By William Clark
By William Clark
On Oct. 27, as a deathly-pale moon rose in the sky and darkness crept across the face of Riverside, thousands of ghosts, witches, pirates, and vampires invaded the campus, restlessly searching for a little something to sink their teeth into.
Anticipating the invasion, RCC’s Office of Student Activities dispatched an elite group of students to confront the creatures of the night. At Lovekin Complex, as the ravenous horde bore down upon them, the students armed themselves with a potent weapon guaranteed to stop the most fearsome little ghoul dead in its track: Candy!
And candy was definitely in abundance as RCC students handed out hundreds of pounds of it at this year’s Halloween Town. After all, if you’re sponsoring an event that attracts three to five thousand anxious little trick-or-treaters and you should suddenly run low on the sweet stuff, an otherwise fun evening can quickly turn…frightening.
This year’s theme, the Magic Kingdom, conjured up images of a Disney-esque world of castles, wizards, and damsels in distress. Ten larger-than-life facades were constructed, and for one night the bungalows of Lovekin Complex were transformed into a land of magic and make believe.
Trick-or-treaters were invited to follow the yellow brick road to the Land of Oz, to hang out in Shrek’s swampland hut, climb Jack’s magic beanstalk to the giant’s lair, and enter the macabre world of a Nightmare Before Christmas. Thousands more paraded through the lanes collecting candy, dodging ogres and trolls that sprang out from hidden caves without warning, and cheering for Peter Pan as he crossed swords with the villainous Captain Hook.
The event included a costume contest for children ages one to ten, face painting booths, wet sponge tosses, hoop shooting, and a fishing pond filled with toys and prizes.
Bringing the Magic Kingdom to life required the combined efforts of RCC Office of Student Activities and its 20 affiliate clubs and organizations. Planning began in the first weeks of the fall semester with each club choosing a secondary ‘theme’ for their display. All clubs were responsible for securing the necessary materials, including candy, through donations from local area businesses and establishments.
Early in the afternoon, just hours before the opening of Halloween Town, art major Adam Dior, was still putting the finishing touches on the art club’s massive mural, “the Enchanted Forest,” a montage of colors and images reminiscent of a Hansel and Gretel story. Dior is proud of his club’s achievement, noting that the 10 members had invested well over 160 hours in the planning, design and construction of the elaborate pieces, and that consistency and focus was the key to the project’s completion.
“Getting the end product…something similar to the initial vision was our main goal. Assigning group days, days where everyone could come and work together in order to maintain a continuous flow, to maintain progress was important,” he said.
RCC student and co-chair of the event, Jennifer Tarouilly, and her fellow club members labored furiously to assemble their project late in the afternoon. Once completed, it stood as one of the most impressive displays of the evening: An imposing edifice dedicated to the brothers Grimm, complete with mock stained glass panels highlighting classic fairy tales, a soaring gothic tower from which Rapunzel’s hair cascaded down from the window, and a sinister-looking forest which appeared ready to reach out and ensnare unwary passers-by.
Despite the dark theme of some of the displays, Tarouilly pointed out that the goal of Halloween Town is to entertain and inspire, not frighten.
“Our target is children between the ages of four and ten, so it’s important that not to scare them. We want to draw them into this world of fantasy and want them to go away with the feeling that, yeah, magic really can happen,” she said.
Halloween Town is a free event that has been spooking local residents for nearly two decades, and has become a local tradition for many families.
Louise Jeffers, of Colton, says she has not missed an RCC Halloween Town festival in 12 years. She brought her two small grandchildren, Daniel and Clarissa along so they could experience their first trick-or-treat. Jeffers said she is glad there is a venue like Halloween Town where children can enjoy Halloween in safety.
“I don’t think a lot of people feel safe going trick-or-treating at home anymore,” she said.
” I don’t even pass out candy because not too many kids come around anymore. I think most people feel safer going to the malls or places like this. I’ve been bring my kids here for years and now I’m bringing my grand kids,” she said.
Safety and security are features that Doug Graham, Coordinator of Student Activities at RCC, says is the secret of Halloween Town’s continued success. He said that while fun and entertainment are the order of the day, safety for the children is primary goal.
“Our goal is provide a place for kids to come and feel safe and to have fun,” Graham said.
“We’re providing a safe alternative to traditional neighborhood trick-or-treating. The parents keep coming back because they like what we do.”