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Gainesvilles annual Trick or Treat on Trail includes more than just candy
Midtown Greenway event adds petting zoo, other fun family activities
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Hannah Brookshire helps her daughter Audrey, 3, play skee ball Saturday at the fourth annual Trick or Treat on the Trail held by the Gainesville Recreation Department. About 120,000 pieces of candy were passed out to an estimated 5,000 attendees at the event. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Gainesville’s Midtown Greenway was full of laughter, music and fun Saturday when Trick or Treat on the Trail took over the half-mile loop.

Across the space were a variety of stations and tents featuring creative cutouts, each representing different houses that children could visit to receive candy and prizes.

“We’re having a good time so far,” said Leslie Turner who attended with son Braxton. “It’s our third year and it’s a tradition we’ll keep doing. We’ve been here an hour and almost made our way around. Almost.”

The third annual event was more than just trick or treating for candy. This year’s edition featured a petting zoo, bouncy houses, face painting and different stations that gave the visitors the opportunity to learn about recycling, pose for pictures or display their talent on a performance mat.

“There are loads and loads of activities for the kids to do and that’s one thing the Gainesville Parks and Rec is fantastic at,” said Kelly Norman, director of Hall County Parks and Leisure Services. “Every year they add new elements to it so it’s becoming even more than trick-or-treating. It’s almost like a fair now.”

Costumes were not required, but everyone from ninjas and Spiderman to Princess Ana and Snow White made an appearance. Parents and children weren’t the only ones to enjoy the opportunity to dress up as many of the dogs present were sporting costumes as well.

“It is very enjoyable. The weather is really nice out here and the stations are set up to where it is quite fun for the little ones,” said Gwen Lewis, who was there accompanied by two foster children experiencing Trick or Treat on the Trail for the first time.

“She’s 3 years old and he’s 5 years old, and they’ve enjoyed it out here. They’ve gotten cups, flyswatters, coloring books, and lots and lots of candy.”

In the recent years, events like Trick or Treat on the Trail and other community-sponsored events like Trunk or Treat and Trick or Treat on the Square offer a safe environment for children to dress up and go. It’s especially helpful to those who don’t live in a neighborhood far from busy roads or those who live isolated from neighbors within walking distance.

“When you think about neighborhoods, it’s dark and can be unnerving as a parent to have your kids run loose. It’s in the dark, there are cars and it’s hard to keep up, so this is a contained safe environment,” Norman said. “It’s a great opportunity to get to know people. I’ve already seen loads and loads of people that I know here in the community out with their kids and grandkids.

“It’s just a fun community event, and I just love that it exposes everybody to the greenway because it’s such a huge asset to the community to have something like this.”

The greenway is located south of the downtown square, and has been a large part of the community’s redevelopment efforts since its groundbreaking in 2010.

“We’re always looking for community outreach ideas and reaching out to the kids and giving them candy and teaching them about recycling and environmental stewardship,” Norman said. “It’s just fun to interact with the kids.”

“Next weekend we are having our America recycles day and community yard sale so we like to let all the parents know about the recycling opportunities and yard sale.”

The event will offer a shredding station as well as recycling opportunities for electronics and batteries.