‘Biggest by far’
Estimated record crowd enjoy OCC Safe Treats
Waves of costumed urchins - not to mention parents, many pushing strollers - brought Halloween to Old Colorado City Oct. 31.
Volunteer organizer Lori Kasten estimated 3,500 kids trick-or-treated at Old Town stores and/or competed in a costume contest. This compares with last year's estimate of 2,500 for the Old Colorado City merchants' annual Safe Treats event.
“In the 15 years I've been doing this, it was the biggest by far,” Kasten said. “It was the best weather too, and being on Friday helped.”
The crowds were so huge that some merchants found they didn't have enough goodies to last the full 3-to-6-p.m. time frame, even with help in some cases from the organizers.
“We spent $70 on candy, then we ran out and got more and we still had none by 5 p.m.,” said Jessica Carabajal, who works at the Calabash art gallery. “I was even giving out little toys we had in back.” Nonetheless, she said, “It was fun.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by Gwen Bland, gallery manager at the Squash Blossom art gallery, which also ran out of candy. “We always do,” she laughed. “But we look forward to it, seeing the costumes and the kids.”
The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, which specializes in sweets, gave out 2,000 or so candy bags, co-owner Maize Ballman said - as well as 200 to 300 cups of free coffee to adults. “I think it was the best one ever,” she said of this year's Safe Treats. “It was the best promoted, with the most activities and things on the street. I thought it was marvelous.”
At times, the streets were so packed it was nearly impossible to get through the costumed hordes moving from one store to the next. Some storekeepers stood in front with bags of candy while others give out candy inside. As a rule, not much shopping occurred. The general hope, according to merchants, is that the visitors will remember the experience in a positive way and come back.
Two especially creative costumes this year were a “walking slot machine” in which candy appeared in response to a winner - “very clever,” Kasten said - and a girl dressed as a hot-air balloon.
In all, more than 100 kids competed in a costume contest, Kasten said. The winners in each of four age categories took home new (donated) bicycles. There was also judging of the best costumed parents.
Added touches for Safe Treats this year included closing off the Old Town Plaza for different booths and fire trucks from the local Fire Station 5 and from the U.S. Forest Service (led by Smoky the Bear). Also, cavorting around the avenue were 15 mascots from area schools, businesses and organizations (an increase from last year), costume-photography opportunities and some 600 balloons.
Again helping with the on-street candy distribution were students (28 in all) from Holmes and Coronado schools. The schools were the only entities to get “paid” for participating. Kasten thanked some 30 to 40 volunteers (several who have helped for multiple years), as well as generous business sponsors and the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) merchants group. “People think it just happens, but it doesn't,” she said. “That's why it's grown.”
Overall, she thinks Old Colorado City makes a good trick-or-treat location. One reason is that it's outside, which she thinks parents like. Another plus is that “a lot of the shops have been here a long time,” she said. “People know they can trust them… I think the safe environment brings people out.”
Although Kasten still holds fond memories of when Safe Treats was focused mainly on the Westside, she likes the idea of it becoming a popular regional event… and wouldn't mind if it grows even more.
“Next year, we hope for an event that's bigger, better and sweeter,” she said.
Westside Pioneer article