With nearly 60 degree weather and a flood of sugary treats, who could resist a visit to White Deer Park on Friday afternoon?
About 2,500 children and their parents couldn’t say no to the third annual White Deer Park “Trick-or-Treat the Trails” event. Forty-six local businesses, churches and town offices lined the mile-long trail to hand out sweets from 3 to 6 p.m.
Dozens of children dressed mostly as superheroes, pumpkins and chickens competed for attention with some extravagantly costumed parents. A storm trooper accompanied his son, Princess Leia and Obi-Wan handed out candy and a panda bear posed for pictures with the Wake County EMS crew.
The Garner Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department spends three months preparing for what they say is a win-win event for the town, both as a safe way to celebrate the holiday and to engage the public.
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“We offer citizens trick-or-treating while it is still daylight out,” said parks manager Katie Lockhart, sporting a pair of blue Devil’s horns and scooping candy out of a giant pumpkin.
Lockhart and her booth partner, White Deer Park employee Rebecca Stubbs, jokingly asked a child dressed in a rainbow-colored skin suit that covered his whole body and face whether he could see where he was going.
“But I guess you can’t eat anything until the end,” Stubbs said.
“The one fatal flaw,” Lockhart said with a laugh.
Lockhart said that the other advantage to the event is for local businesses to have access to thousands of Garner residents. Many of the sponsors handed out informational bookmarks with their candy and kept brochures on hand for parents.
Robert Peele, who owns the Center Stage Music School, has set up a table on the trail each year.
“It is the single best marketing opportunity all year. We get to talk to parents and children, who are our client base,” he said.
The children certainly didn’t mind – and the older the child, the larger the bag to collect candy. Michael Watson and Hunter Morgan, both 11, dressed as soldiers, carried a pillow case and a drawstring bag between them. They planned to go to a haunted house after completing the trail.
Kena York pushed her 16-month-old son Isaac in a stroller. It was Isaac’s first Halloween. Although York had researched other options to inaugurate him into the world of tricks and treats, she decided to try the event at their favorite park.
She praised Lockhart for the size and quality of the event.
“I didn’t expect so many people,” York said.
Further down the trail, town departments including the police and fire departments joked with the children and offered tours of an ambulance.
Jenna Auman took her son Drake, 22-months-old, to the event for the first time this year dressed as a cowboy. His favorite treat was a green toothbrush from a dentist booth, and Auman was happy that he was walking on his own and interacting with people.
The most popular costume?
“We’ve seen at least 20 Elsa’s today,” said Lockhart. “And a lot of ninja turtles.”