By Ms. Elyssa Vondra (Jackson)November 1, 2018
A non-spooky Fall Festival kicked off the Halloween season Oct. 26.
Families headed to the Solomon Center for an evening of autumn-themed activities, where from 7-9 p.m., anyone with a Department of Defense authorized ID card was eligible to join the party.
Child, Youth and School Services hosted the annual event, with the help of a couple of sponsors.
"Getting the Family together" was the name of the game, said Pierce Oana, assistant director of outreach.
"As a drill sergeant, we have limited time to see our families," said event attendee Sgt. 1st Class Rhiannon Gonzalez, drill sergeant in Echo Company, 120th Adjutant General Battalion, and native of Edwards Air Force Base, California. "This is a really good event to bring our kids to."
It was a great way to break in the Halloween costumes, too.
"It's early Halloween for (the kids)," Oana said.
CYS made it G-rated, she added. The department took the fright factor out of the night.
Games included an "eyeball and spoon race," candy corn bowling and pumpkin golf.
Kids jumped for joy in the bounce house. Some abandoned their selfie sticks for a photo booth.
No photos were printed that night, though. This was the first year the festival reserved a booth with Wi-Fi connectivity.
Pictures were sent directly to phones.
Attendees walked away with Halloween bracelets, pumpkins and bellies full of popcorn and snow cones.
No one took home a best-costume prize; CYS chose not to make it a contest. It would have been too hard to choose, Oana said.
Several booths highlighted businesses and organizations.
Representatives from the Army Substance Abuse Program were there "promoting drug free activities for children," according to Prevention Coordinator David Bennett.
Fall Festival fell during Red Ribbon week -- an annual drug, alcohol and tobacco prevention awareness campaign.
Bennett said the festival is important because it "gives the kids the opportunity to come into a safe environment."
"All the people here care about them and they know that," Bennett added. "We're here for them and to support their Families."
(Editor's note: Tom Byrd contributed to this article.)