Second annual City Halloween is a spooky good time
on October 31, 2013
Batman waited to have his photo taken, his mask slightly askew. The jester next to him tugged on his cheeks and rolled his eyes into his head with his tongue sticking out. Hello Kitty smiled. As soon as the photo was snapped, they were on the move—along with their compatriots: a gaggle of zombies, skeletons, princesses and ninjas—headed for City Hall.
Luckily, Richmond city officials were prepared. A pirate—also known as Alicia Nightengale, a community development project manager—greeted the outlandish assemblage in the main lobby and laid out the rules.
As may be apparent by now, Richmond City Hall wasn’t actually under attack from a zombie apocalypse; they were celebrating their spooky new annual tradition: City Halloween.
“This is our second annual City Halloween,” Nightengale said. “Last year’s event was such a success we decided to do it again.”
Yesterday, between 2:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. around a hundred kids descended on Richmond’s government building. As city employees morphed into witches and wolves, city hall’s cubicles transformed into labyrinths, and its offices into haunted lairs.
Six different afterschool programs participated, including the Sheilds-Reid, Booker T. Anderson and Nevin community centers. Kids between 5-15-years-old toured the various city departments, their trick-or-treat bags growing heavier and heavier.
Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” blasted from the Information and Technology department offices, which were completely dark, aside from the glow of spinning laser lights and zombie projections on the far wall. Antigravity ghost balloons floated past the kids, who also had to dodge three inflated cats with evil-looking grins that stood taller than most of the children.
Sue Hartman, the mastermind behind the I.T. department’s decorations, said after the kids leave, she plans to donate her balloons to the Richmond Police Activities League who are hosting a Halloween party the next day.
“All the decorations and candy are actually contributed from city staff personal funds,” Nightengale said. “The city’s money isn’t used for any of it.”
Between departments the kids jostled one another comparing their respective hauls. As they reached the third floor, a tall Ghostbuster named Kieron Slaughter prepared to blast a troop of ghouls ascending the stairway.
“I’ve had to bust at least 30 in the last hour,” said Slaughter, who works in the planning department. Along with young poltergeists, Slaughter said he busts ghosts who don’t have the proper permits.
The last stop on the journey was the mayor’s office, where the youth were asked to cast their vote. The winner for best costume in three categories (most creative, scariest and funniest) will be announced later today says Nightengale, and the department with the best decorations will receive the spirit stick.
“Weeks ago some of my kids were asking me, ‘Ms. Consuelo, are you going to take us to City Hall?’” said Consuelo Nunez, of the Nevin community center. “This is so great. The city gets really into it. And, it’s for the kids; it’s not about us. It keeps them involved. These kids are the future.”
Outside City Hall, the air smelled of freshly cut grass. Superheroes and goblins mingled in the late afternoon sun. A butterfly princess claimed she got the best candy. Ironman lifted up his mask to take a bit of a Chocolate bar. Even the zombies looked like they were ready to dig in.
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