Avoiding nightmares

Family activities make Halloween fun, not frightful

Posted: Wednesday, October 29, 2003

The halls of Nikiski Elementary School reverberated with high-pitched laughter Saturday afternoon.

Staying safe

The following is a list of trick-or-treating safety tips offered by Kenai Police Officer Kelly George:

Trick-or-treat with an adult.

Wear reflective clothing.

Wear warm clothes.


Fifth-grader Chad Hampton prepares to putt a golf ball in hopes of winning a prize at the carnival

Photo by Jenni Dillon

Watch out for cars.

Stay on the sidewalk.

Carry a flashlight.

Dont enter a strangers home.

Dont walk across yards.

Dont run.

Be careful wearing masks.

Walk in groups.

Dont accept unwrapped candy.

Show treats to an adult.

Or was it a cackle?

There certainly were a few witches among the hundreds of people and creatures filling the school gym, hallways and classrooms Saturday for the community's annual fall carnival.

Though Halloween still is a couple days away, celebrations already have begun, and Nikiski's carnival was a fete few attendees are likely to forget in the coming days.

Students, joined by their siblings, parents and teachers, donned their costumes (making good use of what once were one-night-only disguises) and ran through the school playing carnival games, competing for prizes for their masquerades and squeezing a few extra sugary treats out of the trick-or-treat alley.

Fifth-grader Chad Hampton, whose store-bought chicken costume caught an eye at every turn, said his favorite part of the carnival was staying out of jail. For a few carnival tickets, attendees could sentence one another to turns in a makeshift cell and Hampton seemed to be a frequent victim.

"He's been put in jail three times already," his mother laughed.

In between his "prison" sentences, however, Hampton was having plenty of fun practicing his golf putt skills, tossing darts and trying to win a variety of prizes.

The carnival, which caters mostly to the elementary school's kindergarten through sixth-grade students, is an effort to bring the community together for an afternoon of family fun, while celebrating the short transitional season between long Alaska winters and the dark, snowy winter.

It also is one of several efforts around the Kenai Peninsula to remake Halloween into a safe and fun holiday.

The annual holiday dedicated to magic, mischief and make-believe can be a scary time, and not just because ghost stories and frightening costumes abound.

Between urban legends of candy-tampering, the dangers inherent in trick-or-treating on Alaska's dark, moose trodden roads and the proclivity of 'tweens and teens to get into trouble on All Hallow's Eve, the holiday easily can turn from fun-filled fete to a nightmare.

That's why several churches and schools are going to extra efforts to provide safe, all-ages events for the spooky occasion.

The Kenai New Life Assembly of God church will host a harvest carnival from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, offering games, prizes and food for children ages 3 to 11.

Soldotna Church of God will sponsor "The Truth Time Machine," another Halloween event, from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday.

Peninsula Grace Brethren Church will sponsor a country jamboree from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at Solid Rock Bible Camp, offering an alternative to Halloween celebrations that will include a hay maze, hay rides, a hot dog roast, songs and "trunk-or-treating."

Several schools also will provide "trunk-or-treat," an alternative to the tradition of door-to-door candy hunts. Participants decorate their cars, stock the trunks with candy and meet in a parking lot, where children can go from car to car in a safe environment for their treats.

Sterling Elementary School will host such an event Friday night, as well Tustumena Elementary School.

Tustumena's trunk-or-treat event, from 5 to 6 p.m. Friday, also will be followed by the school's annual Halloween carnival from 6 to 9 p.m. The carnival will include games, food, a pumpkin-carving contest, a Fear Factor-style contest, pictures and a raffle.

In addition, several schools will host Halloween parades throughout the week and classrooms will celebrate fall and Halloween time with a variety of activities. Families are encouraged to check with their schools, churches and other community groups to learn more about Halloween activities this week.

But while there will be plenty to do throughout the week, many children still will opt for a night of trick-or-treating Friday.

Kenai Police Investigator Kelly George has been visiting schools and community centers to help teach children how to make sure the traditional practice stays safe.

"I want you guys to have a really, really fun time and enjoy Halloween," George told children at the Kenai Boys and Girls Club on Thursday.

And to do so, he asked the students to promise to obey a few simple rules for their outings.

George encouraged children to go trick-or-treating with their parents or a trusted adult. Older students may go out without an adult, but still should travel in parent-approved groups.

Children should make sure they are visible on dark roadways, either by including reflective fabric or tape in their costumes or carrying a flashlight. They also should be sure to watch out for cars and stay on sidewalks or roadsides.

Children were reminded not to run on Halloween, as many costumes may make tripping more likely and masks can cause vision problems.

In addition, George advised children not to enter strangers' homes, "even if they invite you in or are really nice," he said. And, he recommended avoiding homemade or unwrapped treats from strangers.

He encouraged children to be polite and respectful to stay out of trouble on Halloween.

"I've been a police officer for 10 years, and Halloween seems to be one of those nights where people do weird things," he said.

He told children not to approach houses where lights are off and not to keep knocking if people don't answer their doors.

"One complaint we have a lot at the police department is kids trick-or-treating run through yards from house to house," he said. "Please do not do that. Go back to the sidewalk.

"And, I hope you're not these kinds of kids, but don't tip over people's things."

Finally, he advised children not to eat any of their Halloween treats before getting home and showing them to their parents.

"We want you to have fun, but we also want you to be safe," he said.

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