Saturday, October 17, 2015

"Trunk or Treat" offers families fun alternative event for Halloween

(Originally published in the 10/16/15 edition)

   As in past Halloweens, Benicia families don’t have to feel restricted to just their neighborhoods to do trick-or-treating. Once again, Northgate Christian Fellowship will be putting on a fun, safe alternative to the usual routine.
   The Benicia church will be hosting its sixth annual Trunk or Treat event in the Benicia High School parking lot. For the gathering, volunteers decorate their cars in creative ways to act as houses. Families will then go from car to car, picking up candy just as they would for houses. 
   According to Executive Pastor Larry Davis, Trunk or Treat was founded in 2010 as a way to bring the community together on Halloween and allow them to have fun without walking up too many hills or onto poorly lit streets.
   “You don’t see as many children or families out trick-or-treating, and there’s a lot more empty houses,” he said. “What we wanted to do was create a fun, safe environment for families.”
   The church also decided that the event should have more than just trick-or-treating. Over time, Trunk or Treat has become like a mini carnival, incorporating costume contests, games, food vendors and live entertainment.
   “It’s basically bringing everything that you normally get from traditional trick-or-treating to one central location and then pump some steroids into it,” Davis said.
   In the last five years, Trunk or Treat has grown from an event with around 20 cars and under 1,000 attendees to one with more than 80 cars and 17,000 attendees. The attendance became so large that a separate Trunk or Treat event was added in Vallejo. In its first year, the Vallejo event attracted over 15,000 people, which Davis said caused some panic among event staff over providing candy.
   “We give out the candy for free, so there were lots of runs to Costco that evening,” he said. “Just that evening, I think we spent over $5,000 on Costco runs just so we didn’t run out of candy.”
   The Benicia location started out around the Bank of America parking lot in the Solano Square center, but the growing number of participants meant more space was needed so the event moved to the BHS parking lot last year. Davis says the move has worked better.
   “That solved a lot of issues as far as parking goes because it wasn’t interfering with businesses that were already there,” he said.
   Davis says Northgate is always looking for ways to make the event safer and more inclusive of all age groups. New this year will be clowns to entertain people waiting in line and more carnival games aimed at teenagers. Food will also be provided by the event’s sponsor, the recently opened Chick-fil-A in Vallejo.
   In addition to the attractions, Davis says he has seen a lot of creativity in the car decorations. Designs have ranged from pirate ships to the Ninja Turtles’ van.
   “The winning ones from the last couple of years have been a bit more interactive,” he said. “Some of them have had everything ranging from fog machines and flashing lights.”
   One entry last year had Frankenstein’s monster tied to a chair, and kids could pull a lever to turn on flashing lights.
   “It looked like Frankenstein was getting charged with electricity,” he said.
   Above all, Davis hopes the event will instill a sense of community among its attendees, which is why Northgate chose for the event to be free.
   “This is something where people can come and pause and focus on their kids laughing and having a good time,” he said. “It’s not a financial issue of ‘No, we can’t afford that’ or ‘Those games cost money.’ It’s important that people can take a moment to pause and focus on their families.”

   Trunk or Treat will be held from 6:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. Oct. 31 at Benicia High School, located at 1101 Military West. The Vallejo event will be held at the same time at Waterfront Park, located at 298 Mare Island Way. The event is free and open to all ages.

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