Monsters invaded Marymount University last Friday. Fortunately, administrators and students were prepared.
Marymount’s Campus Ministry, with help from students, faculty and staff, sponsored the seventh annual HalloweenFest on Halloween proper, Friday, Oct. 31. More than 200 local children came to campus for trick-or-treating, games and storytelling.
“I’d say 80 to 90 percent of the [Marymount] residents dress up and stay in their rooms to hand out candy,” said Raffy Urgino, a Campus Ministry organizer. “It really becomes a different world.”
Agencies bringing children to HalloweenFest included Shelter House, the Arlington Community Action Program, the Arlington Alexandria Coalition for the Homeless, Greenbrier Learning Center, Greenbrier-Virginia Gardens Learning Center, New Hope Housing, Campbell Elementary School and the Arlington County Temporary Shelter.
“I went to the scariest place,” said Campbell Elementary student Lenny Ramirez, 9. “And I got a lot, a lot of candy.”
Not all the trick-or-treating brought scares. In what’s become a Marymount tradition, residence halls choose a theme for Halloween decorations and try to outdo each other for the most elaborate and creative design. One side of campus goes scary (most often the male residence halls), while the other keeps it tame.
“It’s a competition between the halls,” said Sarah Gulick, a Marymount senior. “We take it very seriously.” Gulick and fellow residents in Gerard Hall went with a “Terrors of the Sea” theme. Many residents dressed as pirates and spent several hours every day last week building shark jaws to mount in the hallway.
“It’s an awesome day with the kids,” said Marymount junior Erin Whitt. “The halls look great. It’s a great day for Marymount.”
STUDENTS LOOK FORWARD to more than just decorating. “Halloween is not really a Christian holiday, so I came [to Campus Ministry] last year wondering why we were doing it,” said Urgino. “But it’s really about giving these kids the opportunity to have fun and be safe.”
Marymount students distributed about 17,000 pieces of candy during the four-hour event.
Redate Ali, 7, smiled as she sat for some Halloween face painting, but she was quick to name her favorite part of the activity: “When I get candy.”.
Each Marymount clubs and student organization sponsored an activity for the visiting trick-or-treaters. Natalya Habis, vice president of Marymount’s Hispanic Student Association, helped with face painting. The best part was “Seeing how excited they are that they get to be what they want to be,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s just something nice to do for children.”
Brando Campos, 9, had his own way of thanking the Marymount students. “Yeah, they’re pretty nice,” he said, carrying a bag stuffed with candy.
“They loved it,” said Katy Thydan, who teaches at Campbell’s extended day program. “They had a lot of fun, and they were really scared of the boys’ hallway—I don’t care what they say.”
OFF-CAMPUS, Arlingtonians celebrated Halloween their own way. In Aurora Hills, hundreds of children and adults alike paid a visit to 737 S. 25th St., where Michael Kiel spent the entire month of October decorating for Halloween.
“We’ve built a good little reputation,” said Janet Kiel. “We have just as many adults in the yard as we do kids sometimes.”
Thanks to her husband, there were just about as many screams from adults as there were from children. Each of the last 10 years, Michael Kiel has thought up new ways to give trick-or-treaters an old-fashioned Halloween scare.
Different people have different holiday traditions. Some people spend weeks decorating for Christmas. Others kick off the holiday season with elaborate Thanksgiving meals. Michael Kiel hides in the bushes on Halloween.
Janet Kiel served as the household’s unofficial spokesperson; her husband couldn’t blow his cover by coming out for interviews. Donning a mask and lurking behind a bush, he leaped out at approaching trick-or-treaters for three hours Friday night.
“He likes to make memories for these kids,” said Janet Kiel.
But with all that effort, they may become victims of their own success. The Kiel’s can’t ever repaint their house, said nearby resident Les Garrison. Brighter colors wouldn’t work well for the “haunted” house, and could spawn a neighborhood uprising.