By Travis Sloat
Times staff writer
Event started as trunk or treat many years ago
Alison Williams said the annual Fall Festival at South Ridge Baptist Church is a “good thing.”
“You know the kids are going to be able to do something safe,” Williams said.
“We normally try to go to all the trunk or treats in town, but this is a nice alternative.
“It’s something we found on accident, and something I’ll come back to next year.”
Williams was one of close to 300 people who walked the halls of the church on Thursday night, playing games such as fishing for candy, foam darts or even having their picture taken in the “photo booth.”
Tosha Brown, who was a volunteer at the festival, said the event started many years ago as a trunk or treat, but then adapted to meet unpredictable conditions.
“We had to change it to an indoor thing a few years ago because of the weather,” Brown said. “After that, it became a permanent thing.
“I think people feel more invited into the church when they are able to come inside, and I think it’s also more of a safe environment than just going out and walking the street.”
Brown also said she thinks the event works so well because Fort Gibson is “community-oriented.”
“It really brings the whole family in,” she said. “We can get to know a lot of people, and we have gotten to know a lot of people over the years.
“We’ve even met some good friends of ours through this. I’m a substitute teacher at the school, so the kids recognize me there, too.”
Visitors to South Ridge were greeted just outside the doors by a swimming pool filled with sand and “treasure” — pennies, quarters and other trinkets that kids could dive into. Inside, a pint-sized surgeon greeted guests and pointed them towards the other games or to refreshments.
Mike Shelton, the youth pastor at South Ridge, said he thinks the festival is an important outreach in the community.
“It lets people know we’re providing an alternative,” Shelton said.
“And it shows we’re active in the community, and not just sitting here being stagnant.
“It also helps get some people to church who might not come otherwise. It shows them we’re just regular people.”
Other events at the festival included a cakewalk, which was popular with the younger crowd and gave them a chance to win homemade baked goods.
Children leaped from number to number, each hoping to have their number called when the music stopped.
Shelton also addressed the myriad of Halloween options available at churches in Fort Gibson.
“There are a lot of churches offering a Fall Festival type event tonight,” he said. “But it’s not a competition at all.
“Each congregation is giving back to the community and opening doors. Yeah, we’d all like to gain a member or two, but it’s more about showing the community we care about them.”
Reach Travis Sloat at (918) 684-2908 or tsloat