Churches offer Halloween fun without fear

SNOHOMISH – This Halloween, the Snohomish High School gym was transformed into a place of joy for 1,700 children, parents, and probably a few dentists.

Hundreds of pounds of candy; roughly 18 large garbage cans full of sweet-tooth euphoria. 20 carnival style games. Nine giant inflatables.

If you do the math, the Snohomish Children’s Carnival equals one big night of family fun.

“We’ve only been doing this for three years and it’s already a Snohomish tradition,” Shawn Wilkerson said. “Kids are already looking toward next year, even my son is eager to play a certain game he missed out on this year. And it’s the same with the parents. This is something that everyone looks forward to.”

Wilkerson, an associate pastor at Snohomish Faith Assembly, has been organizing the event since its inception three years ago. The carnival started out as a church harvest festival, but recognized that the church and the people in the community had a larger need.

“There is only so much an individual church can do, and there is so much that needs to be done that can only be accomplished when the churches stop acting individually and act as one,” Wilkerson said. “So the model is to pool resources, coordinate and try to make as big an impact on the community as possible. And right now, that’s the Snohomish Children’s Carnival.”

Even though there are still Smarties and candy corn that have yet to be eaten from this Halloween, Snohomish churches are already planning for next year. Participation is open to any and all churches in the community; the only requirements being to bring along two 30-gallon trash cans of candy, 10 volunteers and two carnival style games.

“For a church, joining is a no-brainer because it is such a huge win for everyone,” Wilkerson said. “It’s a win because everyone is doing something bigger than themselves. It’s an opportunity to show the community that we are here for them and that we can come together.”

What makes the carnival such a huge draw, besides the obvious heavy doses of sugar? For kids, it’s candy, candy, and yet more candy. For parents, it’s a safe Halloween night for their children.

“You are in a single location, not walking on the street at night and worried about traffic,” Wilkerson said. “Coming here is safer than sometimes going door-to-door.”

Wilkerson says all 200 carnival volunteers have received background checks. The gym itself is patrolled by security with its own dedicated communication system, and the candy is checked for tampering.

“The idea is to create a place where parents can come and let their children eat candy and play,” Wilkerson said. “But also make a place where parents can feel safe with their kids.”

Reporter Justin Arnold: 425-339-3432 or jarnold@heraldnet.com.

To learn more

For more information on the Snohomish Children’s Carnival or to learn how to volunteer, call 360-568-5100.

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