More Than 600 Attendees Enjoyed Early Halloween Fun at Jack O’Lantern Jamboree
by James Coulter
Halloween is less than two weeks away, yet local residents and guests in Winter Haven were able to celebrate early with a fun yet safe Halloween event last Saturday.
More than 600 children and their guardians visited Simmers-Young Park in Winter Haven for an afternoon of social-distancing Halloween fun. Children dressed up in their Halloween best, carried along their bags and pails, and participated in various games and activities that allowed them to get an early start at collecting candy.
The trick-or-treat village allowed young guests and their families to visit more than a dozen vendors to not only get free candy, but also information about the local organizations helping host the event. These organizations included the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Brook’s Law Office, and Safari Wilderness.
Crystal Mosier, head groomer at PetSense, attended the event to help promote her new business, which recently opened along Havendale Boulevard. She had been grooming for 16 years, and opened her facility to not only offering pet grooming, but also sell reptiles and potentially offer pet adoptions through the SPCA and Humane Society.
“We are promoting, having a good time, and handing out candy to kids,” Mosier said. “We love passing out candy to the kids. The weather is great and fantastic.”
The Girl Scouts of Polk County also attended the event to help promote their organization to young girls and their families through the help of their mascot, Rainbow Sprinkles the Unicorn.
“We are always looking for fun,” Sprinkles said. “It is a lot of fun. [I love seeing] kids in the costumes, especially the unicorns.”
This is the first time Polk County Parks and Recreation hosted a Halloween event such as this at Simmers-Young Park in Winter Haven. They normally host a similar event in Lakeland with more than 3,500 to 4,000 attendees. However, due to COVID-19, they wanted to host a much smaller event, explained Derek Harpe, Recreation Superintendent.
“We wanted to do a smaller event with social distancing,” he said. “[We wanted] to allow families to come out and enjoy their time, safer and more manageable.”
To ensure the safety and health of their guests, the event encouraged but did not require masks, provided hand sanitization stations throughout the park, and limited the event capacity to 600 attendees. They pre-sold 600 tickets, and all of them had been sold out for over a week, Harpe said.
“It is a beautiful day,” he said. “The weather turned out really nice, and we are happy to be out here today.”
Aside from the main trick-or-treat village, the Jack O’LanternJamboree also offered other Halloween fun, including an obstacle course, food trucks, live music, and a virtual costume contest.
With all of the tickets having sold out one week prior to the event, expectations were more than exceeded. The beautiful fall weather drew in a good yet safe turnout, allowing children and parents alike to enjoy a day out of the house during these uncertain times.
“They are enjoying being able to come out of the house and come out to a place where they feel safe and enjoy themselves,” he said. “They are happy to be out of the house and around on a beautiful day like today.”