Trick or Treat on the Square

This kid has an awesome dragon costume. I love dragons.

Fall in Michigan is my favorite time of the year.  Leaves change color, filling your eyes with a cornucopia of color.  Apples are literally ripe for the picking.  Seasonal beers get darker and heavier.   The Michigan State Spartans roll off to an impressive 8-0 record.  And best of all, we get to celebrate that greatest holiday in the history of holidays.  Halloween.

Halloween and I have a love affair going back as long as I can remember.  What’s not to like about dressing up as something ridiculous, going door to door, and getting free candy?  Granted, I am now at the age that when I go door to door asking people for candy, I get a face full of door or I quickly hear sirens in the background.  While anyone that knows me, knows that I go all out when making my Halloween costumes (I refuse to buy ready-made costumes as I dress as double-entendres year round anyways), my favorite part of Halloween is seeing what everyone else dresses up as.  While adult costumes are great, little kids in costumes is the cream of the crop.  And never before have I been witness to so many kids in costumes than when I volunteered at Trick or Treat on the Square.

I arrived before the festivities began, and Washington Square was already teeming with life.  Volunteers were setting up their stands, the local businesses were setting up their stations, and children with their parents were already lining the sidewalks waiting for their opportunity to hob-knob and partake in the revelries.  I collected the volunteer packet and made my way to the table for the Timbits eating contest, sponsored by Tim Horton’s.  After setting up shop, my partners and I were tasked with recruiting kids to eat free donuts, which is a bit more difficult than you would think.  I suppose that free donuts are less exciting when you are getting free candy from all the local businesses.  However, we were able to get several kids to agree to fill their mouths with deliciousness.

Batman is the best.

While we prepared for an epic eating contest, there was a non-stop parade of people from the Lansing area.  Everywhere you turned, you saw Marios and Luigis.  There were a number of Ninjas roaming Washington Square, protecting the various princesses that bravely traveled without their royal guards.  This was very fortuitous as many vampires were out for blood.  Or chocolate.  My absolute favorite was a baby dressed up as the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters.  I actually left my post and ran 20 yards over to the mother just to tell her that I loved the costume.

This guy was really tall.

It was truly great interacting with all the kids in costumes, and talking to them as if they were actually the characters they were dressed up as.  Even more amazing is that everyone was smiling, laughing, and appeared to be having great fun.  Children, and adults alike, were enthralled by High 5 Stilt Guys and their impressive balance.  Parents were adequately disgusted by their children playing with slime, courtesy of Impression 5 Science Center.   The magic show performed by Bill Martin appeared to be a great success as I could hear hoops and hollers of joy and amazement from my table.

While my fellow volunteers and I were kept constantly busy with signing up children for the contest, we soon became overwhelmed when the competition actually started.  Before I knew what was happening, parents and kids surrounded the table, just itching to get in on some free donut hole eating.  With approximately 60 kids, in two different age categories, signed up for the contest, and with each kid having multiple family members and friends cheering them on, at the heart of contest we were easily surrounded by 100+ members of the greater Lansing area.

Watching the 5-8 year old group was an absolute riot.  One young boy was so excited to be eating donut holes, that he was bobbing up and down on his chair, and shaking all over with excitement.  It was so entertaining that the majority of the crowd were all turned to watch.  And when he won his heat, the crowd erupted with applause.

The 9-12 year old group went about the competition in a more business like manner.  That’s not to say they didn’t enjoy themselves, but some of them appeared to take it very seriously.  In the end though, they all walked away happy, albeit perhaps a bit nauseous.

The winners of each heat for each age group was invited back to determine a grand champion.  And what sort of prize do you give the winner of a Timbits eating contest, you ask?  Free donuts, of course.  The winner of each age group earned a gift certificate for a free dozen donuts, courtesy of Tim Horton’s.   This is where I was amazed.  After the previous rounds of eating donut holes, plus stuffing themselves with free candy, the winner of each age group actually smashed their original times during their heat.  The best time during the 5-8 year old group during the initial heats was 1 minute and 17 seconds, yet the championship time was 59 seconds, completed by two different boys.  The best time during the 9-12 year old group was 1 minute and 23 seconds, yet the girl who won was able to do so in a mere 43 seconds.  I was amazed.

Potter Park Zoo had awesome animals.

After passing out the rest of the donut holes, and cleaning up, I finally got a chance to wander.  I had a strong desire to run through the hay maze.  Lucky for me, there were a considerable number of other activities to distract me, as there were a large number of police officers present, who would be none too happy if I knocked over a few kids just for a couple seconds of childish indulgence.  Potter Park Zoo had a nocturnal animal display, which was extremely informative, and gave me a lot to think about during my hay ride.

As the evening started to wind down, and the streets were clearing, I made my way down to the Waterfront Bar and Grille in the Lansing City Market.  There, I was able to have a quick drink at my favorite bar of all time, before taking CATA (one of the greatest transit systems in North America) home.  All in all, it was a great evening for me, for Washington Square, and for Lansing in general.  I have strong hopes that Washington Square will expand their repertoire of festivals.  I would love to have a similar event during the summer months.

Photos by Lansing Collective Arts Editor, Khalid Ibrahim. You can find him on Flickr as eatpomegranate. Here are some more of his pictures:

There were plenty of kids in costumes.

Fire Dancers!

There were Fire Dancers!

And facepainting!

And a few genuinely scary grown-ups.