six-month run.
Although future Safe Kids Nights are not locked into the Fairgrounds, it now seems like a natural venue for the event, Brunner said.
"We're excited about the opportunities available at the Fairgrounds," Brunner said. "When we started this event 10 years ago, the Fairgrounds didn't have the Exhibition Hall built, so we would have been outside and at the mercy of bad weather. Now, the Fairgrounds has plenty of room inside for booths and games, plus space for public safety vehicles and equipment to display out front."
The event will feature vehicles from police, fire, EMS and other public safety agencies on display in front of the Exhibition Hall.
Crime Stoppers also decided to bring groups to the event who focus on children's needs such as bicycle safety, health and education, Brunner said. "It will be like a mini-Children's Summit with literature available for parents to read," Brunner added.
By the times youngsters and their adult chaperones stop at each booth, it will be like knocking on a couple of dozen neighborhood doors, Brunner said.
"We hope kids come in costume and get ready to get candy," Brunner said. " Conley Buick GMC, since they also have the GMC line, will have a 'Truck or Treat' event at the show."
Lisa Morrison, family services program manager for Early Learning Coalition of Manatee County, will have a booth in the Exhibition Hall.
"I think it will be great," Morrison said of the new locale and children's focus. "We are heavily involved in the Children's Summit so if this is something like that, it will be very valuable to parents," Morrison added.
Early Learning Coalition will hand out literature for parents and also age-appropriate Halloween-themed books to give to children to promote literacy, Morrison said.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@ RichardDymond.