It wasn't just the kids who enjoyed the candy, costumes and fun at Oswegatchie's Fall Festival this weekend. Adults proudly donated candy, time and creative energy in designing their Trunk or Treat masterpieces.
Jodi Dwyer, the school's chairperson for the festival, was pleased with the great turnout for the event and praised Mother Nature for the super mild weather on Saturday. She was disappointed, however, with the impact of the higher temperatures on her daughter's costume and her Candy Land-inspired trunk or treat design. She had given her daughter Madelyn a budget of $30 to find a Halloween costume. They decided she would dress up like her favorite pop music star Katy Perry who wore a candy dress in the "California Gurls" music video.
"We couldn't find the blue wig at first," said Dwyer. "But then we found it. The wig cost her the entire costume budget so we had to get creative making the rest of her candy costume ourselves. That's why we decorated my car with all kinds of candy. She's supposed to be the candy girl. Now look at her. It's too hot. She won't wear the wig."
Another Mom's creative inspiration was sparked by a faux tombstone she saw while shopping one day.
"I saw the tombstone which gave me the idea to make a graveyard," said Rachel O'Brien. "But the dirt was key. I really wanted to use real dirt as the centerpiece in my design."
O'Brien's trunkscape featured a skeleton rising out of the dirt from a grave centered in the back of her SUV. The skeleton's hand gripped a hair-raising mouse and crows pecked pieces of skeleton embedded in the dirt. This scene was surrounded by faux spiderwebs, ghosts, other skeleton parts and a giant black spider with red eyes in the top left corner. To complete her four-dimensional trunk-or-treat entry, O'Brien played a soundtrack of scary noises and screams in the background; she took the time to create a short audio track that played in a loop. Her design won first prize among the kids who voted at the event.
Another haunted graveyard-themed entry involved fire. It took Chris Austill and his son three hours to create his trunk or treat piece, which involved building and painting a wooden frame to support six oil torches, to hang zombie spirits and to prop up a bevy of tombstones in staggered formation.
"He helped cut the wood and paint," said Austill, who spent quite a bit of time setting up the display on his pick-up truck's flat bed prior to official trunk or treat visiting hour. "He lost interest after two hours."
Two cars came dressed as monster faces showing a mouthful of teeth. "Boo to You" featured enormous yellow cat-like eyes and ghosts for ears. Its trunk or treat designer opted to offer individual treat bags of apples rather than candy.
Another monster-faced car, designed by Shannon Quinn, featured feather boa for hair, spiral printed felt circles for eyes and tongue, and a top and bottom row of cone-shaped floral styrofoam for teeth. Quinn's piece finished in third place in the contest for best decorated trunk. Stacey Wielachowski's design with full sized zombies won second place.
"We used to have to pack favor bags with treats for each child at past Oswegatchie Halloween events," said Dwyer. "Then it dawned on me that Trunk or Treat would be perfect."
Dwyer said she was a student at Oswegatchie during her childhood when Halloween Howl had been an annual event at the school. It was a tremendous effort to put up spooky decorations and do clean-up afterwards. Since the new school was built, protecting the walls and floors has been paramount among the staff and community.
"It saves the school from all the decorating," said Jane Dunlop, president of Oswegatchie School Organization, the school's parent-teacher organization. "We've moved away from just Halloween to a more family friendly event."
Oswegatchie's Fall Festival owed its success to the participation of extended members of its community.
Mandie Fowle, one of the school's parents who was one of the event helpers, invited her friend Frank Grillo of Norwich, who is a professional car racer, to meet and greet the children. Ranked number five in Division 1 of the National Hot Rod Association, he has won in semi-finals once, finished as runner up twice and won the division title once in the past. He said in between races he attends car shows and welcomes the kids sitting in his race car's driver seat for photo ops.
Sue Gardiner, Dwyer's OSO right-hand person on the Fall Festival committee, called her cousin 1/c Stephen Nolan for muscle help. He and six fellow Coast Guard Academy community volunteers gladly answered the call.
"We helped with moving tables and hay bales and setting up and manning the activity stations for the children," said 1/c Stephen Nolan. " So far we've logged in 4,000 hours in the community this year."
The children enjoyed bobbing for apples, eating donuts on a string with their hands tied and playing beanbag throw, frisbee golf and ring the pumpkin. They received stamps on their hand for visiting each of these stations and stopping at one more festival venue, the guided hike.
Joshua Kelley, a 12th grade Eagle Scout with Boy Scout Troop 29, volunteered his time to guide children and families through the nature trail behind Oswegatchie School. An alumnus of Oswegatchie, Kelley has been working for the past three years to renovate a deck that had been in disrepair at the trail's pond.
"The deck was burned through due to vandals. I was personally upset that the kids had not been allowed to walk the trail because it was a safety hazard," said Kelley.
He made the reconstruction of the deck his Eagle Scout Award project, tapping into help from local businesses like UBS, Stop 'n Shop and Lowes for materials and set builders from Waterford High School's Drama Club for help with the labor. A family friend he referred to as Mr. McCarthy had helped him figure out the structure of the deck's design and they completed the renovation just last week. He is now working on renaming the trail from "The Trail Behind Oswegatchie" to "Mountain Laurel Trail."
Dwyer emphasized how grateful she is to members of the OSO, for their help with planning and implementing the Fall Festival, including Sue Gardiner, Amanda Pierce, Lori Kobyluck and Tina Serilli. Oswegatchie thanks its sponsors, including Oswegatchie Fire Department for the climb-ons and fire truck rides; Scott's Orchard for the decorations; Crown Pizza, Supreme Pizza, Illiano's and Mr. Pizza for the pizza and Gabrieles Martial Arts for their apple donations. The school also thanks Broadway Kids & Company and East Celebrity Elite for their live demonstrations and the many families who donated Halloween candy to the event and decorated their cars for the Trunk-or-Treat contest.
OSO also thanks all the Coast Guard Academy cadets who generously volunteered their time at the event: 2/c John Lerchbaker, 2/c Margaret Damarlane, 1/c Stephen Nolan, 2/c Andre Jones-Butler, 3/c Shelby Henderson and 4/c Zachery Frohn.
"We moved the event outside so we wouldn't have to deal with all the decorations, but we wanted to make it just as memorable," said Dwyer. "Thanks to the community, year by year it gets easier."