Halloween came early to Plant City last weekend as the community rallied to throw parties local youth won’t soon forget.
Everyone knows that major subdivisions, like Walden Lake, are packed like sardines in a tin on All Hallows’ Eve. Parking is a nightmare and children hit the streets in nonstop waves of trick-or-treaters.
To get around the stress of gallivanting around for candy on a Thursday night, many local families decided to take part in some of the near dozen events around town.
The Plant City Family YMCA’s event wasn’t a “true” trunk-or-treat this year thanks to Mother Nature, but moving the whole operation inside the gymnasium made it no less fun. As the rain came pouring down the attendees packed up shop and transferred the festivities to the inside of the ‘Y. More than 20 booths lined along the basketball court closest to the welcome desk as a horde of costumed kids and adults came through on Oct. 26 for candy, games and family-friendly fun sponsored by Hope Lutheran Church and GracePoint Church.
Chris Welbon Karate Clubs of Plant City threw one of the most fun costume parties around on Oct. 26, inviting local kids to the dojo for an afternoon extravaganza with games (including the most athletic take on Rock, Paper, Scissors around) and tasty pizza for all.
Walden Lake held a food truck rally and family fun day at its polo field that the rainy weather also couldn’t stop. Families gathered to the field to play on inflatables, eat tasty food, compete in friendly games and enjoy a day outside together whether they were costumed or not.
Grace Manor held a trick-or-treat event as well and many local businesses and community members set up elaborate booths at the event to welcome children. Despite a drizzle, the parking lot soon packed out and many of the residents of the Manor came down to partake in the festivities as well. One trick-or-treater gained the adoration of all the attendees when she arrived dressed as an old woman, complete with a wig, glasses, shower cap, muumuu and walker.
The largest event was the extensive trick-or-treat held downtown. A partnership of Main Street Plant City and local businesses created an atmosphere of revelry that downtown rarely sees. Set in conjunction with the monthly Food Truck Rally, 20 businesses either stayed open late or converted a section of their shop and sidewalk to a candy stand.
The trick-or-treating didn’t kick off until 5:30 p.m., but more than 100 dressed up youth were already scattered around the downtown core by 5 p.m. Wednesday Addams, Wonder Woman, Stormtroopers, ninjas, Disney princesses, firefighters, Pokemon and even Captain Underpants laughed and ate loads of free sugary treats as they went from store to store with their parents.
Many business owners said it was the busiest they’ve ever been and a few sent employees out to the store to buy more candy as they enthusiastically observed hordes of festive families lingering at the corner of sidewalks waiting for the light to change so they could cross the street.
It was a genius move for Main Street and business owners to partner for the event and though the crowd did begin to trickle off once the sun set, there were still lines of children waiting for more than an hour to fill their pumpkin baskets and festive bags with the sweet treats.
It was also a fantastic way for families to explore sections of downtown they may never walk. The 20 participating businesses were all over the downtown core, ranging from Blue Thumb on Reynolds Street to the Mercantile on Collins Street to Roots Tap Room & Wine Bar on Evers Street.
Many families stopped at McCall Park to grab a bite to eat at the food trucks while they pulled up addresses on their phone of businesses they hadn’t heard of. Several stopped to ask each other for directions so their kids wouldn’t miss out on one of the stops.
With its raving success, it undoubtedly will be a hit for years to come as more and more businesses join in the festivities.
On Halloween night, there are several final spooky festivities being held around town including at several churches and neighborhoods. If you’re headed out for a final night of fun, be sure to plan ahead and be prepared to wait for parking and commuting in some of the more iconic trick-or-treating locations around town.