O’FALLON PARK — Costumed trick-or-treaters walked up and down the sidewalks of the 4400 and 4500 blocks on Athlone, Holly and Red Bud in the O’Fallon Park neighborhood Wednesday with bags full of candy and smiles spread across their young faces.
The kids travelled from house of house in the designated Halloween Safe Zone. This was the tenth year for this annual Halloween event in the north side neighborhood. The tradition was started in 2008 by Antonio French back when he was the 21st Ward Democratic Committeeman. He continued the event as alderman and even now as a private citizen.
“It’s important for kids to feel safe in their neighborhood,” said French. “Our kids have to deal with a lot growing up in St. Louis, so it’s important that we allow them to have special childhood experiences. Halloween is one of those childhood traditions that had, unfortunately, died out in our community. By bringing it back, we also brought back a sense of community.”
21st Ward Committeewoman and Committeeman Laura Keys and James Keys, 30-year residents of the O’Fallon Park neighborhood, decorate their house every year for Halloween. Their front yard looked like a haunted cemetery roped off with bright yellow caution tape, complete with smoke from a fog machine and creepy music playing from a hidden speaker. The Keys and their sons dress up in elaborate costumes ranging from zombies to a murderous masked monster. Their house was so scary that some of the kids were a little hesitant to walk up and get candy. But the brave trick-or-treaters sucked it up and faced their fears and they were rewarded with handfuls of candy.
Sixth District police cars patrolled the nine-block safe zone from 6-9pm. Volunteers from the North Campus Partnership also walked around and passed out candy. Every year French and North Campus donate nearly $2,000 of candy to participating homes to ensure kids have lots of houses to go to.
This year, several other organizations also participated in making Halloween a special night for north side kids.
Yeatman-Liddell Middle School, located on the 4200 block of Athlone, celebrated Halloween by having their first annual Community Trunk-or-Treat event. Yeatmen’s school coordinator, Dr. Melissa Nash said she wanted students to feel safe and still have a fun Halloween. The trunk or treat party allowed kids from all over the community to use Yeatman as a place where they can get candy, listen to music, and have a good time.
Nash said there were about 700 families that came and participated.
“I saw a lot of smiles,”said Nash.
Participants met and mingled with local law enforcement and elected officials such as Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner and State Representative Steven Roberts.
Just a few blocks away, the Uhuru House, located on the 4100 block of W. Florissant, had their own Halloween celebration.
New to the O’Fallon Park community, the Uhuru organization focuses on community development, political advancement, and economic growth in the African American community. Their Halloween party marked a first for the organization. Four activity tables lined the crafts area where kids of all ages enjoyed fun activities. Some participated in a mummy race while others joined in dancing competition.
Shelicia Crenshaw, who said she is new to the neighborhood, loved the Uhuru Halloween event. She learned of the event just by driving down W. Florissant and seeing all the people. She decided it would be a great place for her family to have fun on Halloween. She said she didn’t know of many safe options for her kids to go trick-or-treating. Going to a Halloween party in north St. Louis was a first for her and her family and they loved it.
“It’s kid-friendly and safe. It’s something they should do every year. And we’ll be here,” said Crenshaw.
Brandi Arrington, Project Director at Uhuru House said this is the first Halloween event they have done in St. Louis and the community seemed very appreciative of them creating another space where kids and families can have fun on Halloween night.
“This year was great and next year we want it to be bigger and better, more activities and maybe a haunted house for the kids,” said Arrington.