CLARION — In this year of adaptation and adjustment the Halloween tradition of trick-or-treat was not immune to some degree of modification, with the idea of holding trunk-or-treats being seized upon throughout the area. On Oct. 31 it was the Clarion County YMCA’s turn to stage its version, as volunteers from more than 30 local businesses, service agencies, and other assorted organizations gathered to dispense treats from the trunks of their vehicles to a multitude of costume clad children.
“The whole reason behind it (trunk-or-treat) is we really wanted to do something outside that followed all the safety guidelines set forth by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and make the holiday still special for the kiddos,” said Michelle Miller, director of childcare at the YMCA’s Younger Years program.
“They’ve had to miss a lot recently and we just wanted to do something for them to bring a little extra magic back to the holiday.”
Starting at 10 a.m. cars, trucks and vans began pulling into spots in the facilities side parking lot, with one space between each to help ensure social distancing. Trunks and hatches were opened as volunteers decorated their vehicles in either a Halloween theme, a manner that celebrated the fall season, or in some other way that the younger set might find appealing. At 11 a.m. trick-or-treaters were scheduled to make their way from vehicle to vehicle, moving one space at a time, to collect their holiday bounty.
Though the spirit of fun pervaded the event, safety measures to protect celebrants from the coronavirus were infused throughout. “All participants, volunteers, children, and families that are coming were asked to wear masks. We asked our volunteers to take some extra precautions, such as washing their hands when they arrive, sanitize when they can, hand out only pre-packaged and sealed items,” Miller said.
“We told the participants and volunteers anything more that they wanted to do is at their discretion, but we recommended they keep themselves safe and their families.”
The spirit of community and giving back to its children was a common refrain heard among the volunteers as to the reason for their participation.
Clarion County Coroner Dan Shingledecker’s open hatch was decorated in a fruit theme, featuring balloons in the shape of pineapples, kiwis, watermelons and oranges. “I came out because I love kids. I have two kids of my own and I just want to support them and Halloween. It’s just good for the kids.” he said.
Nahtanha Brown, Bobbie Lawrence and Valerie DeCorte represented the Clarion VFW Auxiliary with a vehicle that had a spooky Halloween sensibility, including spiders, headstones, skeletons and ghosts.
“We want to reach out to the community and support our community. We support veterans, but we also support activities in the community because we’re a community-minded organization,” Lawrence said.
Clarion University was represented by CUCARES, members of the women’s swimming and diving team, and a bevy of cheerleaders.
“With COVID we’re not doing anything and the girls want to be involved, we’re used to being involved. You know we’d be seven games into a football season by now. It’s just time to get back out there and let everybody know what CU Cheer is all about, and one of those things is the community,” Diana Brown, coach of the university’s cheer squad, said.
A long line of trick-or-treaters began forming well before the event got underway, with variously costumed children eager to get started. “We’ve had more people than actually signed-up, which is a beautiful thing,” Miller said. “A lot of families were going to try to downplay Halloween this year just because they can’t stick to so many of the traditions they’ve done in the past. So we have families that are excited about Halloween and the kiddos especially are just excited to come out.”
Pacen Lesniak and Noelle Siegel were among a group of five children anxiously waiting. Lesniak was attired as Steve from the video game Minecraft, while Siegel came as a character from the Netflix series Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir.
“I like trunk-or-treat and I want some candy,” Siegel said.
When asked his reason for being there, Lesniak said, “For candy!”
Carlee Hurrelbrink was dressed as Willie Wonka and joined by friends Bailey Beinhaur, the personification of a unicorn, and Sadie Rice, who wore a Star Wars-inspired costume. Discussing her reason for attending and choice of costume, Hurrelbrink said, “I wanted to have fun with some of my friends. I came dressed as Willy Wonka because I really liked that movie and I’m doing the musical ‘Willy Wonka, Jr.’ at the Clarion Center for the Arts.”
Miller summed up the feeling of many when she said, “We actually had one little girl here who said that we’re helping save Halloween, which I thought was the cutest thing.”