In 1975, the summer blockbuster “Jaws” scared moviegoers out of the water in terror.
But at Chapel Hill Park and Recreation’s Trunk-or-Treat festival last Saturday, the skeletons, pirates and ghouls lurking near the Homestead Aquatics Center may have been just the right ticket to send kids happily back in the water.
That, and the promise of a funny movie.
With an emphasis on fun rather than fright, Chapel Hill’s fourth annual Trunk-or-Treat, featuring games, food, dancing and a haunted Chapel Hill Transit bus tour – all creating a sort of family and phantasm-friendly tailgating event.
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The activities were followed by a costume parade and a spook-tacular “Swim and Dive-in Movie” inside the Homestead Aquatics Center at 300 Aquatic Drive.
At a 6:30 p.m. showing of “The Addams Family,” parents sat on the pool deck while kids lounged in the water and enjoyed the movie.
Chapel Hill Park and Recreation’s Lizzie Burrill, who organized the event, said the movie was geared toward a slightly older crowd this time than in past years.
“This year the movie is more toward like 9- to 14-year-olds, just because it starts a little bit too late for the younger kids,” Burrill explained.
The event was primarily geared to youths 12 and under as a safe form or trick-or-treating, encouraging the participating volunteer organizations and families to use decorations and costumes that were more festive than scary, and to provide pre-packaged Halloween candy or treats.
“It’s just a free, fun family event where the kids can come out, play games and trick-or-treat,” Burrill said.
Burrill was pleased with both the volunteer efforts and the public turnout.
“Last year, I think we had about 200 (visitors), so we were hoping for about 225 this year,” she said. “Plus, we’ve got a few more (vehicles) out here this year. Last year we had around 16, and this year we’re up to around 20. I think there are around six that are just families and the rest are organizations that want to work with the town.”
Burrill said Trunk-or-Treat exhibitors that had participated in each of the event’s four years included Blue Dolphin Aquatics and Chapel Hill Transit, who parked a popular “haunted bus” attraction in the Aquatics Center parking lot.
“Blue Dolphin Aquatics does a lot of swim lessons with us here at the Homestead Aquatic Center,” Burrill said, “And the kids love that Chapel Hill Transit bus. Just the ability to walk through that is a joy for the kids.”
It was hard to tell who had more fun at the event – the young trick-or-treaters or the volunteers and exhibitors.
Volunteer Jeremy Nettesheim and his daughter Jones, age 6, (who was deftly dressed as a unicorn), stocked the back of his truck with a Halloween themed collection of faux bones – from human to animal skeletons.
“We already had the skeletons. We usually put them up in the yard at home,” Jeremy Nettesheim said. “We’ve been collecting them for the last three or four years.”
Blue Dolphin Aquatics’ Andrea Bojanski, who played a pirate role, complete with a hook, eye patch and painted-on moustache, said that keeping things light was key.
“I try to smile, and I ask the kids if I can pick their noses with my hook,” she said, laughing. “And the parents love it that I don’t have candy – just goldfish and pirate booty.”
Bojanski explained that Blue Dolphin is a swim team that also offer lessons locally at including Campus Hill, Edison Johnson, the Homestead Aquatics Center, and the Chapel Hill Community Center.”
Representatives from the University of North Carolina’s O.A.S.I.S. (reflecting the beauty of African culture,) including Hilda Tetteh-Ocloo, Chisom Onuorah, Yaa Ofori-Marfoh, Princess Onuorah, wore bright-yellow masks as the dancing emojis.
Paul Deans of Play-well.org dispensed candy from a mechanized Lego aqueduct.
“This was kind of a last-minute thing,” Deans said. “This is my element, teaching with Legos – teaching engineering.”
Kelly Pope of Frog Hollow Outdoors (canoe and kayak nature trip guides) put a boat-load of effort into her display, providing a canoe-ful of candy and treats, presided over by a creepy skeleton.
“Here’s my boat, and the (skeleton) is the paddler who didn’t wear his (personal floatation device),” Pope quipped.
For first-time participant Patricia White, her haunted Chapel Hill Transit bus and skeleton bus driver may be been the most popular exhibit.
“I had a few kids that were afraid to get on the bus when they saw the skeleton,” she said. “They were like, ‘nuh-uh, I’m not getting on there.’ ”
Other children were delighted.
“My favorite thing was the haunted bus,” Sasha Kolupaeva, 5, said. Alexandria Nicole Stallings, 9, and Arabella Chambers, 7, agreed. “The bus was my favorite,” Stallings said.
For Harper Silliman, 6, who hopped through the costume parade in her bunny costume, it was more about games than ghouls.
“I liked the games,” she said.
For more information about upcoming activities from Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation, including the community’s annual holiday parade, visit www.townofchapelhill.org/festivalsandevents.