JEWELL - A good, old-fashioned Halloween party, dubbed the Great Pumpkin Party, attracted scores of children to Little Wall Lake, south of Jewell Saturday night.
"When we started out, we were expecting 30 to 40 kids," said Kelly Haman, the event's organizer. "Instead we've had over 140 kids register. We had to do things in stations to keep everything flowing smoothly."
In the end, said Haman, the total number of kids was close to 180, ranging in age from 2 to 10 years old. They came for what Haman described as an "old-timey type of party, where we'll have things kids don't usually get to do."
Cheryl Haman, retired librarian and storyteller, donned a witch costume and tended a cauldron of creepy crawly things at the Great Pumpkin Party at Little Wall Lake.
Festivities included pumpkin bowling, bobbing for apples, boxes of "guts" to feel and a hayride that took the little monsters, robots and princesses all over the park. Haman's son and other middle-school volunteers were on hand with costumes to hide in the woods and give the hayriders a bit of a scare. Members of the Boy Scout Troop No. 520 also helped out, directing traffic in the parking lots and helping with the games. Still more volunteers were at work inside the boathouse, helping kids at the various crafts stations
The night started out with trick-or-treating at all of the campsites. Some campers went all-out with costumes, plastic gravestones and even sound effects to add to the atmosphere.
Some campers were there, at least in part, because of the party.
"It's the end of the year; we're just finding the places that are still open," said Don Bruns, who was camping in the park with four or five other families from Manson. "We heard about the pumpkin party, and we knew we had to bring our kids to it," he said.
This is good news for the park, which is looking for ways to attract more campers. Jason Gilmore is the ranger at Little Wall Lake Park, and helped Haman to organize the event.
"Other counties have parties like this," said Gilmore. "This is a good way to get people out into the park, to show them what we have."
Gilmore said that the parks are trying to do more marketing this year, to increase interest in parks. "We've got plans to update the facilities here," he said. "You can see how this boathouse is needing repair - the floor is in bad shape."
"Next year, we want to do this party earlier in the season, when more campers can be here," Gilmore said. He also said that there were 25 to 30 campers in the park that weekend.
Out by the hayride, kids found a witch standing around a fire with her cauldron. She really looked the part - stringy black hair, green face, rotting teeth, and that creepy cackling voice - as she showed the kids her plastic snakes, bats, mice, and bugs.
"The voice actually scared some of the younger kids," said Cheryl Haman, the retired librarian who was under all that makeup. "I had to tone it down a bit for them. Then I told them who I was, and they recognized me and weren't scared, because I was the (Stanhope) librarian for years."
"The witch was sweet," one of the slightly older kids reported. "Not scary, really. I had fun trying to be spooky with her."