Archive for Thursday, November 2, 2006

Spooky Center provides Halloween haven for youngsters

November 2, 2006

Even Lansing Activity Center has a Halloween costume.

City staff tricked out the building with spiderwebs, jack-o'-lanterns and a haunted house for the Saturday, Oct. 28, unveiling of this year's Spooky Center. It was a one-stop Halloween haven providing a safe way for Lansing children to celebrate. Staff spent about $3,500 on this year's event to make it worthy of even the most determined trick-or-treat troopers.

Jason Crum, director of Parks and Recreation, even had to rush to Kmart halfway through the event to restock the center's candy cache. The cartload of candy he bought fetched a surprise from the cashier.

"I think she thought we were out of our mind," Crum said.

But the planning and execution of the Spooky Center actually required a great deal of coordination from city staff from many departments. Staff decorated the center, carved pumpkins and created almost 20 Halloween-themed games. The American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars also pitched in, helping to run the haunted house.

And to help offset the costs in materials - and candy - staff raised about $2,100 in sponsor donations for the event.

Darlene Dean, Lansing Community Library librarian, said it was the community effort that really made the event fun for children and adults alike.

"I love seeing the kids in the costumes," Dean said. "And the parents are so appreciative, because most towns don't do things like this."

Safety is a concern for parents of trick-or-treaters, and the Spooky Center provides a safe alternative. For new residents such as Linda Mikkelson, who recently moved with her family from Copperas Cove, Texas, the event was a great alternative to unknown neighborhoods.

"It's nice to have a place we can take them where they're not out on the streets," said Mikkelson, who was surprised by the event that Lansing staff pulled together. There was nothing like it in her former hometown.

Hundreds of children converged on the Spooky Center. Dean estimated that about 300 children attended the afternoon session, which catered to younger children.

In the evening session, older children played games to earn tickets that could be exchanged for many different prizes. Staff even kicked the haunted house excitement up a little for the older session : at least, they tried to.

Lansing sixth-graders Mallory Scherer and Jessica Johnson came together to the later session and said the haunted house was a little less spooky than it could have been. But that didn't mean they disliked it. They toured it three times.

Scherer said it wasn't nearly as scary as the haunted houses in Kansas City. Johnson agreed but said the entertainment value was thrilling.

"The dude that's getting the electric-shock chair : he sounds like Santa Claus," Johnson said.

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