MANATEE — In the small town where Kim Wong grew up, families would go to the local firehouse to partake in a fall festival for Halloween.
Wong recalled lots of games, candy, and how the event fostered a sense of community.
“They would have balloon popping,” said Wong, whose father was a volunteer firefighter at the time. “They would have a costume contest. It was really some wonderful things.”
Now Wong hopes to brings that same sense of community to her church in Bradenton; Bayshore Baptist Church at 6502 14th St. W. The church is holding “Trunk or Treat” on Oct. 31.
“We hope to bring a little fun back to the church and meet some of our neighbors, said Wong, who has three children of her own and is one of the event organizers. “We’re in a great area where there are a lot of kids and families.”
Halloween, or All Hallow’s Eve, is celebrated Oct. 31 on the eve of All Saint’s Day. According to historical sources, the roots of Halloween began more than 2,000 years ago as a Druid festival called Samhain in which it was believed the god of death returned to earth with evil spirits. The Celtics wore animal masks and skins to hide from these spirits.
Bayshore Baptist Church does not support the witches and demons of popular Halloween culture, but understands most children celebrate the holiday in some form, said Pastor Bill Blackrick, youth and music pastor for the church.
Many children will go door-to door trick or treating, and Trunk or Treat is the church’s twist on traditional trick or treating.
“In this day and age, you almost don’t want to let your kids go out,” said Blackrick. “Kids can come here and have a safe trick or treating environment.”
Church members already have joined in the fun of organizing the event, according to Wong and Blackrick. The candy being given away at Trunk or Treat is being collected by the church’s Sunday school classes, and a prize will be given to the class who brings in the most poundage.
Besides being a safe place to get treats, Bayshore Baptist Church plans to have old-fashioned fall festival games like bean bag toss, balloon popping, a clown and a bounce house, said Wong. Games for older children include a football toss.
Church members also will be decorating their cars for the event. The best decorated car will also win a prize for the evening, said Wong, who also is one of the festival organizers.
“It’s exciting to see people getting involved,” she said.
The church had a similar event a couple of years ago and church members were enthusiastic, especially about the car decorating, said Wong. One family embellished their car trunk with black velvet and a Charlotte’s Web-like smiling black spider, she said.
Another family used fall decorations, pumpkin lights, and real hay to transform their car trunk into a mini pumpkin patch.
“It was on a smaller scale, but it was really neat,” said Wong. “They were really stretching their imagination. It was really cool.”
Trunk or Treat hopes to bring a sense of community back to the church, said Blackrick.
In recent years church membership has declined while the neighborhood around the church has continued to flourish with families and children, he said.
A children’s camp held last summer already resulted in more family and youth attendance, and they are hoping Trunk or Treat will do the same.
“We’re really excited,” said Blackrick. “We’re starting to realize we’ve got to meet the community on our back door.”