Trick or treating in the Mat-Su Valley, like the rest of the state, is typically cold and costumes are usually hidden under layers of winter clothing.
For the last five years, local kids have an early opportunity to score candy more than a month before Halloween at the annual Trick or Treat in the Heat event at the Settlers Bay Golf Course.
It’s warmer, there’s community driven activities, tons of candy, and it’s all for a good cause.
“It grows and grows each year,” Vicky Howe, Settlers Bay Golf Course events coordinator, said.
Hundreds of kids from across the Valley marched through the Settlers Bay neighborhood with their families on Sunday. Several groups of costumed characters whizzed by on golf carts on the “candy patrol” to replenish participating residents’ candy stores.
“You see the amount of joy that just spreads and that’s why. There’s no other reason. You get to give back to your community,” Howe said.
Orange pumpkins were placed outside each participating household, indicating they were ready to hand out candy. A number of residents sat in their driveways with picnic benches full of candy, warmly smiling and waving at passersby.
The trick or treat route started at the golf course and circled around the surrounding neighborhood. When trick or treaters returned, they found a slew of activities, including snag golf, face painting booths, croquet, bocce ball, free popcorn and snow cones. There was even a fire pit to melt smores.
The Settlers Bay golf course/ and neighborhood is one of several communities around the state that celebrate this autumn tradition on the same day each year. It’s always the first Sunday after the Alaska State Fair closes, according to Howe.
Trick or Treat in the Heat started in Anchorage in 2005 as a makeshift block party event for a terminally-ill 5-year-old boy named Ian Robbins. His parents wanted him to experience one last trick or treat before he died.
The 2005 block party was a smash hit and spread to other communities over the years, going as far as Valdez. They all celebrate on the same day with the same goal in mind. It’s a time to entertain the kids, give them loads of candy and raise funds for charities, all in Ian’s name.
“It’s beautiful and wonderful… it’s unfortunate the reason that we do it… It’s just a wonderful way to give back- make something sad into something happy,” Howe said.
Howe said the Valley’s take on Trick or Treat in the Heat has accumulated $50,000 for charities over the last five years at Settlers Bay. This year, they raised money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Hospice of Anchorage and the Ronald McDonald House Charities.
The Wasilla Lowe’s has been a major partner with the Settlers Bay event for several years. The staff raises funds to collect candy each year. They also participate during the event, helping replenish candy and take pictures with participants in front of a custom photo booth at the pavilion.
“We love it… We talk about it all year,” Wasilla Lowe’s assistant manager Peter Bray said.
Each year, Lowe’s staff picks a theme for their costumes and handmade photo booth. Employee Jackie Kelly is the one who crafts the photo booths. In the past, they’ve went with themes like Alice in Wonderland.
This year’s theme was very sentimental because they got special permission from Ian’s mother to do a “Toy Story” theme. Ian loved “Toy Story” and Buzz Lightyear was the last costume he ever wore.
“We asked because we thought it might be a little bit raw for her- no she thought it was great. And last year, she came to see us- a very gracious lady. There were not many dry eyes in the room when she finished talking,” Bray said.
Howe said they went through $1,200 worth of donated candy that was compiled by community partners such as Lowe’s, MEA, Walmart, Three Bears, and Value Village.
For more information about Ian Robbin’s story and Trick or Treat in the Heat, visit totith.org
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at email@example.com