Halloween arrived a day early on a mild autumn Saturday in the Golden Belt.
For three hours Saturday, downtown Great Bend transformed into, as the great fictional candyman Willy Wonka once said, a “land of pure imagination,” full of fun and fancy, smiles and sweets, for both children and children at heart.
Families gathered at Jack Kilby Square for the start of the Downtown Halloween Boo parade at 11 a.m. Kids followed the parade route north along the east side of Main Street to 17th Street, crossed over Main Street, and headed back south to 12th Street. All manner of characters - frightful and fanciful, heroes and villians, tall and short - made appearances along the five-block parade route. Characters real and imagined from earth and from galaxies far, far away smiled and laughed as they traversed the route.
Dozens of Great Bend businesses, organizations and individuals, offered all manner of sweet treats to the cavalcade of boisterous kids.
New to this year’s event, members of the Great Bend Fire and EMS Department were on hand with fire truck and ambulance, the occasional siren blaring. Officers from the Great Bend Police Department also joined in this year’s fun.
Community churches also offered a trunk-or-treat as part of the morning and early afternoon festivities.
Great Bend Kiwanis president Dan Soeken, whose organization helps sponsor the annual event, said the organization whose mission is centered around helping kids, is proud to help offer such a special event for kids each year.
“There’s quite a bit of community support (for the Halloween parade), and it is good to see,” Soeken said.
Soeken said the goal for the event was to draw at least 2,000 people, and with lines stretched up and down both sides of Main Street in the late morning sun, he felt attendance could easily meet or surpass that goal.
Haunting on the Hill
Out on the hill, Barton Community College hosted their own family-friendly Halloween event throughout the college’s Fine Arts Building.
BCC Dance Instructor Danika Bielek, who helped direct the first-time event, described the event as an opportunity to celebrate creative side of Halloween.
“Halloween is definitely a perfect time for people who are in the performing arts,” Bielek said. “It’s a time when you get to make something out of nothing, you get (to create) different characters, it’s a lot of fun.”
“Many people have been inspired to create Halloween-themed (art) and Halloween-themed dances,” Bilek said. In that vein, she said, the goal was to offer activities that both allowed people to express their own creative sides and to watch as others expressed their creative sides through both art and movement activities.
Bielek said there was a little something for everyone from the smallest children to the oldest adults to let their creative side out.
Family-friendly interactive activities also included a Treasure Hunt.
Many of the activities, however, were timed activities planned on a rotating three-hour block schedule in one hour blocks to limit crowd sizes.
On the lower level, the event featured carnival yard games with prizes for kids, as well as multiple storytimes for the younger crowd, read by the college’s very own “Mostly Good Witch” along with her crew of stuffed animals and sidekick Igor.
Performing arts were heavily featured throughout the afternoon’s event.
BCC’s resident rock band, The Riff, set the spooky mood with a set of Halloween musical favorites. Barton’s Hilltop singers also transformed into the “Hilltop Zombies” for a spooky pre-Halloween performance of Michael Jackson’s classic, “Thriller, ” moves for which were later taught to youngsters in a community line dance.
The Barton Bards also put on a family-friendly original performance of “Baba Yaga” or “The Russian Witch.”
Barton’s Dance Theater team also put on orginal “Spooky Dance” performances throughout the course of the event composed by members of their own team.
Kids also had a chance to express their creativity in other ways with come-and-go arts and crafts activities.
The event also featured a costume contest with child (13 and under) and adult (14 and older) categories. Winners for the contest were Emery Meza-Ullerick in the adult division as Beetlejuice and in the children's category the winner was a family costume featuring Ronan, Dex and Vailyn as Pac-Man family. Runner up was Randy Weber as a spooky scarecrow.
Due to social distancing guidelines, pre-registration was required for the free event, which was planned for 150 visitors throughout the three-hour timeframe, but Bielek said she expected there could be more visitors than that.
Shafer Art Gallery, Pizza Hut, Walmart, Long's Pumpkin Patch and Golden Belt Cinema 6 sponsored the event.