Visitors get the chance to debut their costumes a week ahead of time at the annual Englewood Halloween Carnival that will be held Oct. 24 at the Englewood Recreation Center, 1155 W. Oxford Ave.
For one night a year, the Englewood Recreation Center is transformed from a center dedicated to health and fitness into the spooky habitat of cackling witches and marauding monsters.
The red carpet is out from 5 to 8:30 p.m. for the weird and whacky. There is no charge for admission but game tickets are 25 cents each. A single ticket is required for most attractions.
Once a year, the recreation center undergoes a major transformation. The lobby is populated by a variety of characters and creatures handing out candy and the gymnasium becomes a beehive of activities.
Game booths line the walls of the gym. The games usually include activities such as an opportunity to shoot a hockey puck into a goal and a chance to knock down figures with bean bags. Win or lose, the contestant gets some type of prize.
At the same time, the center of the gym floor is taken up by popular inflatable attractions like an obstacle course and an inflatable room where kids can jump up and down to enjoy the trampoline-like action of the air-filled floor.
A concession stand will sell snacks like popcorn, with proceeds going to benefit the Englewood Youth Council programs.
Englewood’s Halloween Carnival is a popular event with children and with adults.
“We look forward to the Englewood carnival every Halloween,” Patti Crossman said. “We have fun deciding on our costumes then dressing up as a family and going to the carnival. We have three kids under 12 and they have a ball. They love the games and activities. My husband and I just like to mingle, talk to friends and see if we can get any ideas for the costumes we’ll try to come up with next year.
The popular costume contest will be held again this year and, after a one-year absence, the two cackling witches will greet visitors as they come through the door.
Jeni Rulon, organizer of this year's event, said new attractions include a cartoonist, a "very cool" haunted maze and a magician appearing at the carnival for the first time.
"We also are having a costume contest between 6 and 7 p.m.," she said. "Those who want to take part in the contest need to sign up at the concession stand."
One thing missing will be the pair of cackling witches who traditionally greet visitors at the door. They are away on a cruise this year and reportedly it is too far for them to make the flight by broomstick.
The Halloween carnival is a popular annual event. Each year there is a steady parade of people coming in and out of the recreation center, many in costume. Last year there were a variety of comic book characters, as well as scary witches, some ballerinas, a few princesses, several pirates and some creatures that defied description, including a young man with an amazing costume that transformed him into a robot.