This year's 14th annual "Halloween Spooktacular and Fall Festival," hosted by the Great Falls Friends in the Village Centre, went off without a hitch despite the fact that there was some contention about the new age-limit restrictions placed on the event.
For the first time, the Village Centre Condominium Association, Inc. (VCCA) decided to restrict children over the age of 10 from participating in the trick-or-treating activity. In an e-mail to the members of Neighbors Great Falls, Kelly Rafko, manager of the VCCA responded to some of the negative feedback she received regarding the new age restrictions.
"The merchants of the Village Centre truly enjoy passing out candy to the trick-or-treaters, however, we received many comments from the merchants that the teenagers overrule the event," said Rafko. "They pass through the merchants not once or twice, but five and six times over. In addition they tend to be pushy with the youngsters."
Linda Sue Gardiner has lived in Great Falls for 10 years, and has participated in the annual Halloween Spooktacular many times.
"I must say that in all these years I have not seen pushy or abusive behavior by any of the older children," said Gardiner. "To the contrary, I have often seen the older children stand back and let the younger ones go forward. The years I gave out candy, I also did not see older children returning multiple times to our cauldron."
HOWEVER, GARDINER ADDED that, for other reasons, she could understand that it might be necessary to limit the number of children at the event.
"From the first year we arrived in Great Falls to now, the numbers of those children attending the Halloween trick-or-treat event have truly swollen," said Gardiner. "There is no doubt that it has become an awesome undertaking."
Gardiner's son Doug Gardiner wrote her an e-mail from boarding school when he heard about the new age restriction.
"As I recall, the last time something happened in that nature, it was several younger children taking candy away from toddlers and several teenagers had to intervene," said Gardiner. "Granted that teenagers have had stereotypes against them about gangs and helping themselves, but unless there is an event that backs up these stereotypes, then what reason does one have for making such accusations?"
GREAT FALLS RESIDENT Karen Meengs also expressed her dismay about barring older children from the event.
"Where do the kids older than 10 go for Halloween fun now?" asked Meengs. "I know plenty of middle schoolers who still love costumes and trick-or-treating."
Christina Mittermeier said that her 13-year-old "was in complete disbelief that he would not be welcomed to participate."
"With so many rules it is difficult to have fun, and once again, we are getting really good at marginalizing our teenagers and forcing them to see fun elsewhere. Why are we later surprised when they get in trouble?" asked Mittermeier.
Despite disagreement over the age limit placed on the event, Monday night's Spooktacular passed by without any problems.
"On the whole, it looked like everyone enjoyed themselves — everyone was smiling, and everyone was neighborly," said Sharon Rainey, President and Founder of Neighbors Great Falls.