Parents, children find community Halloween fun

While holding her daughter, Taylor McCracken, Andrea McCracken takes candy from Dorothy Fulle dressed as the Indian Chief of the Peacock tribe in the Peter Pan section of Boo at the Zoo held at Santa Fe Community College's teaching zoo Sunday. RIGHT: Etan Dixon, 2, waits with his father, Warren, in line to enter Boo at the Zoo on Sunday.

Photos by CHRISTINA STUART/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Monday, November 1, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, October 31, 2004 at 11:44 p.m.
The chants and cheers on one side of town Sunday were fiercely political, but the only "boos" at Santa Fe Community College's Teaching Zoo were nonpartisan.
More than 6,600 witches, firefighters, Army dudes and mermaids waited in lines as long as two hours for the annual "Boo at the Zoo" event. Parents who attended said the event was just the break they needed from pre-election political advertisements at home and from hair-raising Halloween events elsewhere.
"It was great for the younger kids because it's not really supposed to be scary," said Becca Peterson, who brought her daughter, Bella, 15 months old. "The costumes were great, but it's not like there were scary chain-saw guys coming at you and going 'Arrgghh.' "
Peterson said Bella, who dressed as a clown with a pointy blue hat and sparkly pink sneakers, liked the Ocean World section best because of the dangly jellyfish decorations she could walk through.
The zoo was divided into a few different sections, with student-chosen themes like Egypt and Movie Land. The students who designed the decorations and staffed the zoo Sunday in costumes ranging from sailors to pharaohs said decoration duty became a full-time job the week before the event.
"We all did tons of work," said Katri Vilamaa, a zoo student from Finland who dressed as a snake goddess for the Egypt section of the zoo. "But looking at this now, it's so worth it."
Admission was one can of food per family, which event organizers will distribute to local food banks.
Zoo director Jack Brown said families brought bags full of cans, and estimated that the zoo collected 5,000 items by the end of the day.
Some parents said the event gave them a chance to enjoy quality time with their kids without worrying about whether neighbors would be handing out candy and whether their little monsters and firefighters and angels would get bored of the door-to-door trek.
"He's really too small to enjoy the trick-or-treating," said Amy Perkins, mom of Jackson Perkins, a 14-month-old baseball player.
"We were not so much wanting to load him up with candy as much as we were looking to give him a memorable experience on the first Halloween he'll remember," said Jackson's dad, Thom Perkins.
Becca and James Peterson said they brought Bella searching for a sense of community, too. They tried to trick-or-treat in their neighborhood earlier in the day, they said, but after seeing too many houses with darkened windows and empty porches, they headed to the zoo.
"This is great, because she got to see all the other little kids dressed up, too," Becca Peterson said. "Here, she gets to feel like she's part of of a celebration."
Amy Reinink can be reached at (352) 374-5088 or

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