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Nighttime is the perfect time for ghost tales. Head over to Motts Run for the popular 'Spooky Stories by the Shore.' Or get creative for the Great Pumpkin Derby.
A host of fun-packed activities to celebrate Halloween and the coming of autumn beckon area families this weekend--and beyond.
Festivities start tomorrow evening as the Fredericksburg Department of Parks and Recreation invites all to the thrills and chills of its "Spooky Stories by the Shore" at Motts Run Nature Center. The staff and community volunteers put all their creativity and energy into the event, producing and acting in eerie story-skits and designing spine-tingling scenarios, including a graveyard and dungeon.
"We have a number of families who come out year after year to help, including my trusty assistant, Mimi Dempsey, and her daughters Mia, Jenna and Sara, as well as WFLS DJ Paul Johnson and his wife and children," said nature education coordinator Linda Bailey, who is planning the event.
Guests walk down a trail by the light of tiki torches and luminarias on their way to the picnic shelter where a cauldron bubbling with hot chocolate awaits them. From there, they cross a bridge to a campfire at the amphitheater where dramatic tales unfold and unexpected visitors may emerge from the woods or lakeside. Families are welcome to bring a blanket to bundle up in.
"It's an experience that involves all the senses, with the smell and warmth of the campfire, the moonlight on the glassy lake, and chirping of crickets," said Bailey. "It's all about the mystery of the unknown and that, for me, is the essence of adventure!"
CREEPY CRAWLY CARNIVAL
Friday evening is also the kickoff of the King George YMCA's Creepy Crawly Carnival and the final two days of its Lunacy haunted house. The two-day carnival will include a moon bounce, face-painting, candy treats, crafts and games, and a hayride with two versions--nonscary and scary. While the haunted house is geared toward older youths and adults, the festival offers a spectrum of spirited activities so children of all ages can join in the fun in a safe, supervised environment. The first 100 children will receive a trick-or-treat pumpkin to take home.
GREAT PUMPKIN DERBY
On Saturday, Stafford parks and recreation will get things rolling at Curtis Memorial Park with its first-ever Great Pumpkin Derby.
Families can pitch in to create their vision for a mobile pumpkin and bring it to compete in elimination rounds of races. Prizes will be awarded for categories of speed and design, including creepiest, most creative, best animal, best entertainment character and most bizarre. The primary rule: two independent axles (with wheels attached) must be inserted into the pumpkin.
Suzanne Smith, who is coordinating the event, hints that "bigger is not always better" and suggests the 14-pound range.
FALL FUN FESTIVAL
Also on Saturday, the Fredericksburg Parks and Recreation Department will host its long standing tradition, the Fall Fun Festival, featuring crafts, games, and contests for children of all ages.
"It's a great opportunity to spend some fun time with the family, and children can choose what activities they want to participate in," said supervisor of leisure services JoAnne Jones.
On Halloween morning, the folks at Stafford parks and recreation will celebrate their annual Spooktacular party for preschoolers. Children are encouraged to come in costume, and the event will include a story time, crafts, games, and refreshments, as well as a longtime favorite--the "Monster Mash" dance.
FALL FESTIVAL IN SPOTSY
The following Saturday, Spotsylvania County will host its annual Fall Festival featuring a craft show and sale (including some craft stations for kids), live music, a hayride, pony rides and barrel-train ride--all free of charge. The event has been celebrated for more than 10 years and has attracted as many as 2,000 visitors.
Collette Caprara is a local free-lance writer and artist.