The Child and Youth Services Sports Field was a buzz of activity Oct. 25 as witches, pirates, ghosts and a few ferocious dinosaur babies crept around the field. All Fort Jackson community members were welcomed at the 2019 CYS Fall Festival.
"It was a CYS team effort," said Oana Pierce, director of Outreach and Parent Central Services. "We had a significant number of volunteers that (also) supported the event."
Pierce dedicated multiple hours spread over several months to ensure CYS teams and volunteers had resources needed to host the annual event. The event, usually located at the Solomon Center, moved this year to the CYS Sports Field offering the teams and volunteers a chance to expand the festival and introduce new activities.
"This was the first year we've held the festival outdoors," Pierce said. "We realized that in the past, the indoor event was crowded and loud. Children were bumping into each other, not very friendly."
The strategic move to the sports field also brought the haunted house to a few hundred yards from the festival. Pierce said in previous years busses transported attendees to the haunted house, but could be cumbersome for larger Families with small children or those with strollers.
While Pierce may have been the head of planning for the event, a host of CYS services and installation directorates supported the event by hosting tables where candy and activities such as crafts, carnival style games and dancing were offered to children and their parents or guardians.
"I think we achieved our mission, we had approximately 900 people come out to play, participate in arts and crafts, dance and have a great time," said Sonny Bolton, Child and Youth Services coordinator. "Oana (Pierce) worked so hard, she just knocked it out of the park."
Not only were children in costume, but several Families wore themed costumes to include the Ghostbuster and Jurassic Park crews. Families were offered a chance to remember the night's festivities by posing for photos with props at one table and given a copy of the photo as a keepsake.
Prizes and drawings for gift cards were also up for grabs. Drawings were held for $100 and $50 gift cards as well as prize bags filled with swag and loot put together by the various directorates. A contest was also held for best costume and dancing.
As the evening came to a close, Families emptied the parking lots and the task of breaking down tables, props and hay bales began. Volunteers from the Red Cross Volunteens, Sgt. Audie Murphy Club and individual volunteers began the breakdown to ready the sports field for soccer and football practice the following day.
"I would like to say a big thank you to all of the volunteers," Pierce said. She accredited a large amount of the event's success to the combined efforts of the volunteers and those who hosted tables.
Pierce said ideas are already being pitched now to help expand and make the next Fall Festival even larger.