Lakeland welcomes fall with Halloween Festival

Three hours of fun and excitement whizzed by as hundreds filled International Harvester Park for Lakeland’s annual Halloween Festival hosted by the Parks and Recreation Department on Sunday, Oct. 30.

There were plenty of games, crafts and contests planned for families at this year’s event. Trick-or-trick bags filled up quickly as more than 20 vendors joined in on the festival of fun by serving as candy and game stations throughout the event. The perimeters of vending stations lined up in front of the park’s stage. Vendors started with Lakeland Lane and featured booths for Lakeland PTA, Lakeland Parks and Recreation, Lakeland Stormwater, Lakeland Currents, and the Lakeland Lion’s Club. Youngsters received goodies from additional vendors, including Sprouts, AT&T, MemPops, and Memphis Redbirds. Redbird reps gave out baseball caps and schedules for next year’s season.

First-, second- and third-place trophies were awarded to winners of the costume contests for each age category, and a Grand Prize trophy was awarded in the Family Category. The Tipler family of Lakeland went home with the biggest trophy of all, as grand prize winners all dressed up like the characters of The Wizard of Oz. Judges for the day, Patrick Robbins, Sue Lipscomb and Nancy Koch, had their work cut out for them as they narrowed down the scores on their scoring cards.

“It was hard to judge the kids,” said Lipscomb, city receptionist for Lakeland. “They are all so cute. It makes it challenging for sure.”

The Pumpkin Pie Eating Contest was quite entertaining. First, the children took the stage and were given two minutes to dive into their very own pumpkin pie with their hands behind their backs. The participant eating the most of his/her pie in the time allotted was declared the winner of the contest. Maya Zelinski, 11, of Memphis won a certificate for a family evening of bowling and pizza at Cordova Bowling Center.

The same rules applied for the adults competing for a $25 restaurant gift card. Faces were deep into pumpkin pies as the one-minute time clock ran out. Visual signs of pie filling from forehead to chin paid off for Eric Johnson of Lakeland, who was declared the winner.

By 4 p.m. when the festival ended, all 200 pumpkins were picked from Lakeland’s Great Pumpkin Patch. All the pumpkin pies were eaten, and there wasn’t a sign of candy or goodies left behind. Kids got their fill of fun, games, prizes and candy.

City of Lakeland Commissioner and Parks and Recreation Board liaison, Michele Dial, kept everything on time and running smoothly by emceeing the event.

Dial said of this year’s festival, “What a wonderful day we had. Thanks to all the volunteers and contributors who made this day possible.”

She continued, “Seeing children dressed up, excited, and having such a wonderful time, that’s what events like this are all about.”

Written by Kim Odom, grant administrator for the city of Lakeland.