Nearly 50 families gathered in the Stony Brook Village Center to participate in the 35th annual Halloween Festival on a cloudy Friday, Oct. 31, 2014 in Stony Brook, N.Y.
The Ward Melville Heritage Organization (WMHO) hosted the event, where the Suffolk Center for Speech and Myofunctional Therapy was the main sponsor. Several shop and restaurant employees in the Village Center stood outside their respective businesses in costumes starting at 2 p.m. and offered candy and treats to both children and parents. Others manned tables with beanbag games or took charge of potato sack races.
“This is a perfect Halloween Festival for little ones,” WMHO President Gloria Rocchio said. “Most of the little ones don’t go out at night. The ages are very young, from babies up to maybe six or seven.”
Rocchio said that the event first started out small but over the years, it has become easier for the WMHO Communications office to book different acts and entertainment. This year, WALK 97.5 FM provided music as well as a “Walkie Bear” blow-up bear for children to take photos with.
While the festival ended before sunset, preparations took place well ahead of time. Local boys and girls scout troops created different scarecrows for the scarecrow competition, which were put on display throughout the Village Center weeks before the event.
Amanda Trava, who works for The Suffolk Center, was dressed up as the Disney character Maleficent, while her coworkers came as different princesses. The Suffolk Center employees also took photos with children in addition to announcing the winners of the scarecrow competition.
“[My favorite part is] just seeing all the kids dressed up, giving out candy, seeing all the different scarecrows,” Trava said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
At about 4:00 p.m., families took a break from trick-or-treating and gathered on the lawn in front of the Crazy Beans Cafe to watch three different Halloween-themed dances performed by the Spotlight Dance Academy. While some dancers wore their own individual costumes, another group donned zombie face paint for its dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”.
Many parents liked the activities for their children but also appreciated the safe environment on Halloween.
“I come with my son almost every year,” Lorena Gonzalez from Shirley, N.Y. said. “It’s very friendly and a safe Halloween.”
But for the children, the social factor played a big part in the enjoyment of the day’s festivities.
“It’s actually a nice day for all the kids who don’t have school to come around,” eight-year-old Stephen Mazelis, dressed as New York Rangers hockey player Rick Nash, from Smithtown, N.Y. said. “While everybody’s at work and the public schools are all out of school and the kids from catholic schools from all around the world, probably, they always come here and have fun.”
After the dances and the scarecrow competition awards, Monster Merlin, a wispy 12-foot bone-faced character, wrapped the celebrations by leading the Halloween parade throughout the Village Center.
“What we try to do is bring a sense of community into the village,” Rocchio said. “This is the heart of Stony Brook Village and we think it’s great for families and their children.”