A new tradition sweetens Halloween: trunk-or-treat

Elizabeth Trubee, 6, of Pemberton, at a Halloween event at Burlington County College's Pemberton Campus. Student Nikki Barry is at right. APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer
Elizabeth Trubee, 6, of Pemberton, at a Halloween event at Burlington County College's Pemberton Campus. Student Nikki Barry is at right. APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer
Posted: October 27, 2013

Ashton Harting, 6, loves, loves, loves Halloween - getting and giving out candy, eating Twix bars, dressing up. It's his job to pick out his family's costume theme. This year, they are Despicable Me characters.

And Halloween 2013 promises to be better than ever. Not only does he have a new little brother to make the rounds with, but he is a kindergartner at Haddonfield's Tatem Elementary School, so he gets to be in a Halloween parade.

His mother asked him whether he was excited about the parade, his father said.

"He said, 'Yes, as long as I don't miss trunk-or-treat,' " Zack Harting said.

No, it's not a typo.

Trunk-or-treat - the All Hallows' Eve version of tailgating - appears to be increasing in popularity as a new holiday tradition. Adults fill their car trunks with sweets and treats, park en masse in a designated lot, and children trick-or-treat from car to car.

Some trunk-or-treats, like the one at Kingsway Church in Cherry Hill, of which Ashton and his family are members, have been around for years. The Chapel Avenue church will hold this year's trunk-or-treat from 5 to 8 p.m. on Halloween. It is free and open to the public.

So is Longwood Performing Arts' fourth annual trunk-or-treat, from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday at the Kennett Square dance school. Students will perform "Thriller."

Other trunk-or-treats are new.

Delran will hold its first on Saturday, at the Delran Community Park on Hartford Road from 2 to 4 p.m. The event, which is for town residents, is free, but a ticket is required.

On Halloween from 3 to 5 p.m., the Village of Taunton Forge Shopping Center at Taunton Boulevard and Tuckerton Road, in connection with the Medford Women's Club, will welcome little candy-seekers to their first trunk-or-treat, also a free event.

Also among the newcomers is Advent Christian Preschool in West Chester, which will open its parking lot to trunk-or-treaters on Wednesday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The admission fee of $5 per child - $15 for three or more youngsters - will go toward the school's playground.

"It's a popular event that has gained momentum in the last few years," Laura Harris, an Advent codirector, said of trunk-or-treats.

Trunk-or-treats are part of a larger trend of adults looking for Halloween alternatives for children. These days, junior ghosts and goblins aren't just haunting parking lots. They are getting their treats and Halloween fun at organized events at schools and other local institutions.

Some organizers say they want a safer holiday for small children, one that avoids traffic, streets to be crossed, and, in rural areas, having to walk long distances.

Others see the celebrations as a way to build community.

And still others say Halloween is too much fun to celebrate just once.

Trent Volpe, 3, is one lucky kid.

Not only will he and his tiger costume go traditional trick-or-treating on Thursday, but his preschool had a Halloween trunk-or-treat celebration on Friday, and he was slated to attend the 10th annual community Halloween event later that day at Burlington County College, where his father, Greg, is communication director.

"At this point, he can't get enough of Halloween," his father said.

For that event, college students created a candy-themed cardboard village at a lounge on the Pemberton campus for little ones to trick-or-treat through.

On Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m., Cherokee High School will hold its third annual "Little Chiefs Trick or Treat." Faculty and students turn the Marlton school into a Halloween wonderland, with candies, activities, and a parade that draws more than 1,000 people, and it's free.

On Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m., Pottstown little tykes are invited to Owen J. Robert High School for a Halloween bash with trick-or-treating, a petting zoo, games and mazes, staged by the teachers. The event is free, with guests asked to bring cans of nonperishable food for a local food pantry.

The next evening is Ashton Harting's trunk-or-treat at Kingsway Church.

"It's a safe place for children and families to come on a night that isn't always safe," said Pastor Bryon White, whose family car is going to be decorated in a Wizard of Oz theme.

The event, which has been held for about five years, is popular. About 3,000 people turned out last year, White said. Some of those who have attended have come back to the church to worship.

Zack Harting said the family will be decked out in a Star Wars theme, complete with music. As always, Ashton will eagerly give out candy before going on his own run.

Harting, a worship leader at the Assembly of God church and a real estate developer, likes what the trunk-or-treat has taught his son.

"Our son Ashton is under the impression that Halloween is about giving out candy to other children rather than just receiving it," he said.

"It's a good way to teach our children the importance of serving and loving others in the community by giving them this safe environment to take their family trick-or-treating," he said.

Plus, if you're lucky, you'll get Twix bars.


rgiordano@phillynews.com

856-779-3893

@ritagiordano

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