Last night, I was filled with joy. For the first time in almost a year I was so happy because I watched a community come together without pretense or politics. I, one of the planners of Trunk or Treat, wanted to create an event that brought families and business owners together in the simplest way. I wanted to create an “old-school” feeling in our community: one where people felt safe, one where people smiled, one where people could smile and hug their friends.
And although the evening was stressful, for a few hours, I saw and felt those things. I asked children if they wanted a light saber or candy and I saw parents and children smile because they were receiving a gift. I saw parents and children smile because they were all dressed up as Ninja Turtles. I saw parents and children smile because they saw friends they hadn’t seen in a while.
We were so fortunate to have perfect weather: a night without rain and enough warmth so that the children could walk around without jackets. We got to see some wonderful costumes: a Despicable Me dispensing machine, a kid with his head on a platter, pirates, dinosaurs, princesses and minions. I looked around and was just so grateful for everyone who came out, for all the businesses and organizations who participated and donated their time and money to the event-so much time and money-and I just thought this is what community is about. This is good.
I know that everyone did not have the same experience as me, though. I know that there were businesses and organizations who felt HORRIBLE because they did not have enough candy for the kids. I know that there were children who waited over an hour to march along Main Street. And I know that there were people who were cold.
I’m not about to make excuses for the way things happened last night. I know how popular kids’ events are in this community. I’ve been a part of the Sangamon River Music Festival, Get Up and Go, the circus, easter egg hunts, the Cornbelt Fire Department Open House, CCFPD programs, Mahomet Public Library Programs, Village Christmas and Breakfast with Santa. I can honestly say in the first year of any of these events, they have never had 1,563 children come through the doors. Last night was completely unprecedented.
I made 200 light sabers because I honestly thought we’d be lucky to have 200 kids show up. I scheduled the event for an hour and a half because I honestly thought we’d be busy the first half hour and then have trickling visitors for the last hour.
Although we could not have blocked off any more of Main Street because the Mahomet Police Department and the Cornbelt Fire Department needed a route to attend to any emergencies, I wouldn’t have asked for additional space on Main Street because we were lucky to get 20 businesses participate in the first year. Lucky.
This event was planned by three people. Three people who just wanted to see something lovely happen in our community. We wanted something lovely for children, for families and for the businesses. It may have been the perfect storm last night in that we had perfect weather conditions with the threat of rain on actual Halloween, but it also may be that the organizers and the businesses in this community created something that this community needs.
We should continue to find ways that we can open up our hearts and our doors to bring people together. That’s what last night was about. I’m glad some people had a wonderful experience. And I am so sorry that other people were disappointed. I hope that next year we can take the things we learned this year to make a better event. But I can guarantee you that next year’s event will still be based on these components: something simple where the community can come together for a moment without pretense to share and smile.
I hope those of you who had to wait this year will give us another chance next year because I truly do want to make you smile, too. I hope you know that was the intention behind this event. Sometimes my intentions don’t always pan out in the way I hope. But I’m going to keep trying.