FORT BRAGG, N.C. - More than 60 children took advantage of the opportunity to dress up in costume weeks before Halloween as the Armed Services YMCA held its annual Fall Festival Saturday at the ASYMCA building here.

The event, which is normally held at Highland Elementary School in Harnett County, took place between 4 and 6 p.m. Saturday and featured several games and fun events that the children could participate in and win their favorite top prize - candy.

According to ASYMCA officials, it gave the children an opportunity to wear their costumes before observing the traditional Halloween festivities.

"Usually we have this event at Highland Elementary School in Harnett County, but we decided to do it down here today," explained Deborah Hall, ASYMCA program director. "These kids have really had a ball and we love doing this.

"We have all kinds of costumes at this event," she said. "There are little one dressed as Winnie the Pooh, a bumble bee, a princess, there are all types of costumes an they look adorable."
Hall said she has been with the organization for nine years and this event has taken place even longer.

"I've been with the YMCA now for about three years and it's a wonderful service," explained Brandi Pauley, who was there with her children. "They help the children with their homework after school and that's a big help to busy parents like myself and my husband, we both dual military. When you pick up the kids, you don't have to worry about them doing homework because they've already completed it."

She said the organization was great because it also allowed the children to interact with other kids, which helps them in the growing process. Pauley said her Family enjoys the Fall Festival and this one was no exception.

"This is the first time that we've been here at Fort Bragg and it's a great thing that they're doing here for the kids," she added.

The festival also included a Parade of Costumes, in which all of the children marched around the area sporting their costumes. Of those who participated, several were awarded prizes for having the best costumes.

Laterese Couch dressed her 19-month-old twins, Gabriel and Noah as Buzz Lightyear and Woody from the Disney-Pixar movie, Toy Story 3. They were among the award-winners.

"It feels good that they won," Couch said. "I'm just enjoying the years that I can still dress them alike or match their outfits before they get big enough to pick out their own costumes.

Couch said she was happy with this year's event. "It was fun dressing them up in their costumes and it was a perfect opportunity to get out of the house," she added.

"According to ASYMCA executive director Lynn Grates, Fort Bragg's first ever Fall Festival was a success.
"I think it went quite well," she said. "I think everybody had a good time. The costumes were great. I love it. Some of the parents spend a lot of money on these costumes and this is an opportunity for them to put them on, come out and have a great time."

For more information on the ASYMCA, call 436-0500.